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STAMPS-BEY v. THOMAS

September 20, 1985

REGINALD D. STAMPS-BEY, Plaintiff, v DALE THOMAS, Warden; LEONARD W. GRAVES Associate Warden; W. STEPHEN HARMISON, Unit Manager; JOHN SANDERS, Unit Counselor, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SWEET

SWEET, D. J.

Defendants Dale Thomas ("Thomas"), Leonard W. Graves ("Graves") W. Stephen Harrison ("Harrison") and John Sanders ("Sanders"), officials at the Metropolitan Correctional Center ("MCC") in New York, have moved pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 56 for an order dismissing the amended complaint of plaintiff Reginald D. Stamps-Bey ("Stamps-Bey") for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. Stamps-Bey has cross-moved for partial summary judgment. Stamps-Bey's motion is denied and the defendants' motion for summary judgment is granted.

Facts

 Stamps-Bey was sentenced on September 27, 1978 in Superior Court for the District of Columbia to an indeterminate term of ten years under § 5015(c) of the Youth Corrections Act, 18 U.S.C. § §§ 5005-5017, repealed, Pub.L. 98-473, Title II, § 218(a)(8), 98 Stat. 2027, effective October 12, 1984 ("YCA"), for assault with intent to commit armed robbery. From February 1, 1982 until December 27, 1982, Stamps-Bey was incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution, Petersburg, Virginia ("FCI Petersburg:), which had been designated as the most secure of the All-Youth Corrections Act facilities. From May 23, 1982 to December 27, 1982 as a consequence of misconduct Stamps-Bey was held in FCI Petersburg's disciplinary segregation unit. Because of Stamps-Bey's alleged involvement in various disruptive incidents while at at FCI Petersburg, the warden of FCI Petersburg had requested authorization from the Bureau of Prisons to remove Stamps-Bey from the YCA program. In November of 1982 the Bureau of Prisons applied to the Washington, D.C. Superior Court Judge who had sentenced Stamps-Bey for a "no further benefit: ruling which would have allowed his removal from the YCA program and his placement in a non-YCA facility.

 On December 25, 1982 a major disturbance took place at the FCI Petersburg resulting in a fatality. Because of the numbers of inmates involved, the Special Housing unity was exceeded by the numbers of inmates to be held in administrative detention This emergency condition required the transfer of Stamps-Bey and approximately twenty other YCA inmates from FCI Petersburg's disciplinary segregation unit (the "YCA inmates") to the MCC in New York. These inmates were considered to require a higher level of security than could be provided in other YCA facilities. The delegated authority to transfer the inmates was exercised by Z. Stephen Grzegorek, Regional Director, Northeast Region of the Bureau of Prisons ("Grzegorek"), who "in conjunction with others in the Bureau of Prions, determined that the best alternative would be to send inmate Stamps Bey and the others to the MCC, N.Y.", (Grzegorek Affidavit, [P] 9), a determination that was accomplished on December 27, 1982. While at the MCC, the YCA inmates were placed in a separate wing in the administrative detention area. On January 4, 1983 Associate Warden Graves of the MCC, issued a memorandum (the "Graves Memorandum") attached hereto as Appendix A, subsequently approved by Warden Thomas setting forth the conditions of confinement for the YCA inmates at the MCC.

 According to this record, Thomas and his subordinates had no authority to transfer Stamps-Bey or to assign him to another institution, a power exercised elsewhere in the Bureau of Prisons. Thomas and the remaining defendants were responsible for the treatment accorded Stamps-Bey while at the MCC in what Thomas believed to be an emergency status.

 In February of 1983 all of the YCA inmates except Stamps-Bey were returned to FCI Petersburg. Stamps-Bey was kept at the MCC pending a ruling on his status as a YCA inmate, the Superior Court not having yet ruled on the application by the Bureau. According to Grzegorek, Stamps-Bey was not returned to FCI Petersburg while the Bureau of Prisons awaited the Judge's decision "because of his extremely disruptive background." (Grzegorek Affidavit [P] 11).

 On January 25, 1983 Stamps-Bey filed a petition for habeas relief with this court, challenging certain conditions of his confinement at the MCC. In particular, he alleged that he was restricted from getting exercise, attending religious services, and using the prison law library, and challenged his segregation from other prisoners. This court treated Stamps-Bey's petition as a motion for preliminary injunction which was denied in an opinion dated February 18, 1983 on the grounds that his segregation was not "impractical" under the YCA and that his other complaints did not rise to the level of constitutional violations. The habeas corpus petition was dismissed on April 8, 1983 following the government's representation that Stamps-Bey would shortly be transferred back to FCI Petersburg. Stamps-Bey was returned to FCI Petersburg on April 15, 1983.

