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Pronin v. Duffey

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

June 2, 2014

Dmitry Pronin, # XXXXX-XXX, Plaintiff,
Scott Duffey; Veronica Hnat; Caroll Bollinger; Kevin Klimko; James W. Johnson; Kahle Vining; Daniel Fallen; Jerome Brooks; Sandra K. Lathrop; John Bryant; Sherilyn L. Cheek; Dewick Bryant; Troy Johnson; Charles Collie; Michelle Picerno; Jordan Hollett; William Reese; John Doe Officer #1; John Doe Officer #2; Tony Thompson; Starklen Smith; Paul Wellman; Daniel Trent; Eda Negron-Oliver; Phillip Coleman; Philip Robertson; Raymond Kelso; William Johnson; James Reid; Nichols; Dwight Ratley; Randolph Middlebrook; Arunava Saga; Chad Tolbert; Brandon Burkett; Jerry Harriott, Jr., Defendants.


KAYMANI D. WEST, Magistrate Judge.

This is a civil action filed pro se by a federal prison inmate currently confined in a local detention center in Towson, Maryland. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(e) (D.S.C.), this magistrate judge is authorized to review all pretrial matters in such pro se cases and to submit findings and recommendations to the district court. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e); 1915A (as soon as possible after docketing, district courts should review prisoner cases to determine whether they are subject to summary dismissal).

I. Factual Background

Dmitry Pronin ("Plaintiff") was formerly a federal inmate at FCI-Edgefield ("Edgefield") in Edgefield, South Carolina. In the Complaint submitted in this case, [1] he alleges that his federal constitutional rights were violated by many members of the staff at Edgefield through their alleged failure to protect him from violence from violence by fellow inmates and from unconstitutional conditions of confinement, medical indifference, use of excessive force, religious discrimination, and retention of untrue negative information in his prison files. Compl. 10-13, 14-16, 17-18, 20-22, 24-25, 26-27, ECF No. 1. Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant Kelso, a Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") disciplinary hearing officer ("DHO") stationed in Atlanta, Georgia, violated BOP policy and his due process rights by improperly convicting Plaintiff of a disciplinary violation. The disciplinary conviction resulted in lost good-time credits and in the loss of certain privileges. Id. at 25. Further, Plaintiff alleges that several federal and state law enforcement officers from Baltimore, Maryland violated his " Miranda "[2] rights to counsel and due process rights by interrogating him on September 21, 2011 about another crime while he was being temporarily detained in Maryland to address separate criminal charges. Id. at 18. Plaintiff also alleges that the same constitutional rights were violated again on January 29, 2013, when two of the Maryland officers (Defendants Duffey and Bollinger) went to Edgefield and interrogated him again. Plaintiff alleges that he was told that one of the Edgefield corrections officers wanted to see him and that, after he was placed in handcuffs, he was escorted by a prison guard to the SHU Lieutenant's office, where he found Defendants Duffey and Bollinger along with the Lieutenant. Id. at 20. Plaintiff alleges that the Lieutenant quickly left the room and that Duffey and Bollinger attempted to interrogate him in a threatening manner for over ten minutes despite his telling them that he was represented by counsel in Maryland and asking them to stop questioning him. Id. at 19-20. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that his Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated by two employees at FCI-Ray Brook in New York state, where he was housed before being transferred to Edgefield, when they refused to remove an allegedly improper "sex offender public safety factor" notation from his prison records even though, according to Plaintiff, he was never convicted of a sex crime. Id. at 23.

Insofar as the allegations against the Maryland law enforcement officials are concerned, Plaintiff alleges Defendants Duffey, Hnat, Klimko, James Johnson, and Bollinger ("the Maryland Defendants") used threatening and accusatory language while trying to get him to confess to murdering his mother. Id. at 18-20. He alleges that all of them used these confrontational interrogation methods on him in Baltimore, Maryland, and that two of them (Defendants Bollinger and Duffey) also went to Edgefield and used the same interrogation methods there. Id. According to Plaintiff, these Defendants would not stop questioning him even though he told them several times that he was represented by counsel and that they should be speaking with that attorney and not him. Id. at 20. He alleges that both interrogations concluded approximately "ten minutes" after Plaintiff protested about his attorney, but not before the officers threatened him with the death penalty and harsh punishment for his mother's death. Id. at 19-20. Plaintiff does not allege physical force was used against him by any Defendant during the interrogations, and Plaintiff does not allege that he made any incriminating statements during either interrogation. Instead, Plaintiff claims that his constitutional rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments were violated by the fact that he was harshly interrogated without his attorney being present about a separate crime while incarcerated on a sentence for a different crime. Id. at 18.

