Argued: September 25, 2018
from the United States District Court for the District of
South Carolina, at Rock Hill. Mary G. Lewis, District Judge.
Philip Johnson, WINSTON & STRAWN LLP, Washington, D.C.,
Lindemann, LINDEMANN, DAVIS & HUGHES, PA, Columbia, South
Carolina; Daniel C. Plyler, DAVIDSON, WREN & PLYLER, PA,
Columbia, South Carolina, for Appellees.
M. Greenfield, Roderick & Solange MacArthur Justice
Center, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF LAW, Chicago,
Illinois; Charles Klein, WINSTON & STRAWN LLP,
Washington, D.C., for Appellant.
A. DeMasters, DAVIDSON & LINDEMANN, P.A., Columbia, South
Carolina, for Appellees Ed Carroll and Deloris Charlton.
Andrew P. Valentine, East Palo Alto, California, Kenneth L.
Schmetterer, DLA PIPER LLP (US), Chicago, Illinois, for Amici
KING and KEENAN, Circuit Judges, and John A. GIBNEY, Jr.,
United States District Judge for the Eastern District of
Virginia, sitting by designation.
Robert Williamson appeals from summary judgment awards made
by the district court in South Carolina to several officials
of Barnwell County and the State's Department of
Corrections (the "SCDC"), with respect to
Williamson's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 lawsuit for due
process violations. Put succinctly, Williamson maintains
that, as a result of actions of the defendant officials, he
suffered in solitary confinement for three-and-a-half years
while in pretrial detention, in violation of his Fourteenth
Amendment rights. Williamson contends that the district court
erred in ruling that his period of solitary confinement was
not unconstitutionally punitive and that, if he was deprived
of any due process protections, the defendants were entitled
to qualified immunity. See Williamson v. Sterling,
No. 0:15-cv-4755 (D.S.C. Apr. 10, 2017), ECF No. 143. As
explained below, we affirm the summary judgment awards made
by the district court to two officials who were not
sufficiently involved in any constitutional deprivations. We
vacate the summary judgment awards in favor of two other
officials, however, because the court erred in granting them.
We therefore affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for
November 2015, Williamson - then a twenty-year-old pretrial
detainee in one of SCDC's restrictive detention
facilities - filed a verified pro se complaint in the
District of South Carolina, initiating the lawsuit underlying
this appeal. Williamson's initial complaint challenged
his conditions of confinement - including their duration -
and named as defendants SCDC Director Bryan Stirling,
Barnwell County Sheriff Ed Carroll, Deloris Charlton, the
Barnwell County jail administrator, and other unidentified
officials. In May 2016, Williamson filed his verified
pro se first amended complaint, which added as defendants two
Deputy Circuit Solicitors, David Miller and Jack Hammack.
See Williamson v. Sterling, No. 0:15-cv-4755 (D.S.C.
May 2, 2016), ECF No. 41 (the "Complaint"). That
Complaint constitutes the operative complaint in these
Complaint alleges, inter alia, that the defendants
contravened various constitutional rights and is pursued
under § 1983 of Title 42. Williamson's Fourteenth
Amendment claims underlie this appeal and, construed in the
proper light, allege substantive and procedural due process
claims. On April 10, 2017, the district court awarded summary
judgment to the defendant officials.
assessing summary judgment awards, we view the facts "in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party."
Bauer v. Lynch, 812 F.3d 340, 347 (4th Cir. 2016).
The facts recited below are viewed in that light and drawn
from the record on appeal, which includes the Complaint and
various submissions of the parties. See Williams v.
Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991) (explaining
that a verified complaint is "the equivalent of an
opposing affidavit for summary judgment purposes, when the
allegations contained therein are based on personal
knowledge"). Notably, the factual allegations of the
Complaint are substantially unchallenged.
August 2013, at the age of seventeen, Williamson was arrested
in Barnwell County for murder, armed robbery, and related
offenses. Following his arrest, he was denied bail and held
in custody at the Barnwell County Detention Center to await
trial. Because of the serious nature of the charges,
Williamson was assigned to the Detention Center's maximum
security unit. While there, Williamson had only an hour a day
of recreation - instead of the three hours accorded those in
the general population - but otherwise had the same
privileges as other pretrial detainees. During the three
months he spent at the Detention Center, Williamson was
charged with three infractions of the rules of confinement.
