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CHANDLER v. LORD

January 24, 1985

CARRIE L. CHANDLER, individually and on behalf of all other persons similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
ELAINE A. LORD, individually, and in her official capacity as Deputy Seuperintendent [Superintendent] of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, Bedford Hills, New York, Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET

SWEET, D.J.

This action, brought by pro se prisoner Carrier [Carrie] Chandler ("Chandler") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleges a violation of Chandler's constitutionally guaranteed right to due process as a result of her being transferred from the "honor" floor to "general prison population" without a hearing. Elaine Lord ("Lord"), Superintendent of Bedford Correctional Facility ("Bedford") has moved for summary judgment, arguing that no liberty interest attaches to continued habitation on the "honor" floor and therefore due process did not require a hearing before the transfer. The motion is granted, and the complaint is dismissed.

 Facts

 The facts surrounding this case are undisputed. Chandler is an inmate at Bedford. On December 28, 1982 she was moved from the general prison population to the "honor" floor. Inmates on the honor floor have certain additional privileges, including the right to have a personal television, to make more frequent phone calls, and to remain outside their cell in the evening. Bedford officials made continued residence on the honor floor conditional on satisfying the rules regulating conduct on the floor, (see exhibit one) and the rules, issued by Bedford personnel, state that "You will be removed from the floor for any behavior which does not meet these standards."

 On September 20, 1983 Chandler received a memorandum from Lord informing Chandler that she was being placed on probation as a result of an evaluation by an honor floor correction officer. According to the memorandum, Chandler required constant reminders to remain neat, and Chandler's behavior would "be monitored over the next month to determine whether you improve. If not, you will be removed."

 On February 8, 1984, Chandler received a memorandum from Lord stating that Chandler was to be removed from the honor floor for violating Department of Correctional Services Directive 4760, which limits inmate-to-inmate correspondence. The memorandum stated that Chandler was being removed from the honor floor "because of the seriousness with which we hold your action, and because it shows little effort to improve despite your less than acceptable evaluations." Chandler was removed from the honor floor and returned to the general prison population on February 17, 1984.

 Conclusions

 I must first determine whether Chandler has a protected liberty interest that requires that due process standards be met prior to her transfer to general prison housing. Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-24, 49 L. Ed. 2d 451, 96 S. Ct. 2532 (1976). Chandler claims such a liberty interest in freedom from transfer to the general prison population from the more desirable honor floor. The due process clause itself does not make freedom from such transfer a liberty interest.

 
As long as the conditions or degree of confinement to which the prisoner is subjected is within the sentenceimposed upon him and is not otherwise violative of the Constitution, the Due Process clause does not in itself subject an inmate's treatment by prison authorities to judicial oversight. The clause does not require hearings in connection with transfers whether or not they are the result of the inmate's misbehavior or may be labeled as disciplinary or punitive.

 Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 242, 49 L. Ed. 2d 466, 96 S. Ct. 2543 (1976). Further, in Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 103 S. Ct. 864, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675 (1983) the Court held that the due process clause did not prevent transfer from general prison population to disciplinary or administrative segregation without a hearing.

 
Respondent argues, rather weakly, that the Due Process clause implicitly creates an interest in being confined to a general popula- tion cell, rather than the more austere and restrictive administrative segregation quarters. While there is little question on the record before us that respondent's confinement added to the restraints on his freedom, we think his argument seeks to draw from the Due Process clause more than it can provide . . . Accordingly, administrative segregation is the sort of confinement that inmates should reasonably anticipate receiving at some point in their incarceration. This conclusion finds ample support in our decisions regarding parole and good time credits. Both these subjects involve release from institu- tional life altogether, which is a far more significant change in a prisoner's freedoms than that at issue here, yet in Greenholtz and Wolff we held that neither situation involved an interest independent- ly protected by the Due Process Clause. These decisions compel an identical result here. Id.

 Chandler's alleged liberty interest therefore cannot stem directly from the due process clause. The requirement of living in the general prison population is within the sentence imposed, is not independently violative of the Constitution, and is a less egregious deprivation than being held in disciplinary segregation, freedom from which is not a liberty interest. Hewitt, supra.

 A protected liberty interest may also be created by state law, however, and once such an interest is established the due process clause "insure[s] that the state-created right is not arbitrarily abrogated." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 557, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974); Meachum v. Fano, supra; Hewitt, supra; Olim v. Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 103 S. Ct. 1741, 1747, 75 L. Ed. 2d 813 (1983). States can create such liberty interests by statute or regulation, although the Supreme Court has cautioned that in the absence of "unmistakenly mandatory" language, the state-created interest will not be interpreted as a liberty interest. "The creation of procedural guidelines to channel the decision-making of prison officials is, in the view of many experts in the field, a salutary development. It would be ironic to hold that when a state embarks on such desirable experimentation it thereby opens the door to scrutiny by the federal courts, while states that choose not to adopt such procedural guidelines, without more, suggests that it is these restrictions alone, and not those federal courts might also impose under the Fourteenth Amendment, that the state chose to require." Hewitt v. Helms, at 871. In Olim, supra, moreover, the Court held that "a state creates a protected liberty interest by placing substantive limitations on official discretion. An inmate must show "that particularized standards or criteria guide the state's decisionmakers.'" Olim, supra, at 1747, quoting Connecticut Board of Pardons v. Dumschat, 452 U.S. 458, 467, 69 L. Ed. 2d 158, 101 S. Ct. 2460 (1981) (Brennan, J., concurring).

 There is no foundation for establishing a state-created liberty interest against the transfer to which Chandler was subjected. Chandler concedes in her brief that "neither the Correction Law or [sic] the State of New York nor the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations, do not require that there be Privileged Housing Units at any correctional facility in this state, and the commissioner has not promulgated any published rules regarding transfer from same." [sic, plaintiff's brief at 7-8]. Moreover, in Montonye, analyzing New York Correctional Law, and upholding an interprison transfer with "substantially burdensome consequences" without a hearing, the Supreme Court concluded that "there is no more basis in New York law for invoking the protections of the Due Process clause than we found to be the case" in Meachum. Montonye at 243. The relevant New York statutes and ...


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