Regarding the alleged retention of allegedly false information in his prison records, Plaintiff avers his prison records from his incarceration in New York "unlawfully kept [sex offender] public safety factor" on Plaintiff's "inmate record/Team Paperwork." Id. at 23. Plaintiff submits he first became aware this allegedly false information was contained in his records and of his rights concerning his records while incarcerated at FCI-Ray Brook ("Ray Brook") in New York during July 2013. Id. He states that he asked Defendants Picerno and Nichols, both Ray Brook employees, to "look into the matter, " but he alleges that his requests were ignored and the records were not corrected before he was transferred to Edgefield, where they remained in the same allegedly incorrect state. Id. at 24. Plaintiff alleges that the extra "custody points" arising from these incorrect records resulted in a "miscalculation of custody points, " but that Defendants Cheek and Brooks, Edgefield employees, also refused his requests for correction of his records. Id. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages from each Defendant. Id. at 31. He also seeks injunctive and declaratory relief against several Defendants. ECF No. 1-7.

II. Standard of Review

Under established local procedure in this judicial district, a careful review has been made of Plaintiff's pro se Complaint filed in this case. This review has been conducted pursuant to the procedural provisions of 28 U.S.C. § § 1915, 1915A, and the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996, and in light of the following precedents: Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 324-25 (1989); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Nasim v. Warden, Md. House of Corr., 64 F.3d 951 (4th Cir. 1995); Todd v. Baskerville, 712 F.2d 70 (4th Cir. 1983); Boyce v. Alizaduh, 595 F.2d 948 (4th Cir. 1979).

Pro se complaints are held to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978), and a federal district court is charged with liberally construing a complaint filed by a pro se litigant to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). When a federal court is evaluating a pro se complaint, the plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. De'Lonta v. Angelone, 330 F.3d 630, 630n.1 (4th Cir. 2003). Nevertheless, the requirement of liberal construction does not mean the court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court. Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Even under this less stringent standard, the Complaint filed in this case is subject to partial summary dismissal under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) as to Defendants Duffey, Hnat, Klimko, James Johnson, and Bollinger ("the Maryland Defendants"), Picerno, Nichols ("the New York Defendants"), and Kelso ("the Georgia Defendant").

III. Analysis

A. The Maryland Defendants

Because some of the Maryland Defendants are state or local officers and some are federal officers, Plaintiff's assertions of constitutional violations by these persons fall under both 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Bivens Doctrine. See Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 397 (1971). Section 1983 is the procedural mechanism through which Congress provided a private civil cause of action based on allegations of federal constitutional violations by persons acting under color of state law. Jett v. Dallas Indep. School Dist., 491 U.S. 701, 731-32 (1989). The purpose of § 1983 is to deter state actors from using badge of their authority to deprive individuals of their federally guaranteed rights and to provide relief to victims if such deterrence fails. Wyatt v. Cole, 504 U.S. 158, 161 (1992) (citation omitted) (emphasis added). The Bivens Doctrine establishes a direct cause of action under the Constitution of the United States against federal officials for the violation of federal constitutional rights. A Bivens claim is analogous to a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The doctrine developed to address constitutional violations by federal officials who cannot be sued under § 1983 because they do not act under color of state law. Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 814-20 (1982). Case law involving § 1983 claims is applicable in Bivens actions and vice versa. Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 833-42 (1994)( Bivens case applying § 1983 cases throughout); see also Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 530 (1985); Turner v. Dammon, 848 F.2d 440, 443-44 (4th Cir. 1988).

A bedrock requirement in any action under either § 1983 and the Bivens Doctrine is that the district court in which a complaint is brought shall have personal jurisdiction over the persons of the defendants. See Walden v. Fiore, 134 S.Ct. 1115, 1121 (2014) ( Bivens case holding the state of Nevada lacked personal jurisdiction over deputized DEA agent in Georgia). "Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons." Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753 (2014). A federal district court's authority to assert personal jurisdiction in most cases is linked to service of process on a defendant "who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located." Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(1)(A). The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause requires that the nonresident have "certain minimum contacts" with the forum state. See Int'l Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). The inquiry into the "minimum contacts" necessary to create specific jurisdiction focuses "on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.'" Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 775 (1984) (quoting from Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 204 (1977)). For a state (or a federal district court within that state) to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, that relationship must arise out of contacts that the "defendant himself " creates with the forum, Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475 (1985) (emphasis in original), and must be analyzed with regard to the defendant's contacts with the forum itself, not with persons residing there. See Int'l Shoe, 326 U.S. at 319. The plaintiff cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum. These same principles apply when intentional torts are involved. See Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 789 (1984).

Rule 4(e) Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Serving an Individual Within a Judicial District of the United States") allows application of so-called state "long-arm" statutes in federal district courts in serving individuals outside of the District of South Carolina. Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e)(1) (noting service may be effected by "following state law for serving a summons in an action brought in courts of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located or where service is made[.]"). Under South ...

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