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WALKER v. MAHONEY

February 9, 1996

MICHAEL WALKER, Plaintiff, against SHERIFF PATRICK MAHONEY, WARDEN WESLEY BENOSKY, SERGEANT INVESTIGATOR ROY FRIES, INVESTIGATOR JACK SANTACROCE, LIEUTENANT LARKIN, LIEUTENANT BENNETT and SERGEANT MEALY, Defendants.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: SEYBERT

 SEYBERT, District Judge:

 Plaintiff Michael Walker, proceeding pro se, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against several state officials employed at the Suffolk County Correctional Facility. The plaintiff alleges that the defendants deprived him of a liberty interest without due process of law by placing him in segregated confinement for a period a 23 days. Pending before the Court is the defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons discussed herein, the defendants' motion is granted and the plaintiff's complaint is dismissed without prejudice in its entirety.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 In his complaint, the plaintiff alleges that on or about January 3, 1993, several officials of the Suffolk County Correctional Facility conducted a search of his cell, and of his person. It was later reported to the plaintiff that the search of his cell resulted in the discovery of a "shank." As a result of this purported discovery of contraband, the plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation. In addition, the plaintiff was provided at that time with a form dated January 3, 1993, entitled "Notice of Charge and Basis for Disciplinary Action." See Pl.'s Compl. Ex. This form indicated that a report, accusing the plaintiff of possession of a dangerous weapon and destroying county property, had been forwarded to the warden. The plaintiff acknowledged receipt of this notice by affixing his signature thereon. See id.

 On January 8, 1993, plaintiff attended a hearing concerning the charges levied against him in the disciplinary report. At this hearing, the plaintiff contended that he had no knowledge of the circumstances that resulted in the discovery of a shank in his cell. The hearing office, defendant Sergeant Mealy, found the plaintiff guilty of the charges against him, and assessed him punitive segregation, for a period of five days, as a penalty. Because the plaintiff had already spent five days in administrative segregation pending his disciplinary hearing, the plaintiff's administrative confinement was credited in full satisfaction of his penalty, and Sergeant Mealy informed him that he could return to the "general prison population." Upon being asked by defendant Mealy whether he wished to return to his original tier, the plaintiff responded in the affirmative.

 Plaintiff subsequently filed a complaint with the prison's inmate grievance committee, which brought this matter to the attention of defendants Sergeant Fries and Investigator Santacroce. The plaintiff alleges that Santacroce told Henry Hobson, the president of the inmate grievance committee, to tell the plaintiff that security personnel would contact him concerning his return to the general prison population. No such communication followed; rather, plaintiff was not informed of the reasons for his continued administrative confinement, and was not afforded a hearing with respect to this matter.

 Plaintiff's circumstances did not change until inmates on his tier in the special housing unit commenced a hunger strike. On the second day of the hunger strike, plaintiff was summoned to the security office and brought before defendants Santacroce and Fries. These defendants informed the plaintiff that he would be returned promptly to the general population, and warned him that if he caused trouble, he would spend the remainder of his prison sentence in administrative segregation. Santacroce and Fries also told the plaintiff that if he continued his hunger strike, he would not be released from administrative confinement.

 According to the plaintiff, his experience in administrative segregation entailed confinement to his cell for 23 hours per day, and restrictions upon his ability to exercise, shower, make phone calls, see visitors and clean his cell. During his administrative confinement, plaintiff also was required to feed and clean up after other inmates. In addition, the lights remained on at all times, air ventilation was "inadequate," and the plaintiff received "verbal abuse" from the correctional officers. Finally, the plaintiff alleges that during this 23-day period, he was denied adequate access to the law library and to the assistance of law clerks.

 In the final analysis, plaintiff spent 23 days in segregated confinement, from January 3, 1993 through January 26, 1993. See Pl.'s Aff. P 5, at 2. Of these 23 days, the first 5 days were recharacterized as disciplinary segregation, while the last 18 days were denominated as administrative segregation.

 The defendants now move to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint in its entirety pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. First, the defendants contend that the plaintiff lacks a legally protected liberty interest in remaining in the general inmate population upon which to ground a procedural due process claim. Second, the defendants assert that even assuming the plaintiff possessed such a liberty interest and was deprived thereof without due process of law, they are nevertheless shielded from suit for damages under the doctrine of qualified immunity insofar as their conduct did not violate any clearly-established federal constitutional rights of which a reasonable state official would have known. Last, defendant Mahoney asserts that the complaint must be dismissed against him for failure to allege his personal involvement in a constitutional deprivation. The plaintiff has consented to the dismissal of his complaint against Mahoney on this basis. See Pl.'s Mem. of Law, at 6.

 DISCUSSION

 I. Standards Governing Motion to ...


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