More specifically, Williamson fought once with an inmate, and
he was twice disciplined for placing his spare mattress on
the cell floor.
November 22, 2013, Williamson gave Barnwell County
correctional officers a letter addressed to Sheriff Carroll.
Carroll was then out of town, but asked Chief Deputy David
Deering to open the letter. Williamson's letter ranted
against several individuals, confessed to murder, and
proclaimed the innocence of another man. It also threatened
violence against ten law enforcement officers and Judge Early
of the State's Second Judicial Circuit, which includes
Barnwell County. See J.A. 324, 326-27. The letter named
three persons that Williamson would talk to regarding his
threats, including Agent Croft of the South Carolina State
Law Enforcement Division ("SLED"). Chief Deputy
Deering thus contacted Agent Croft, who - with others -
interviewed Williamson later that very day. During the
interview, Williamson became "combative" with the
officers, repeated his threats, and struck a correctional
officer. See id. at 324.
thereafter, a series of phone calls took place involving
various officials, including Judge Early and personnel of
SLED, the Sheriff's Office, and the Solicitor's
Office. According to Deputy Solicitor Miller, it
was then decided "that Mr. Williamson needed to be
placed in 'safekeeper' status" in SCDC custody.
See J.A. 201.
Carolina maintains a "safekeeper" program that
derives from a statutory provision that has been implemented
by various state regulations. The relevant statutory
provision states that:
The director of the prison system shall admit and detain in
[SCDC] for safekeeping any prisoner tendered by any law
enforcement officer in this State by commitment duly
authorized by the Governor, provided, a warrant in due form
for the arrest of the person so committed shall be issued
within forty-eight hours after such commitment and detention.
See S.C. Code § 24-3-80. The primary state
regulation that implements the safekeeper statutory provision
is South Carolina Executive Order 2000-11 (the
"Executive Order"). It was promulgated in 2000 by
then-Governor Hodges and spells out the "criteria and
procedures" for a pretrial detainee's transfer to
"safekeeper status" and for his subsequent
detention in SCDC custody. Pursuant to the Executive Order, a
pretrial detainee may be designated as a safekeeper if he:
"(1) is a high escape risk; (2) exhibits extremely
violent and uncontrollable behavior; and/or (3) must be
removed from the county facility" for his own
transfer a pretrial detainee to safekeeper status in SCDC
custody, the county holding the detainee must prepare and
pursue an application that includes the following: (1) an
arrest warrant for the detainee; (2) an affidavit of the
chief county law enforcement officer explaining the basis for
the requested transfer; (3) a certification from the circuit
solicitor concurring in the transfer; (4) and a certification
that notice of the safekeeping application was given to the
detainee's attorney. See Executive Order §
2. The county submits its safekeeping application to the SCDC
Director, who reviews it and makes a recommendation to the
Governor. If the Director recommends approval of the
application, he provides the Governor with a proposed order.
Upon receiving the Director's recommendation, the
Governor determines whether to grant the safekeeping
application and issue an appropriate order. Id.
§ 3. If the Governor approves, the county delivers the
pretrial detainee into SCDC custody. The county must provide
SCDC with "all appropriate documentation and relevant
records," including information about any "special
medical" needs of the transferred detainee. Id.
§ 4. Pursuant to the Executive Order, the initial
safekeeper order is valid for up to 120 days. Id.
§ 5. The safekeeper order may thereafter be renewed
"for up to ninety (90) days upon a showing of good cause
and/or no material change in circumstances."
has promulgated additional procedures that govern the
handling of pretrial detainees who have been designated as
safekeepers (the "SK Policy"). According to the SK
Policy, male safekeepers are to "be received and
processed at Lee Correctional Institution." See
J.A. 319. The SK Policy confirms that a safekeeper order
"may be renewed for up to 90 days at a time" and
provides that safekeeper pretrial detainees will be housed in
a Special Management Unit ("SMU") and segregated
from other SCDC inmates in the SMU. See id. at
319-21. Safekeeper pretrial detainees are assigned to
confinement classification "SD Level II," the
second-most restrictive of five confinement classifications.
