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Ridley v. McGill

United States District Court, D. South Carolina

February 23, 2017

Richard David Ridley, Plaintiff,
v.
John McGill, Director DMH; Holly Scaturo, Director SVPTP; Kimberly Poholchuk, Program Coordinator; Warden Stevenson, Defendants.

          ORDER AND OPINION

          Margaret B. Seymour Senior United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Richard David Ridley is committed to the custody of the Sexually Violent Predator Treatment Program (“SVPTP”) at the South Carolina Department of Mental Health pursuant to the Sexually Violent Predator Act, SC Code Ann. §§ 44-48-10 through -170 (the “SVPA”). Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a complaint on April 14, 2015, asserting that Defendants have violated his constitutional rights in various respects. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff contends that:

1. his First Amendment rights have been violated because (a) he allegedly was forced to sign a contract for treatment; (b) he must participate in treatment; (c) he must incriminate himself during treatment; (d) he cannot speak freely; (e) he is not allowed to correspond with this cousin, who is in custody of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (“SCDC”);
2. his Fourth Amendment rights were violated because his room was searched three times between October 14, 2014, and December 17, 2014;
3. he is subject to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in violation of the Eighth Amendment because (a) his canteen privileges are restricted; (b) his food contains debris; (c) he is forced to share his room with another person; (d) he has inadequate access to legal resources;
4. his Fourteenth Amendment rights have been violated because (a) he receives inadequate group treatment; (b) “therapeutic room restriction, ” which constitutes confinement to one's room for twenty-three hours of the day, is used as punishment; (c) the staff uses corporal punishment;
5. His right to equal protection has been violated because residents are placed in color-coded jumpsuits; and
6. The SVPA is unconstitutional because it violates the double jeopardy and ex post facto clauses.

See generally ECF No. 1.

         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 Shiva V. Hodges for pretrial handling.

         On October 6, 2015, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. On October 7, 2015, pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), Plaintiff was advised of the summary judgment procedures and the possible consequences if he failed to respond adequately. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to Defendants' motion on December 3, 2015, to which Defendants filed a reply on December 14, 2015. Plaintiff also filed a motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction on February 10, 2016, to which Defendants filed a response in opposition on February 26, 2016. Plaintiff filed a reply on March 7, 2016. Plaintiff also filed a number of affidavits in support of his complaint on July 22, 2016, and July 25, 2016.

         On July 27, 2016, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation in which she recommended that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted, and that Plaintiff's motion for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction be rendered moot. Plaintiff filed no objections to the Report and Recommendation. Accordingly, on August 30, 2016, the court issued an order adopting the Report and Recommendation. Summary judgment was entered on August 31, 2016.

         On September 8, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to alter judgment or amend judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) or 60(b)(1) and (6). Plaintiff informed the court he had not received a copy of the Report and Recommendation. Plaintiff stated he was made aware of the Report and Recommendation only by viewing it on Westlaw, an electronic database. With consent of Defendants, the court vacated its August 30, 2016, order and reopened the case to allow Plaintiff to file a response to the Report and Recommendation. Plaintiff filed objections to the Report and Recommendation on November 2, 2016, to which Defendants filed a reply on November 21, 2016. Plaintiff filed a surreply on November 29, 2016. Defendants filed a motion to strike or quash the surreply on December 1, 2016. The court will consider Plaintiff's surreply. Accordingly, Defendants' motion to strike or quash (ECF No. 96) is denied.

         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). This court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the Magistrate Judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). This court may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. Id.

         I. DISCUSSION

         Involuntarily committed mental patients, such as Plaintiff, retain a liberty interest in conditions of reasonable care and safety in reasonably nonrestrictive confinement conditions. Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 324 (1982). Courts must balance the individual's liberty interest against relevant state interests, and deference must be given to the exercise of professional judgment in order to minimize interference by the federal judiciary with the internal operations of state institutions. Id. at 321-22. A decision made by a professional is presumptively valid; liability is appropriate “only when the decision by the professional is such a substantial departure from accepted professional judgment, practice, or standards as to demonstrate that the person responsible actually did not base the decision on such a judgment.” Id. at 323.

         A. Magistrate Judge's ...


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