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Ickes v. Wilson

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Alexandria Division

May 15, 2016

John W. Ickes, Plaintiff,
Jason Wilson, et al., Defendant



John W. Ickes, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, has filed a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that defendants, officials at the Virginia Center for Behavioral Health ("VCBR"), have violated his constitutional rights. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss and Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment, as well as a memorandum of law and affidavits and exhibits to support the motion. Dkts. Nos. 15, 16, 17. Plaintiff received the Notice required by Local Rule 7(K) and the opportunity to file responsive materials pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), and he has filed a response. Accordingly, the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment must be granted, and the remaining motions must be denied, as moot.

I. Background

Plaintiff has been in custody of VCBR since August 12, 2014. Compl. at 4. Plaintiff claims he was subjected to an unreasonable search and seizure of his papers and effects by defendants in violation of his rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution. Id. Specifically, he claims all of his personal possessions, including "voluminous legal work and personal writings" where taken from him. Id. Additionally, he alleges all of his "materials]" were examined and read outside his presence, and that many of the documents seized were never returned to him by Defendant Moore. Id.

VCBR houses individuals who have been found to be sexual predators by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Va. Code § 37.2-900. VCBR's "Rules for Resident Property/Property Guide" ("Property Guide") provides notice to residents on many issues, and a copy of the Property Guide is given to each resident upon arrival to VCBR. Dkt. No. 17, Moore Dec. at ¶ 5; Att. A. The section entitled "Purpose, " provides: "Procedures must be in place to ensure that the security and treatment is maintained. Managing property content and amounts is a vital step to ensure access to belongings in a fair and consistent manner while promoting a secure therapeutic environment." Id.

Additionally, VCBR has implemented policies in order to provide treatment to civilly committed sexually violent predators in a safe and secure environment. Dkt. No. 17, Wilson Dec. at ¶ 6. One of these policies is Facility Instruction No. 127, "Searches and Contraband, " ("FI 127"), which provides that property searches of a resident's property upon his arrival to VCBR may be conducted outside the presence of the resident by security or by property staff. Id. at 17; Att. B. Thus, per FI 127, the search of plaintiff s property upon his arrival to VCBR was conducted outside his presence. Id.

VCBR also has exemptions to certain regulations that allow the facility to restrict or limit residents' rights to inappropriate, sexually explicit, or violent materials. Dkt. No. 17, Wilson Dec. at ¶ 5; Att. A. Facility Instruction 109, "Resident Media, " ("FI 109") provides that "any item determined to be counter-therapeutic, contains inappropriate content or jeopardizes the safety or orderly administration of VCBR is prohibited." Id. FI 109 also specifically directs that "all photographs, unapproved publications, books and media are screened by clinical staff prior to their receipt by the residents." Dkt. No. 17, Moore Dec. at ¶ 7; Att. B. Thus, when staff determined that some of plaintiff s property was inappropriate, it was sent to a treatment associate for review in accordance with FI109. Id. at ¶ 8. Specifically, the treatment associate and the Clinical Director found some of plaintiffs writings to include sexualized, objectified descriptions of children, and per policy, he was not allowed to keep those writings. Dkt. No. 17, Schlank Dec. at ¶ 8.

Plaintiff complains that he was not able to keep his writings at VCBR. He followed all steps of the complaint process; however, it was determined that his complaint was not a human rights violation. See Compl. Art. 1, 2. Plaintiff names Facility Director Jason Wilson and Property Department Supervisor Twalla Moore as defendants, and he alleges they violated his Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution. He seeks monetary and declaratory relief.

II. Standard of Review

Summary judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56.[1] The moving party bears the burden of proving that judgment as a matter of law is appropriate. See Celotex Com, v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986) To meet that burden, the moving party must demonstrate that no genuine issues of material fact are present for resolution. Id. at 322. Once a moving party has met its burden to show that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to point out the specific facts that create disputed factual issues. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc.. 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The nonmoving party must present some evidence, other than its initial pleadings, to show that there is more than just a "metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986): see also Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (quoting Rule 56(e) ("Rule 56(e)... requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by her own affidavits, or by [other evidence] designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'"). In evaluating a motion for summary judgment, a district court should consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of that party. United States v. Diebold. Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962).

Those facts which the moving party bears the burden of proving are facts which are material. "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts which might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine when, "the evidence ... create[s] [a] fair doubt; wholly speculative assertions will not suffice." Ross v. Commc'ns Satellite Corp., 759 F.2d 355, 364 (4th Cir. 1985), abrogated on other grounds by Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins. 490 U.S. 228 (1989). Therefore, summary judgment is appropriate only where no material facts are genuinely disputed and the evidence as a whole could not lead a rational fact finder to rule for the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co..475 U.S. at 587.

III. Analysis

A. Defendants Did Not Violate Plaintiffs Due Process Rights

There are a number of problems with plaintiffs claim that he is entitled to damages under § 1983 because his right to due process was violated by the defendants' alleged deprivation of his property. First, such a claim is foreclosed by the rule of Parratt v. Tavlor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981). The Fourteenth Amendment provides that, "no state shall... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law." U.S. Const, amend XVI § 1. Thus, to violate procedural due process, defendants' actions must implicate plaintiffs interest in "life, liberty, or property." Hewitt v. Helms. 459 U.S. 460, 466 (1983). Where a deprivation of property results from an established state procedure, due process requires the state to provide a pre-deprivation hearing. See Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co.. 455 U.S. 422 (1982). However, in certain circumstances, the availability of meaningful post-deprivation procedures satisfies the requirements of due process, such as where it is impractical to provide a meaningful hearing prior to an alleged deprivation. Parratt 451 U.S. at 538 (due process satisfied by post-deprivation remedies when a deprivation is caused by the random, unauthorized acts of a state ...

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