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Scott v. Pearson

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

February 24, 2015

James Darnell Scott, Plaintiff,
v.
Albert Pearson, Responsible Authority over South Carolina Dept. Of Corrections Special Investigation Unit; Jannita Gaston, South Carolina Dept. Of Correction State Classification; William Byars, South Carolina Dept. Of Corrections Director; Warden Anthony Padula; Associate Warden Margaret Bell; Associate Warden John Brooks; Major James Dean; and Ms. Reames, Institution Classification Chairperson, Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER

BRUCE HOWE HENDRICKS, District Judge.

BACKGROUND

The plaintiff, James Darnell Scott ("the plaintiff" or "Scott"), a state prisoner incarcerated at the McCormick Correctional Institution in McCormick, South Carolina, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendants, Albert Pearson, Jannita Gaston, William Byars, Warden Anthony Padula, Associate Warden Margaret Bell, Associate Warden John Brooks, Major James Dean, and Ms. Reames ("the defendants"), alleging violations of his constitutional rights. Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that his confinement in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") and frequent transfers between prison facilities violate his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Scott also alleges that the defendants have been deliberately indifferent to his medical needs in violation of the Eighth Amendment. This matter is before the court for review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Paige J. Gossett, made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge recommends that the defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. (ECF No. 113.)

STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to the court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71, 96 S.Ct. 549, 46 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation (the "Report") to which specific objection is made, and the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, or recommit the matter with instructions. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the court need not conduct a de novo review when a party makes only "general and conclusory objections that do not direct the court to a specific error in the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations." Orpiano v. Johnson, 687 F.2d 44, 47 (4th Cir. 1982). In the absence of a timely filed, specific objection, the Magistrate Judge's conclusions are reviewed only for clear error. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005).

Summary Judgment

A court should grant summary judgment "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In deciding whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the evidence of the non-moving party is to be believed and all justifiable inferences must be drawn in his favor. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating that summary judgment is appropriate; if the party moving for summary judgment carries its burden, then the burden shifts to the non-moving party to set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986).

A party asserting that a fact is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (c)(1)(A). A litigant "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir.1985). "Mere unsupported speculation... is not enough to defeat a summary judgment motion." Ennis v. National Ass'n of Bus. & Educ. Radio, Inc., 53 F.3d 55, 62 (4th Cir. 1995).

"[W]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party, disposition by summary judgment is appropriate." Teamsters Joint Council No. 83 v. Centra, Inc., 947 F.2d 115, 119 (4th Cir. 1996). "Summary judgment is proper only when it is clear that there is no dispute concerning either the facts of the controversy or the inferences to be drawn from those facts." Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). The court must determine "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52.

DISCUSSION

The Report recommends that the defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted for three reasons: (1) the plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) the plaintiff does not have a protected liberty interest in avoiding administrative segregation that is sufficient to implicate the Due Process Clause; and (3) the plaintiff has failed to present facts from which a reasonable jury could rule in his favor on his claims of medical indifference. Because the plaintiff has objected to the Report, the Court has conducted a de novo review of the entire record. The Court agrees with the Magistrate Judge's recommended disposition as set forth below.

1. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

To the extent that the Magistrate Judge recommends that Scott's claims be dismissed for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies on account of the fact that he failed to appeal to the Administrative Law Court ("ALC"), the Court declines to dispose of the case on these grounds. The undersigned is aware of several other judges within this district who have held that a prisoner is not required to appeal to the ALC in order to exhaust his administrative remedies. See, e.g., King v. Ozmint, No. 0:11-CV-01455-RBH, 2013 WL 4680532, at *5 (D.S.C. Aug. 30, 2013); Ward v. Byers, No. 8:12-cv-01480, 2013 WL1403220 at *5 (D.S.C. March 11, 2013), R & R adopted, 2013 WL 1404918 (D.S.C. April 5, 2013); Brown v. Ford, No. 9:11-0019, 2011 WL 4904437 at *2 n. 6 (D.S.C. Sept.15, 2011) R & R adopted, ...


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