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Lewis v. Winfree

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

November 8, 2018

WAYNE LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
J.D. WINFREE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION (GRANTING MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT)

          HENRY E. HUDSON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Wayne Lewis, a federal inmate proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Lewis's claims flow from a conviction for an institutional infraction when he was incarcerated in the Pamunkey Regional Jail. Lewis names the following individuals as the defendants: Sergeant J.D. Winfree; Captain S.L. Cook; and Superintendent James C. Willett ("Defendants"). Lewis demands relief upon the following grounds:

Claim 1 Defendant Winfree placed Lewis in a strip cell on October 26, 2015 for allegedly breaking a sprinkler in his cell. (ECF No. 2, at 3.) In the strip cell, Lewis was left "'naked', without a bed mattress, and no adequate drinking water, including [Lewis] not [being] able to shower for approximately 8-days." (Id. (citation omitted).)[1] Such actions violated Lewis's rights under (a) the Eighth Amendment, (id), and (b) the Due Process Clause, (id. at 4).
Claim 2 Defendant Cook discriminated under the Equal Protection Clause against Lewis when Cook gave Lewis a 60-day sanction for breaking the sprinkler, but ultimately reduced Lewis's white cellmate's sanction to merely twenty days. (ECF No. 1, at 4.)
Claim 3 (a) "Colonel James C. Willett is responsible for authoring] the policies, procedures, rules and regulations ... which permits" an inmate to be deprived of "clothing, bedding, unlimited access to lavatory and showers" in violation of the Eighth Amendment. (Id. at 4-5.) (b) These actions also violated the Due Process Clause. (Id. at 5.).

         Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Lewis has responded.

         I. STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Summary judgment must be rendered "if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The party seeking summary judgment bears the responsibility to inform the court of the basis for the motion, and to identify the parts of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). "[W]here the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial on a dispositive issue, a summary judgment motion may properly be made in reliance solely on the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file." Id. at 324 (internal quotation marks omitted). When the motion is properly supported, the nonmoving party must go beyond the pleadings and, by citing affidavits or "'depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,' designate 'specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Id. (quoting former Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c) and 56(e) (1986)).

         In reviewing a summary judgment motion, the court "must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." United States v. Carolina Transformer Co., 978 F.2d 832, 835 (4th Cir. 1992) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). However, a mere scintilla of evidence will not preclude summary judgment. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251 (citing Improvement Co. v. Munson, 81 U.S. (14 Wall.) 442, 448 (1872)). "[T]here is a preliminary question for the judge, not whether there is literally no evidence, but whether there is any upon which a jury could properly proceed to find a verdict for the party ... upon whom the onus of proof is imposed." Id. (quoting Munson, 81 U.S. at 448). Additionally, "Rule 56 does not impose upon the district court a duty to sift through the record in search of evidence to support a party's opposition to summary judgment." Forsyth v. Barr, 19F.3d 1527, 1537 (5th Cir. 1994) (quoting Skotak v. Tenneco Resins, Inc., 953 F.2d 909, 915 n.7 (5th Cir. 1992)); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(3) ("The court need consider only the cited materials-----").

         In support of their Motion for Summary Judgment, Defendants submitted, inter alia, the following evidence: declarations from Captain S. Cook ("Cook Decl. I," ECF No. 30-1; "Cook Decl. II," ECF No. 30-5), Superintendent Willett ("Willett Decl.," ECF No. 30-2), Sergeant Winfree ("Winfree Decl.," ECF No. 30-4), and a host of institutional records. Lewis submitted his own declaration ("Lewis Decl." ECF No. 2-1)[2]and swore to the contents of the Complaint. In light of the foregoing submissions, the following facts are established for the Motion for Summary Judgment.

         II. UNDISPUTED FACTS

         A. Circumstances Leading to the Infraction

         On October 26, 2015, Lewis was confined in the Pamunkey Regional Jail ("the Jail"). (Willett Decl. ¶¶ 11-12.) Lewis shared cell F-45 with Lea Owens. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 12.) On October 26, 2015, F-Unit of the Jail was on lockdown. (Id. ¶ 11.) "During a lockdown, inmates are prohibited from exiting their cells." (Id.)

         Around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., Sergeant Winfree received a call that a sprinkler head had been broken in one of the cells in F-Unit. (Winfree Decl. H 6.) Sergeant Winfree responded to the call and observed a disabled sprinkler head in Lewis's cell. (Id.) Water was flowing from the hole in the wall where the sprinkler head had been. (Id.) Thereafter, Sergeant Winfree interviewed inmates Lewis and Owens. (Id.) Both Lewis and Owens denied knowing how the sprinkler head became broken. (Id.) Sergeant Winfree then spoke with Officer Duke in the Jail's maintenance department, who told Winfree "that the sprinkler heads are firmly attached to the walls and would not become detached unless they were tampered with." (Id. ¶ 7.)

         Winfree also spoke with a technician who stated that around the time that the sprinkler head broke, inmates throughout F-Unit "were banging on their doors, making noise and causing a distraction." (Id. ¶ 8.) Based on Officer Duke's advice, Sergeant Winfree charged Lewis and Owens with "Interfering with Security Operations" and "Tampering with Security or Safety Equipment." (Id. ¶ 9.) Additionally, Sergeant Winfree assigned Lewis and Owen to the Destructive Inmate Program. (Id.)

         Although Sergeant Winfree assigned Lewis to the Destructive Inmate Program, he "was not involved in implementing the program, nor did [he] directly supervis[e] Lewis while he was assigned to the program." (Id. ¶ 14.)

         B. Destructive Inmate Program

         Lewis and Owen were housed in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU"), while assigned to the Destructive Inmate Program. (Id. ¶ 13.) The Jail uses the Destructive Inmate Program to control inmates who damage Jail property. (Willett Decl. 1f 8.) "The program lasts for eight days. Assignment to the Destructive Inmate Program is not punitive, but intended to control the inmate's behavior and prevent additional property damage or injury." (Id.)

Inmates assigned to the Destructive Inmate Program are placed on "strip cell" status. Inmates often use personal items to damage jail property by, for example, clogging the toilet with clothing or bedding. Thus, when an inmate is assigned to strip cell status, all of his personal property is removed from his cell, except for his boxers and undershirt. If the inmate does not cause further property damage, his personal items are returned to him incrementally over the subsequent eight-day period.

(Id. ¶ 9.) Specifically, pursuant to the Jail's policy, after two days, the inmate's mattress would be returned if he continued to behave. (Id. ¶ 14.) After four days, the inmate's uniform would be returned, and after six days, the inmate's blankets would be returned. (Id.) Additionally, inmates in the program are given an opportunity to shower once per day. (Id.) "Every cell in the Special Housing Unit is equipped with a toilet and sink. Therefore, Lewis would have had continuous access to drinking water while housed in the SHU. Restricting an inmate's access to water is not part of the Destructive Inmate Program." (Id. ¶ 15; accord Winfree Decl. 15.)

         C. Reconciling Lewis's and Defendants' Version of the Conditions ...


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