United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
September 29, 2014
REGINALD KEITH BALL, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY ARTRIP, ET. AL., Defendants.
GLEN E. CONRAD, Chief District Judge.
Reginald Keith Ball, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that in classifying him to long-term segregation status, prison officials violated his due process rights by knowingly relying on false information that Ball had conspired to kill a warden. Upon review of the record, the court finds that the action must be summarily dismissed.
Ball is now a segregation inmate at Red Onion State Prison. On May 5, 2014, the institutional classification authority ("ICA") recommended that Ball's security classification be changed to level "S." As support for this change, the ICA report noted: "Offender Ball was part of the conspiracy to kill Warden Fleming of KMCC and while housed at WRSP he received [and has been convicted of] a 106 infraction for sexually assaulting a nurse." (ECF No. 4, at 3.) The change to level "S" was upheld on appeal.
Ball insists that he was not involved in this conspiracy, so the classification was erroneous. He submits a copy of a Virginia Department of Corrections ("VDOC") report of the investigation into an inmate conspiracy to kill Warden Fleming, which does not mention Ball's name. Despite this information and Ball's complaints, the regional administrator approved the classification change. In rejecting Ball's Level II appeal of the status change, the administrator found that the status change was appropriate and stated: "It is noted that as of July 16, 2014, you currently have four active felony charges with Buchanan Circuit Court; 1. Gang Participation in Criminal Act, 2. Conspiracy Murder 1st Degree, 3. Provide Prisoner with Cell Phone, 4. Possession Cell Phone by Prisoner." (ECF No. 4, at 17.)
In this § 1983 action, Ball sues the officials who reclassified him or upheld that decision. He seeks monetary and injunctive relief.
The court is required to dismiss any action or claim filed by a prisoner against a governmental entity or officer if the court determines the action or claim is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). A plaintiff bringing suit under § 1983 must establish that he has been deprived of rights guaranteed by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that this deprivation resulted from conduct committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins , 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
An inmate's federally protected liberty "interests are limited to the freedom from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force,  nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Sandin v. Conner , 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). If the status change that an inmate challenges did not impose atypical hardship on him, then he has no federally protected liberty interest, and he is not entitled to federal due process protections before prison officials may implement that change. Id. at 486-87. Courts have found that Virginia's classification scheme governing prisoners' custody and security classifications does not create a liberty interest in avoiding changes in these classifications, precisely because these classifications are subject to change, based on inmate behavior and prison officials' discretion. Oliver v. Powell , 250 F.Supp.2d 593, 605 (E.D. Va. 2002); Garrett v. Angelone , 940 F.Supp.2d 933, 943 (W.D. Va. 1996).
Ball fails to show that he has a protected liberty interest. He does not state any facts concerning the conditions of his confinement in long-term segregation or specify any respect in which those conditions present any atypical difficulty or discomfort when compared to other VDOC confinement categories. Thus, he has not shown that the decision to place him in long-term segregation implicates any federal right to particular procedural protections,  Sandin , 515 U.S. at 484, and his § 1983 due process claim must be summarily dismissed. To the extent that he complains about prison officials' failure to follow state classification procedures, such state regulation issues are not actionable under § 1983. See Riccio v. Cnty. of Fairfax, Va. , 907 F.2d 1459, 1469 (4th Cir. 1990).
For the reasons stated, the court dismisses Ball's complaint without prejudice, pursuant to § 1915A(b)(1), for failure to state a claim. The Clerk is directed to send copies of this memorandum opinion and accompanying order to plaintiff.