See id. at 321, 421.
Williamson's problematic behavior on November 22, 2013,
Barnwell County officials promptly prepared a safekeeper
application for him. Chief Deputy Deering - acting for
Sheriff Carroll - executed an affidavit recounting the
threats made in Williamson's letter and in his interview
with Agent Croft. Deputy Solicitor Miller certified that he
had served notice of the safekeeper application on
Williamson's defense attorney. The safekeeper application
included copies of the warrants for Williamson's arrest,
plus medical and mental health screening forms for Williamson
recently completed by Barnwell County officials. Finally,
Judge Early signed a "safekeeping order," prepared
by Miller, finding that Williamson had exhibited
"extremely violent and uncontrollable behavior" and
qualified for safekeeper status. See J.A. 211. In
fact, however, such a court order was not a required
component of the safekeeper application. See
Executive Order § 2. As a result, the court's
"safekeeping order" was "never acted upon or
served on anyone." See J.A. 201.
November 22, 2013, SCDC Director Stirling received Barnwell
County's safekeeper application for Williamson. Stirling
recommended approval thereof to then-Governor Haley, who
approved the safekeeper order. On November 25, 2013,
Williamson was delivered into SCDC custody. Although SCDC
normally housed male safekeepers at the Lee Correctional
Institution under the SK Policy, SCDC instead placed
Williamson in another facility, that is, the Maximum Security
Unit ("MSU") at Kirkland Correctional Institution.
Director Stirling attested that the Kirkland MSU has
"more security staff," which was appropriate in
light of Williamson's threats. See J.A. 312.
to the Complaint, pretrial detainee Williamson was, as a
safekeeper, subjected to solitary confinement, with no
outdoor exercise and limited access to books and other
materials. Other than leaving his cell about twice a week to
shower, Williamson was "on lockdown 24 hours a
day." See J.A. 68. Williamson's defense
counsel had difficulty communicating with Williamson under
those conditions and sought his transfer to less restrictive
August 2015 - nearly two years after Williamson's
transfer to the Kirkland MSU - SCDC transferred him to the
Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") at Lee Correctional
Institution. Williamson's conditions of confinement at
the Lee RHU, however, largely replicated the conditions
imposed on him at the Kirkland MSU.
bond hearing conducted in the Second Circuit on November 3,
2015 - more than 700 days after Williamson's transfer to
safekeeper status - Williamson's counsel advised the
court that Williamson had been "on lock down, 24 hours a
day" at the Kirkland MSU, that he remained "locked
down 24 hours a day" at the Lee RHU, and that he had
limited access to the law library and phones. See
J.A. 530-31. Clarence Rogers, the Unit Manager at the
Lee RHU, attested that safekeepers only leave their cells to
shower three times a week, for recreation twice a week, and
for an occasional haircut. The SCDC policies reflect that
safekeepers receive recreation time in "outdoor
cages," separate from other inmates. See id. at
307, 321, 423. Safekeepers can only access an automated law
library upon request. Additional restrictions at the Lee RHU
included the following: no canteen privileges; limited
reading materials; no visiting privileges with family and
friends; no personal phone calls; and no interactions with
while in safekeeper status, Williamson was solitarily
confined in his cell approximately twenty-three hours a day
five days a week, and twenty-four hours a day two days a
week. He spent those hours in isolation, with almost no human
contact other than interactions with prison staff and
communications with his lawyer. According to Williamson, he
was so confined until June 2017, when he was transferred from
the Lee RHU to the Barnwell County Detention Center for trial
- approximately 1300 days after his placement in solitary
confinement as a safekeeper. See Br. of Appellant
maintain Williamson in solitary confinement as a safekeeper,
Barnwell County officials and SCDC Director Stirling were
obliged to obtain renewal safekeeping orders every ninety
days. See Executive Order § 5. The record,
however, does not include all the renewal orders necessary to
sustain Williamson's safekeeper status for the prolonged
period he was so held. It contains certain memoranda from
Director Stirling to Governor Haley recommending renewals and
several of the Governor's final approval orders.