 Stamps-Bey filed his first complaint in this action on February 16, 1983, seeking injunctive relief and money damages from defendants Thomas and Graves for various restrictions placed on him at the MCC, in particular, the denial of visits with his commonlaw wife, Christine Bethea ("Bethea") and others and the denial of access to the law library, paper and typewriters. In an opinion dated October 19, 1983, this court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim and for summary judgment, holding that the restrictions did not violate his constitutional rights. However, the opinion left open the question whether a "lack of treatment" under the YCA stated a constitutional claim against the defendants. The parties were directed to brief the issue, and counsel was appointed for Stamps-Bey.

 On October 2, 1984 an amended complaint was filed in lieu of a briefing of the treatment issue. In the amended complaint, which added two defendant, Harrison, Unit Manager at MCC and Sanders, Unit Counselor at MCC, Stamps-Bey claimed that Sanders and Harrison denied him access to religious and psychological counseling, reading materials educational opportunities, and visits for family members. In addition, he alleges that he was held in "solitary confinement: for four months and that he was not allowed to socialize or congregate with an alleged group YCA inmates. As to Thomas and Graves, he alleges that the procedures implemented in the Graves' memorandum were violative of the YCA and his constitutional rights.

 Discussion

 In their motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment, the defendants contend that they are immune from liability under either the qualified immunity doctrine of Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 102 S. Ct. 2727, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396 (1982) or in the alternative on the grounds that the acts which they are alleged to have committed were committed in the course of their official duties and did not rise to the level of constitutional violations. In response, Stamps-Bey contests the assertions of immunity and asserts that he is entitled to partial summary judgment on his claim that the defendants' deliberate disregard of the treatment mandate of the YCA constitutes a violation of his constitutional rights.

 In the amended complaint, Stamps-Bey delineates numerous acts on the part of the defendants which he contends constitute violations of his constitutional rights. The crux of his complaint, however, is his allegation that he is entitled to relief for the alleged deprivation of his right to treatment and rehabilitation under the YCA, which provides that YCA inmates "shall undergo treatment" and insofar as practical "shall be segregated according to their needs" for such treatment. 18 U.S.C. § 5011. The Third Circuit has convincingly held that this language creates a legitimate expectation or right that rise to the level of a liberty interest protectible under the due process clause and enforceable through an action for damages. Micklus v. Carlson, 632 F.2d 227, 237-39 (3d Cir. 1980). Despite the defendants' attempt to distinguish Micklus as addressing only the segregation aspect of the YCA, Stamps-Bey's allegation that the defendants deprived him of treatment under the YCA, Stamps-Bey's allegation that the defendants deprived him of treatment under the YCA states a cognizable claim under the Fifth Amendment.

 However, even if Stamps-Bey's claim under the YCA is of constitutional stature, the defendants urge that they are protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity. The liability of a government official for claims arising under the Constitution has been sharply curtailed by the Supreme Court. In Harlow v. Fitzgerald, supra, the Court reformulated the doctrine of qualified immunity by establishing an objective standard against which to measure the actions of a federal official accused of constitutional torts. As noted in the October 19, 1983 opinion, prior to Harlow, government officials were entitled to qualified immunity from such claims only upon a showing of a subjective good faith belief in the legality of their actions, a standard that often permitted insubstantial claims to proceed to trial. See, e.g., Wood v. Strickland, 420 U.S. 308, 321-22, 95 S. Ct. 992, 1000-01, 43 L. Ed. 2d 214 (1975); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 247-48, 94 S. Ct. 1683, 1691-92, 40 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1974). Recognizing that the benefits of a remedy for the vindication of constitutional guarantees may be significantly counterbalanced by the social costs of allowing non-meritorious claims to proceed to trial, the Court in Harlow excluded the subjective element of the defense in order to "avoid excessive disruption of government and permit the resolution of many insubstantial claims or summary judgment." 457 U.S. at 817, 102 S. Ct. at 2737-38. The Court held that:

 
government officialsperforming discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.

 Id. at 817-18, 102 S. Ct. at 2737-38. Under the holding of Harlow, a governments official's immunity from liability depends on the objective reasonableness of his conduct as measured by reference to clearly established law. In order to resolve the question of the defendants' immunity from liability, the issue of what the applicable law was at the time of the occurrences, and the degree to which it was settled, must first be determined.

 The YCA was enacted in 1950 in order to provide an effective method of rehabilitation youths convicted in federal courts. The intent of the YCA was to substitute rehabilitative treatment for retribution as a sentencing goal. Caballery v. US Parole Commission, 673 F.2d 43, 45 (2d 43, 45 (2d Cir. 1982). The Act conferred special benefits such as evaluation, treatments and review on the YCA offender and at the same time imposed additional burdens in the form of indeterminate, and often longer sentences. Treatment is defined as "corrective and ...


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