The opinion of the court was delivered by: Margaret B. Seymour United States District Judge
Plaintiff Willie Joe Sturkey is an inmate in custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC). Plaintiff currently is housed at Evans Correctional Institution (ECI) in Bennettsville, South Carolina. Plaintiff, appearing pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, asserting that his constitutional rights have been violated in various respects.
This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, which motion was filed February 2, 2009 (Entry 31). Defendants Ozmint, Eagleton, Ford, Watson, Johnson, Redfearn, and Miller filed a response to Plaintiff's motion on February 20, 2009. Also before the court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Entry 32), which motion was filed February 19, 2009, and supplemented on February 20, 2009. By order filed February 20, 2009, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised of the summary judgment procedure and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately. Plaintiff filed a memorandum in opposition to Defendant's motion on March 23, 2009, to which Defendants filed a reply on April 2, 2009.
In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02, D.S.C., this matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Bruce H. Hendricks for pretrial handling. On August 10, 2009, the Magistrate Judge filed a Report and Recommendation. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on August 26, 2009.
The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility for making a final determination remains with this court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of any portions of the Report and Recommendation to which a specific objection is made. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation made by the Magistrate Judge or may recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The facts are set forth in the Report and Recommendation. Briefly, Plaintiff was transferred to ECI and placed in a Special Management Unit (SMU). Plaintiff had in his possession a box of legal materials. He was informed by Defendant Watson that he could not keep his "legal box" in his cell. The legal box was placed in the ECI property room, but subsequently lost. Plaintiff filed a grievance, contending that he was denied access to the courts because his legal materials could not be located. Defendant Eagleton responded to Plaintiff on April 1, 2008, stating:
I have reviewed your grievance and all pertinent documentation. Corrective measures will be taken concerning the incident that occurred with Sergeant Watson misplacing your legal box. I will provide you with another legal box upon request, and assist you with replacing items missing, if they are available in your record. Please submit a Request to Staff Member Form to me, requesting the items needed. I explained to you, on 4/1/08, that items missing, I could not replace, would be up to you, to write the appropriate agencies to receive. I apologize for the inconvenience this has caused you, and I consider this matter resolved. Entry 1-1, 2.
Plaintiff contends that he was unable to participate in two state court hearings because the "legal papers that was needed had been seized and unreturned by [Defendant] Watson." Entry 1, 4. Plaintiff further asserts that Defendant Eagleton retaliated against him by instructing Defendant Johnson and Officer McRae to seize Plaintiff's "other legal material." Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Miller conspired with Defendant Eagleton to deny Plaintiff law books. Id. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief and punitive damages.
The Magistrate Judge determined that (1) Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim fails because, as a prisoner, Plaintiff has no expectation of privacy in his possessions; (2) Plaintiff's First Amendment claim fails because Plaintiff failed to show actual injury as required by Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996); and (3) Plaintiff's retaliation claim fails because Plaintiff has shown no injury and produced no evidence that the denial of access to law books was motivated by retaliation. Accordingly, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment be denied and Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted.
Plaintiff first contends that the Magistrate Judge erred in recommending summary judgment be granted in favor of Defendants with respect to Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim. The court disagrees.
The applicability of the Fourth Amendment turns on whether the person invoking its protection can claim a reasonable expectation of privacy that has been invaded by government action. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 525 (1984) (quoting Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 740 (1979)). Prisoners have no legitimate expectation of privacy and the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on reasonable searches and seizures does not apply in the prison context. See id. at 530. Plaintiff asserts that "Defendant seized legal papers in violation of the constitutional provision which protects me from this type of seizure." Entry 58, 4. To the contrary, prison officials must be ...