See J.A. 547-63. The record does not, however,
contain any requests from Barnwell County for renewal of
Williamson's safekeeper status. Director Stirling's
memoranda to Governor Haley recite - in boilerplate language
- that he "received appropriate documentation from
Barnwell County" in support of renewals. See,
e.g., id. at 550. And Stirling has attested
that he regularly received such renewal requests from
Barnwell County and found each to be "in order."
See id. at 312-13. No such documentations, however,
are in the record.
despite the Executive Order's requirement that safekeeper
renewal requests be based upon "good cause and/or"
a showing of "no material change in circumstances,"
the record does not fully disclose the bases for
Williamson's continuing safekeeper designation. The
evidence regarding Williamson's conduct while he remained
in safekeeper status as a pretrial detainee consists solely
of correspondence from the Kirkland MSU staff affirming that,
as of May 28, 2015, Williamson had committed no disciplinary
infractions while in SCDC custody.
point during his solitary confinement as a safekeeper,
Williamson began experiencing significant mental health
symptoms. His medical records show that SCDC began treating
him in May 2015 for "unspecified psychosis, grief,
nightmares, [and] depression." See J.A. 166.
The record also shows that Williamson advised SCDC medical
personnel that he previously "had ADHD and
bipolar," but that he stopped taking medications in high
school. Id. at 165. By April 14, 2016 - after about
two-and-a-half years of solitary confinement - Williamson was
taking anti-psychotic medications, which he had never before
used. He continued to receive mental health services -
including various prescriptions - from SCDC through at least
record does not reveal the state of Williamson's mental
health at the time of his transfer to safekeeper status in
November 2013. Section 6 of the Executive Order provides,
however, that mentally-ill detainees "are not eligible
for safekeeping." The Mental Health Screening Form for
Williamson that Barnwell County submitted with his initial
safekeeper application does not flag any existing mental
health issues. That Form, however, consists only of twelve
yes or no questions aimed at evaluating a detainee's risk
of suicide. And Director Stirling's memorandum
recommending the Governor's approval of Williamson's
initial safekeeper application confirms the Executive
Order's exclusion of mentally-ill detainees from the
safekeeping program, and may indicate its potential
applicability to Williamson. Stirling wrote:
This is to advise you that the documentation [from Barnwell
County] is sufficient to grant the [safekeeper] transfer for
Detainee Williamson. However, as you are aware, Executive
Order 2000-11 specifically states that 'Mentally ill or
retarded individuals are not eligible for safekeeping at the
Department of Corrections.' Therefore, SCDC reserves the
right to return Detainee Williams [sic] to Barnwell County
See J.A. 204. Director Stirling did not, however,
comment on Williamson's mental health condition at that
time. Despite Williamson's emerging mental health
symptoms and problems while he remained in safekeeper status,
there is no indication in the record that they were
considered when that status was repeatedly renewed every
ninety days - approximately thirteen times - for
noted, on June 15, 2017, a jury acquitted Williamson of the
murder charge. See State v. Williamson, No.
2013A0610400187 (S.C. 2d Cir. Ct. Gen. Sess.). In February
2018, Williamson pleaded guilty to armed robbery and was
sentenced to time served plus five years of probation.
See State v. Williamson, No. 2013A0620100094 (S.C.
2d Cir. Ct. Gen. Sess.). The remaining charges against him were
se verified Complaint alleged, inter alia, that the
defendants had erroneously designated Williamson as a
safekeeper, imposed punitive conditions on him without notice
and hearing, and thereby denied his due process rights.
Supporting the due process claims, the Complaint included the
• Williamson was not granted "a hearing or a
notice" before his "punitive" removal from the
Barnwell County Detention Center, see Complaint
• Williamson did not receive notice or a hearing before
his transfer to SCDC custody and the SCDC MSU "for
punitive reasons," id. ¶ 11;
• While in SCDC custody, Williamson wrote various
corrections officials seeking information regarding the basis
for his designation as a safekeeper, see id.
