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Stepney v. Ward

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

July 15, 2015

Inmate Mr. Wade Stepney, Jr., Plaintiff,
v.
Mr. Robert E. Ward, SCDC Deputy Director; Mr. Michaiel Mathews, SCDC Classification Director; Ms. Susan Montgomer, SCDC Leg/GOV Relations; Ms. Livington, SCDC KCI R&E Classification; Hon. Sen. Robert D. Ford, Correction Penology, Defendants.

ORDER AND OPINION

J. MICHELLE CHILDS, District Judge.

Plaintiff Wade Stepney, Jr. ("Plaintiff"), filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges he has been subjected to overcrowded living conditions at the South Carolina Department of Corrections ("SCDC") due to the actions and failures of Defendants Mr. Robert E. Ward, Mr. Michaiel Mathews, Ms. Susan Montgomer, Ms. Livington, and Hon. Sen. Robert D. Ford (collectively "Defendants"). (ECF No. 1 at 4.)

In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g) (D.S.C.), the matter was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Shiva V. Hodges for pre-trial handling. On March 26, 2013, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation ("Report") recommending the court dismiss the case without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. (ECF No. 13.) This review considers Plaintiff's Objections to the Report ("Objections") filed April 3, 2013 (ECF No. 15) and his Supplement to the Objections filed July 29, 2013 ("Supplement"). (ECF No. 17.) For the reasons set forth herein, the court ACCEPTS the Magistrate Judge's Report with the exception that the court DISMISSES this action (ECF No. 1) with prejudice and without issuance and service of process.

I. RELEVANT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The facts are discussed in the Report. (See ECF No. 13.) The court concludes, upon its own careful review of the record, that the Magistrate Judge's factual summation is accurate and incorporates it by reference. The court will only recite herein facts pertinent to the analysis of Plaintiff's Objections and Supplement.

Plaintiff alleges that he was assigned to a two-man cell at Kirkland Correctional Institution ("KCI") pursuant to his conviction and sentence in state court. (ECF No. 1 at 3.) Plaintiff asserts he was not given a bed in his cell at KCI and slept on a mattress on the floor. (Id.) Subsequently, Plaintiff states he was classified as a non-violent inmate and transferred to Perry Correctional Institution ("PCI"), where he allegedly resided with another inmate in a cell designed for one person.[1] (Id.) Plaintiff contends he has been subjected to overcrowded living conditions while in the custody of SCDC. (Id.)

Plaintiff claims that Robert E. Ward, SCDC Deputy Director, "failed to implement or improvise and enforce the Emergency Overpower Act's EPI and EPII to prevent and to control SCDC facilities and entities crowding and overcrowding of violent and non-violent prison inmates." (Id. at 4.) The Complaint also alleges Michaiel Mathews (sic), SCDC Classification Director, "failed to supervise SCDC classification personnel, who have conspired with local county detention centers to deliberate[ly] treat SCDC prison inmates indifferent[ly]" and house violent and non-violent inmates together due to overcrowding. (Id.) Plaintiff further claims that Defendant Livington, a classification employee at KCI, conspired to keep Plaintiff in "Level 3 custody" by transferring him to PCI. (Id.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges Susan Montgomer, SCDC Leg/Gov Relations Lobbyist, failed "to address the SCDC crowding and overcrowding or communicate with State Government" regarding the issue. (Id.) The Complaint further alleges that "Hon. Sen. Robert D. Ford, Correctional Penology Committee Member, " has failed to enforce South Carolina laws and the "SCDC Emergency Powers Release Act" to address overcrowded conditions. (Id.)

In his Complaint, Plaintiff seeks to reduce all SCDC prison inmates' sentences to "the minimum of 41% under the Emergency Overpowers Release Act." (Id. at 5.) In addition, Plaintiff seeks an order enjoining SCDC overcrowding and compelling separate housing for violent and non-violent inmates. (Id.) Plaintiff also seeks monetary damages. (Id.)

On March 26, 2013, the Magistrate Judge issued the Report recommending the court dismiss the action without prejudice and without issuance and service of process. (ECF No. 13 at 8.) The Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff's Complaint failed to provide facts showing that "any of the defendants were personally involved in Plaintiff's alleged placement in an overcrowded cell at KCI or PCI." (Id. at 4.) Since the Complaint contained no personal allegations against Defendants, all claims should be dismissed. (Id.) While it is possible to show that Defendants could be liable in their supervisory capacities, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff did not meet any of the criteria necessary to do so because he failed to show they were "aware of, or deliberately indifferent to, any constitutional risk of injury to him." (Id. at 5.) Additionally, the Magistrate Judge found that Plaintiff failed to show "extreme deprivation of a basic human need" such that the overcrowded conditions at KCI or PCI violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. (Id. at 5-6.) The Magistrate Judge also noted that Plaintiff's claims regarding his classification and placement are subject to summary dismissal because South Carolina law confers "no protected liberty interest upon state inmates regarding prison classification." (Id. at 6-7.) Finally, the Report found that Plaintiff's request for an order compelling SCDC employees to ease overcrowding and separate violent and non-violent inmates could not be granted by this court because it lacks jurisdiction to compel state officials and employees to act pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1361 and 1651.[2] (Id. 7-8.)

Plaintiff timely filed his Objections on April 3, 2013. (ECF No. 15 at 10.) Thereafter, Plaintiff filed his Supplement to these Objections on July 29, 2013. (ECF No. 17 at 1.)

II. JURISDICTION

The court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claims against Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because Plaintiff filed his action in this court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1 at 3), which permits an injured party to bring a civil action against a person who, acting under color of state law, ordinance, regulation, or custom, causes the injured party to be deprived of "any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws." 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

III. LEGAL STANDARD AND ANALYSIS

The Magistrate Judge's Report is made in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Local Civil Rule 73.02 for the District of South Carolina. The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight. The responsibility to make a final determination remains with this court. See Matthews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 270-71 (1976). This court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of the Report to which specific objections are made, and the court may accept, reject, ...


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