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Walker v. Owens

United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division

March 27, 2015

BILLY JOE WALKER, Plaintiff,
v.
J. OWENS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

NORMAN K. MOON, District Judge.

Billy Joe Walker, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the defendants retaliated against him, subjected him to cruel and unusual punishment, violated his right to due process, failed to investigate grievances, and denied him access to the grievance process, access to the court, and mental health treatment. The defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, and Walker has responded thereto, making this matter ripe for disposition. After reviewing the record, I conclude that Walker has stated a plausible Eighth Amendment cruel and unusual punishment claim but that his remaining allegations fail to state a claim.[1] Accordingly, I will grant in part and deny it in part the defendants' motion to dismiss.

I.

Walker alleges that on April 8, 2013, he filed an Emergency Grievance after Officer Owens "refus[ed]" to let Walker go to his prison job. Officer Owens signed and took the grievance to Lt. Franklin, who sent Officers Owens and Gibson to bring Walker to Lt. Franklin's office. While in Lt. Franklin's office, Lt. Franklin and Sgt. Miller "began to harass and threaten to take [Walker's] job and use physical violence in retaliation for [Walker having filed an] administrative [grievance]."

On April 18, 2013, Officer Owens wrote two disciplinary charges against Walker for disobeying a direct order and threatening staff. Walker alleges that he did not commit either of those infractions.

On April 21, 2013, Walker filed an Informal Complaint, alleging that Owens threatened to use physical force against Walker if Walker came out of his cell for showers or recreation. On April 22, 2013, Walker filed an Emergency Grievance indicating that Officer Owens threatened to have Walker "removed from the incentive program."

On April 22 and 29, 2013, Walker went to disciplinary hearings for his charges of disobeying a direct order and threatening staff, respectively. Walker states that during each of the hearings, he explained to Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") L. Mullins that the charges were fabricated by Officer Owens and requested that DHO Mullins review relevant documents and videos to "prove [his] innoce[nce]." However, Walker alleges that DHO Mullins "refused to review any relevant evidence, " found Walker guilty of both charges, and did not give "any meaningful or justifiable reason" for finding Walker guilty beyond the reasons stated in Officer Owens' report.

On April 24, 2013, Walker alleges that Grievance Coordinators R. Mullins and J. Messer "frustrate[d] [Walker's] grievance process" by "refusing to process [his] complaints." On May 7, 2013, Walker was fired from his job by Sgt. Miller and Unit Manager Swiney.

Walker appealed his disciplinary offense convictions, and, on May 14, 2013, he received an Inmate Request Form response from Assistant Warden Walrath, who indicated that Walker's disciplinary charges "were disposed of per Operating Procedure 861.1." Almost a week later, Walker alleges that he received a Level I grievance response from Warden Mathena, stating that the disciplinary charges had been "disposed of per Operating Procedure 861.1." However, on May 29, 2013, Walker received both of his disciplinary conviction appeals back from Warden Mathena, who indicated that the convictions had been upheld on appeal. On May 30, 2013, the records department confirmed that "there was no disposal of [the disciplinary] charges from [Walker's] record."

On June 3, 2013, Officer Gibson took inmates out for their monthly haircuts and Walker alleges that despite taking six other inmates without searching their cells, when Officer Gibson took Walker out of his cell, he "proceeded to search [Walker's] cell for over 5 minutes, [took] bedding items [that Walker] was allowed to have, ... and destroyed [Walker's] affidavit." When Walker asked Officer Gibson why he was being singled out, Officer Gibson allegedly responded that he "found out about [Walker's] lawsuit." Walker alleges that Officer Gibson took all of his bedding items as contraband.

On June 10, 2013, Walker filed a civil action, pursuant to § 1983, in this court. See Walker v. Mathena, et al., Civil Action No. 7:13cv274 (W.D. Va. July 10, 2013). On July 10, 2013, I dismissed the action because Walker failed to comply with the court's conditional filing order. However, Walker alleges that he attempted to comply with the order, but his mail was returned to him.

On July 1, 2013, Walker notified Unit Manager Swiney that Officers Owens and Gibson, Sgt. Miller, and Lt. Franklin had harassed and retaliated against him. On July 31, 2013, Grievance Coordinator J. Messer "refused to process" a Regular Grievance.

On August 4, 2013, Walker was placed in five-point restraints from 6:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., and Sgt. Sykes and Lt. Still denied him bathroom breaks and meals the entire time. While Walker was in restraints, he alleges that he told Qualified Mental Health Professional ("QMHP") Huff and Capt. Tate that he "was being starved and refused breaks."[2] In response to the defendants' motion to dismiss, Walker alleges that the defendants left him in the restraints "without breaks or food to intentionally inflict psychological torture" and that he "suffered extreme cramping and hunger." Walker filed a Regular Grievance concerning the time he spent in five-point restraints, and Warden Mathena denied the grievance.

On August 13, 2013, Walker was in a medical cell with a camera and on fifteen-minute suicide-watch precautions. When he was being released from that cell, Walker refused to leave and "proceeded to bite open a wound that had stitches." Officer Gibson used Oleoresin Capsicum ("OC") spray[3] on Walker. After the incident, QMHP Moceri "allowed" Walker to be taken out of the medical unit and placed ...


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