• Williamson's conditions at both the Lee and
Kirkland Correctional Institutions were "punitive,"
id. ¶¶ 22-23, 25-30; and
• Williamson was a pretrial detainee protected from
"any punishment" but he nevertheless remained
"on lockdown 24 hours a day," id. ¶
Complaint included additional allegations setting forth
Williamson's "Legal Claims," though it did not
identify separate causes of action. Williamson invoked the
"14th Amendment Due Process Clause" in discussing
the lack of notice or hearing prior to his transfer to SCDC
as a safekeeper. See id. ¶ 38. He identified
two "liberty interest[s]" that had been infringed.
Id. Williamson characterized the first liberty
interest as arising from his "substantive due
process" right to be free from "any type of
punishment" as a pretrial detainee, as established in
1979 by the Supreme Court in Bell v. Wolfish, 441
U.S. 520 (1979). See id. He asserted a separate
liberty interest arising from South Carolina's safekeeper
regulations. See id. ¶¶ 39-41. Thus,
Williamson raised, inter alia, two distinct theories of
liability: one theory - the substantive due process claim -
derived from the punitive conditions imposed on him as a
safekeeper; and the second theory - the procedural due
process claim - arose from lack of notice and hearing
regarding his safekeeper status. Based upon those due process
claims and supporting allegations, his pro se Complaint
sought declaratory and injunctive relief, punitive damages,
and such "additional relief" as the court deemed
"just, proper, equitable." See id.
September 2016, the defendants each moved for summary
judgment, asserting, among other defenses, that they were not
personally responsible for the challenged conduct and the
conditions of Williamson's solitary confinement, that
Williamson's safekeeper status was not punitive, and that
- in any event - they were entitled to qualified immunity.
Deputy Solicitor Miller also contended that he was entitled
to prosecutorial immunity. The district court referred the
defendants' summary judgment motions to a magistrate
judge for proposed findings and recommendations.
March 2017, the magistrate judge recommended that each of the
defendants' motions be granted. See Williamson,
No. 0:15-cv-4755 (D.S.C. Mar. 21, 2017), ECF No. 138 (the
"Magistrate Report"). The Magistrate Report
determined that, as to Williamson's First, Fourth, and
Sixth Amendment claims, he failed to show personal
responsibility by any of the defendants for any violations of
those rights, as required for a § 1983 claim.
respect to his Fourteenth Amendment due process allegations -
the only claims Williamson pursues in this appeal - the
Magistrate Report recommended awarding summary judgment to
each of the defendants, for two reasons. First, the Report
concluded that Williamson had not been unconstitutionally
punished. Although it recognized that the Due Process Clause
protects pretrial detainees from restrictions that amount to
punishment, the Report determined that Williamson's
prolonged conditions of solitary confinement did not
constitute punishment. The Report concluded that
Williamson's confinement was not punishment, explaining
Williamson has provided no evidence of an "express
intent to punish" by the defendants, and the
defendants' assertion that Williamson's transfer was
necessary for security purposes provides an unrefuted
nonpunitive government objective that precludes a reasonable
inference of punitive intent.
See Magistrate Report 6. According to the Report,
the defendants' assertion of necessity predicated on
security purposes sufficed to prove that, despite his
prolonged period of solitary confinement, Williamson had not
been unconstitutionally punished as a pretrial detainee.
the Magistrate Report determined that the controlling law was
unsettled on whether pretrial detainees transferred into
"more restrictive housing for administrative
purposes" are "owed any level of process under the
Fourteenth Amendment." See Magistrate Report 7.
The Report thus recommended that each defendant be granted
qualified immunity. Because the Report concluded that its
analysis disposed of Williamson's claims, it did not
address any issues concerning the defendants' personal
involvement in due process violations or Deputy Solicitor
Miller's assertion of prosecutorial immunity.
April 2017, the district court adopted the Magistrate Report
- over Williamson's objections - and awarded summary
judgment to each of the defendants. See Williamson,
No. 0:15-cv-4755 (D.S.C. Apr. 10, 2017), ECF No. 143 (the
"Summary Judgment Order"). In response to one of
Williamson's objections, however, that Order authorized
Williamson to amend the Complaint and name additional
defendants. Nevertheless, the court ...