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Rice v. Cohen

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Rock Hill Division

March 1, 2017

Vincent Jermaine Rice, Plaintiff,
Levern Cohen, Warden; Ernest Rome, Hearing Officer, SC Dept of Corrections, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on the Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, recommending summary judgment for Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the Report and Recommendation and grants summary judgment for Defendants.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff Vincent Rice was a prisoner in Ridgeland Correctional Institution in June 2013, when he was accused of participation in a prison riot A disciplinary hearing was held on July 17, 2013. Defendant Ernest Rowe (identified as "Ernest Rome" in the case caption) presided. During the hearing, Plaintiff requested that Officers Bruno and Andrews be called as witnesses to testify that Plaintiff was locked in his cell during the riot. Officer Rowe denied the request. At the conclusion of the hearing, Rice was found guilty, placed in disciplinary detention, and sanctioned with the loss of 170 days of good time credit, a restitution payment, and the loss of canteen, phone, and visitation privileges.

         Plaintiff appealed the decision of the hearing officer to the Warden, Defendant Levern Cohen, by filing a Step 1 grievance. Warden Cohen denied Plaintiffs Step 1 grievance. Plaintiff continued the administrative process by filing a Step 2 grievance and, after that grievance was denied, by appealing to the South Carolina Administrative Law Court. On September 18, 2014, the Administrative Law Court remanded the matter for a second disciplinary hearing, finding that Plaintiffs procedural due process rights were violated when he was not given the opportunity to present his requested witnesses. At the second disciplinary hearing, held on January 29, 2015, Plaintiff was found not guilty of participating in the June 2013. Plaintiff, however, alleges that decision does not rectify the additional time he spent in disciplinary detention or his loss of good time credits, which allegedly extended his release date by 83 days. Defendants dispute that assertion, pointing to Plaintiffs other criminal sentences and his extensive record of disciplinary infractions.

         On July 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed the present action against Defendants in their personal capacities, alleging they violated his constitutional due process rights. The Court also construes the complaint as asserting a state law claim for outrage. On January 1, 2017, the Magistrate Judge recommended summary judgment for Defendants. (Dkt. No. 76.) Plaintiff has not objected to the Report and Recommendation.

         II. Legal Standard

         A. Report and Recommendation of the Magistrate Judge

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this Court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility for making a final determination remains with this Court. Mathews 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 and Recommendation to which specific objection is made. Additionally, the 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. Where the plaintiff fails to file any specific objections, "a district court need not conduct a de novo review, but instead must only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation, " see Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (internal quotation omitted), and this Court is not required to give any explanation for adopting the recommendation of the Magistrate Judge, Camby v. Davis, 718 F.2d 198 (4th Cir. 1983).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is appropriate if a party "shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In other words, summary judgment should be granted "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). "In determining whether a genuine issue has been raised, the court must construe all inferences and ambiguities in favor of the nonmoving party." HealthSouth Rehab. Hosp. v. Am. Nat'l Red Cross, 101 F.3d 1005, 1008 (4th Cir. 1996). The party seeking summary judgment shoulders the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is no genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

         Once the moving party has made this threshold demonstration, the non-moving party, to survive the motion for summary judgment, may not rest on the allegations averred in his pleadings. Id. at 324. Rather, the non-moving party must demonstrate that specific, material facts exist that give rise to a genuine issue. Id. Under this standard, "[c]onclusory or speculative allegations do not suffice, nor does a 'mere scintilla of evidence'" in support of the non-moving party's case. Thompson v. Potomac Elec. Power Co., 312 F.3d 645, 649 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Phillips v. CSX Transp., Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 287 (4th Cir. 1999)).

         HL Discussion

         A. ...

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