United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
E. Conrad, Senior United States District Judge
Ryan Daniel, a Virginia inmate proceeding pro se, filed this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
alleging that jail officials unlawfully removed him from work
release for testing positive for drug use. He has now paid
the $400.00 filing costs. After review of the record, the
court concludes that this civil action must be summarily
time his claims arose, Daniel was confined at the Danville
Adult Detention Center ("DADC"). He was serving a
sentence of eleven months and 29 days. On April 30, 2018,
Daniel began participating in the DADC work release program.
All work release inmates underwent random drug testing on
September 17, 2018. Officer Chandler showed Daniel his test.
"Faint lines showed on Amphetamine and opiates."
Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Daniel denied having taken drugs and
insisted the test was negative for drug use, because faint
lines showed on all six panels of the test. Lt. Hunt ordered
another test for Daniel, with the same results. Daniel
received a disciplinary charge for testing positive for
disciplinary hearing, Daniel presented evidence that certain
legal medications that he had taken on September 27, 2018,
could have caused a false positive on the drug tests. Daniel
denied having taken any opiates. Captain Walker, the hearing
officer, had both of Daniel's drug tests. "From 4
feet away, [Daniel] could see the line under opiates,"
and he told Walker that the tests were both negative.
Id. at 5. Walker stated that without proof Daniel
had taken the legal medications that might have caused a
false positive on the drug test, Walker was finding Daniel
guilty of testing positive for opiates. He ordered Daniel
removed from work release and deducted ten days of his good
conduct time. On appeal, Daniel's request for outside
analysis of the drug test panels was denied, and Walker's
rulings were upheld. According to Daniel, he could have earned
between $8, 000 and $10, 000 in the work release program
during the last 18 weeks of his jail time. He completed
service of his prison term on January 18, 2019.
filed this § 1983 action in December 2018 against DADC,
Hunt, Chandler, Walker, Mardiavich, and two other DADC
officials. Liberally construed, the complaint alleges that
these defendants deprived Daniel of his potential earnings
from work release based on false positive drug test results,
in violation of due process. As relief, Daniel seeks
compensatory damages for the wages he was unable to earn
after being removed from work release.
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 "frivolous" claim is
one that "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in
fact," because it is "based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory" or its "factual contentions
are clearly baseless." Neitzke v. Williams, 490
U.S. 319, 325, 327 (1989) (interpreting "frivolous"
in former version of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d)). Section 1983
permits an aggrieved party to file a civil action against a
person for actions taken under color of state law that
violated his constitutional rights. Cooper v.
Sheehan, 735 F.3d 153, 158 (4th Cir. 2013).
initial matter, Daniel cannot prevail against the DADC. A
jail building cannot qualify as a person subject to being
sued under § 1983. Thus, the court must dismiss his
claims against the DADC. While the other defendants may be
sued under § 1983, the claims against them must be
dismissed for other reasons.
Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that no
state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or
properly without due process of law." U.S. Const, amend.
XIV, § 1. Prison disciplinary proceedings that implicate
a protected liberty interest, such as accumulated good
conduct time, trigger federal due process protections.
See Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557-58 (1974).
On the other hand, "[p]rison disciplinary proceedings
are not part of a criminal prosecution, and the full panoply
of rights due a defendant in such proceedings does not
apply." Id. at 556. The inmate facing a prison
disciplinary charge enjoys these limited, constitutionally
guaranteed procedural protections: (1) written notice of the
charge; (2) disclosure of evidence against him; (3) the right
to call witnesses and present documentary evidence absent
safety concerns; (4) a neutral factfinder; and (5) a written
statement of reasons for disciplinary action. Id. at
evidentiary standard for prison disciplinary proceedings also
differs from the standard used in criminal proceedings.
"The fundamental fairness guaranteed by the Due Process
Clause does not require courts to set aside decisions of
prison administrators [in disciplinary proceedings] that have
some basis in fact." Superintendent. Mass. Corr.
Inst.. Walpole v. Hill, 472 U.S. 445, 456 (1985). Thus,
when an inmate challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to
support his disciplinary conviction or penalty, due process
requirements are met when there is "some evidence"
in the record "that could support the conclusion
reached." L± at 455-56. Determining "whether
this standard is satisfied does not require examination of
the entire record, independent assessment of the credibility
of witnesses, or the weighing of evidence." Id.
Daniel was penalized with the loss of earned good conduct
time, he was entitled to the due process protections mandated
under Wolff and Hill. The only
challenge he brings, however, is to the sufficiency of the
evidence to support the hearing officer's finding. As
evidence at the hearing, Walker had what he interpreted as
two test devices showing positive for opiates, Daniel's
statement that he had not taken opiates, Daniel's
evidence that other drugs prescribed to him could cause false
positive drug test results, and Daniel's belief that the
two tests were negative for opiates. Walker apparently found
that the credibility of the test results as he read them
outweighed Daniel's evidence, and ruled that Daniel was
guilty of testing positive for opiates. It is not the
court's province to reweigh all the evidence or
Daniel's credibility. Because the officer's decision
was supported by some evidence in the record, the hearing
result had some basis in fact and thus comported with due
process. Hill, 472 U.S. at 456.
Daniel's claim that he was wrongfully denied work release
for the last 18 weeks of his sentence states no
constitutional violation actionable under § 1983.
Prisoners have no constitutional right to have a job in
prison, to maintain a particular job, or to receive a due
process hearing before being removed from a prison job. See
Adams v. James, 784 F.2d 1077, 1079 (4th Cir. 1986);
Altizer v. Paderick,569 F.2d 812, 813 (4th Cir.
1978). Inmates also do not have a protected liberty or
property interest in a prison job assignment; thus, prison
officials may terminate an inmate from his job for any reason
without offending federal due process principles. See
Bulger v. United States Bureau of Prisons,65 F.3d 48,
49 (5th Cir. 1995). Similarly, an inmate has no
constitutionally protected interest in work release
participation or potential earnings. See Kitchen v.
Upshaw,286 F.3d ...