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Haynesworth v. South Carolina Department of Mental Health SCVTP

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

March 15, 2018

Alphonso Haynesworth, Plaintiff,
South Carolina Department of Mental Health SCVTP, Kimberly Poholchuk, Cynthia Helff, Holly Scaturo, and Versie Bellamy, Defendants.



         Alphonso Haynesworth (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, brought this action against South Carolina Department of Mental Health (SCVTP)[1], Kimberly Poholchuk, Cynthia Helff, Holly Scaturo, and Versie Bellamy (collectively “Defendants”) claiming violation of his constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] ECF No. 1-1. This matter is before the court on Defendants' motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 35. Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Magistrate Judge entered an order pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), advising him of the importance of the motion and the need to file an adequate response. ECF No. 37. On April 27, 2017, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 40. On May 4, 2017, Plaintiff filed a supplemental response.[3] ECF No. 42. Defendants filed a reply. ECF No. 43. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a sur-reply. ECF No. 45. On January 26, 2018, Defendants filed additional attachments to their motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 106.

         On January 31, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted. ECF No. 107. The Magistrate Judge advised the parties of the procedures and requirements for filing objections to the Report and the serious consequences if they failed to do so. On February 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed objections to the Report. ECF No. 109. Defendants filed a reply on March 2, 2018. ECF No. 111. On March 13, 2018, Plaintiff filed “objections to reply.” ECF No. 115. This matter is ripe for the court's review.

         I. Standard

         The Magistrate Judge makes only a recommendation to this court. The recommendation has no presumptive weight, and the responsibility to make a final determination remains with the court. Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261 (1976). The court is charged with making a de novo determination of those portions of 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 to the Magistrate Judge with instructions. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court reviews only for clear error in the absence of an objection. See Diamond v. Colonial Life & Accident Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 310, 315 (4th Cir. 2005) (stating that “in the absence of a timely filed objection, 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.'”) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 72 advisory committee's note).

         II. Discussion

         Plaintiff asserts several objections to the Report. First, Plaintiff objects because the Report mentions a defendant “Huff” although Plaintiff did not name a defendant Huff. Plaintiff's second objection argues Defendants did not produce any evidence showing he violated the policies or rules by being in the clothing room at the correctional institution when he was attacked by another resident, and therefore he should not have been referred to the Behavioral Management Committee (“BMC”).[4] ECF No. 109 at 2. Third, Plaintiff argues a defendant can be held liable under § 1983 for acts of others, and he has produced evidence the named Defendants had personal bias towards him and failed to abide by rules and regulations governing Plaintiff's safety. Fourth, Plaintiff objects to the recommendation of dismissal of his §§ 1985 and 1986 conspiracy claims, noting “Defendants have the power to stop the wrong but neglect or refuse to stop the wrong, ” specifically referring to Defendants Scaturo and Bellamy, who he alleges had the power to take “corrective action” but failed to do so. Id. at 4. Plaintiff then objects to the qualified immunity determination. Id. at 5. Sixth, Defendant claims the Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment applies, and Defendants violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. at 6-7. Finally, Plaintiff asserts he should have had an opportunity to respond to new attachments in support of summary judgment filed by Defendants on January 26, 2018 (ECF No. 106). Instead, he argues, the Report was issued five days later. Id. at 7. Plaintiff also disagrees his Complaint supports federal question jurisdiction, and argues this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and the case should be remanded. Id. at 8.

         a. Referral to the BMC

         Plaintiff argues he was never provided a DMH policy or procedure relating to his referral to the BMC in discovery, and it is a “very false defamatory statement to be infract [sic] or charge with a rule violation that doesn't assist [sic].” ECF No. 109 at 3. While the referral did not result in formal sanctions, he appears to argue the mere referral violated his rights.

         The evidence submitted by Defendants shows Plaintiff was referred to the BMC for working during his lay-off period, and failing to report the entry of another into his work area. ECF Nos. 35-6, 35-7. Plaintiff was made aware at the outset of his job assignment no others were allowed in the clothing room without permission, and violation would result in termination. ECF No. 35-9. The memorandum accompanying the BMC decision clearly lays out the reasons for the referral and that Plaintiff received no sanction as a result. ECF No. 35-6.

         It is unclear to the court whether Plaintiff is alleging a Procedural Due Process violation regarding his referral to the BMC, or a Substantive Due Process violation regarding the failure to keep him safe from the attack. To the extent Plaintiff alleges Defendants Poholchuck and Helff[5]deprived Plaintiff of his Procedural Due Process rights by referring him to the BMC, the court finds Plaintiff's Due Process rights were not violated. Following an altercation, Plaintiff was charged with violating the rules of his job by working during his lay-off period and failing to report others in the clothing room without permission. ECF No. 35-9. Defendants have shown the BMC reviews any violent, sexual, or otherwise inappropriate behavior, a hearing is held for each incident, and the resident is given an opportunity to speak, provide a written statement, and call witnesses. ECF No. 35-2. Plaintiff received no sanction following the BMC hearing. Plaintiff has failed to allege how his Procedural Due Process rights were violated by the BMC referral.

         To the extent Plaintiff alleges a Substantive Due Process violation regarding his confinement conditions of reasonable care and safety, this court agrees with the Magistrate Judge Plaintiff failed to put forth evidence that Defendants Helff, Scaturo, Poholchuk, or Bellamy's actions in participating in the BMC or reviewing the BMC decision were a substantial departure from professional standards. See Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307 (1982). This objection is overruled.

         b. § 1983 Liability

         Plaintiff next argues Defendants were biased against him and failed to follow DMH rules and policies to keep him safe from attack. In support of this objection, Plaintiff refers to a Sexual Behavior Precautions rule requiring that a resident only be on recreation yard with active staff ...

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