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Flowers v. Schultz

August 25, 2009

ALFRED FLOWERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PAUL SCHULTZ, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff has brought suit against Defendants Linda Sanders, former Warden at the Federal Correctional Institution ("FCI") in Ashland, Kentucky, Brian Patton, present Warden at FCI Ashland, and Paul Schwartz, present Warden at FCI Fairton, in Fairton, New Jersey, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Plaintiff alleges that Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") "staff members" at FCI Ashland mailed his personal property to Plaintiff's home address though Plaintiff remained in federal custody, thereby at least temporarily depriving Plaintiff of his property without due process in violation of the Fifth Amendment. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 19, 28.) In addition, Plaintiff argues that the mailing of his personal property, which included certain legal papers, to his home denied him access to the courts in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment. (Id. ¶ 31.) Finally, Plaintiff maintains the BOP Program Statement 5580.77 governing the care of inmates' personal property is "void for vagueness." (Id. ¶ 30.) He seeks a declaratory judgment, an order forcing Defendants to replace Plaintiff's personal property, and damages.

Presently before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss [Docket Item 49], Plaintiff's two motions to change venue to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky [Docket Items 39 and 50], and Plaintiff's cross motion for summary judgment [Docket Item 52]. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss and deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and dismiss Plaintiff's motions to change venue as moot.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Allegations

The Court will set forth the facts as alleged by Plaintiff and construe them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. From September 8, 1999 to February 23, 2004, Plaintiff was an inmate at FCI Ashland. (Am. Compl. ¶ 8.) On January 15, 2004, while still at FCI Ashland, Plaintiff was indicted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana for bank robbery and on February 17, 2004, Correctional Officer Galliher inventoried Plaintiff's property in preparation for Plaintiff's impending transfer. (Id. ¶¶ 9-10.) On February 23, 2004, the United States Marshal Service took custody of Plaintiff pursuant to a federal writ and brought him from FCI Ashland to Louisiana for the disposition of his 2004 indictment. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 16.) On May 11, 2005, Plaintiff was convicted of bank robbery and on November 9, 2005 was sentenced to sixty months incarceration at FCI Fairton. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 14-15.) On February 6, 2006, Plaintiff left the custody of the Marshal and returned to BOP custody to begin serving his new sentence at Fairton. (Id. ¶ 15.) Meanwhile, on June 29, 2005, while still in the custody of the Marshal and before being sentenced for his bank robbery conviction, Plaintiff completed his original 1999 sentence. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Plaintiff's present complaint arises from the handling of Plaintiff's personal property while he was in Marshal custody. When Plaintiff arrived at FCI Fairton, he asked his case manager about the personal property inventoried at FCI Ashland in 2004. (Id. ¶ 18.) His case manager apparently inquired among the staff at FCI Ashland about Plaintiff's property and received a response from Ashland indicating that Plaintiff's property had been mailed to Plaintiff's home address on July 8, 2005. (Id. ¶ 19.) In response, Plaintiff initiated the BOP administrative remedy process seeking reimbursement for the items he believed he had to repurchase. (Id. ¶ 20.) Among the personal belongings sent to Plaintiff's home were items Plaintiff purchased from the prison commissary (such as clothing, cosmetics, a watch and a radio) as well as Plaintiff's legal portfolio. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 27.) Plaintiff alleges that because those purchased items were unavailable, he was forced to repurchase these items at higher prices. (Id. ¶ 26.)

Plaintiff's allegations regarding the actual roles of the individual defendants in the complained-of conduct are limited. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Schultz' only role in Plaintiff's dilemma is that Schultz is "responsible for reviewing all administrative appeals of the administrative remedy process filed by prisoners at FCI Fairton." (Id. ¶ 5.) Defendant Sanders was Warden at FCI Ashland during the events of Plaintiff's complaint and was "responsible for reviewing all prison staff decisions based on statutes, regulations, program statements, and policy." (Id. ¶ 6.) Defendant Patton is currently Warden at FCI Ashland and is presently "responsible for reviewing all prison staff decisions based on statute, regulations, program statements, and policy." (Id. ¶ 7.)

B. Procedural History

On April 19, 2007, Plaintiff Alfred Flowers, proceeding pro se, filed his initial complaint and on June 6, 2007, he filed an amended complaint in this action. After some delay and confusion regarding service of Plaintiff's complaint, on December 17, 2008, Plaintiff filed the first of the two motions to change venue to the Eastern District of Kentucky presently before the Court. On February 19, 2009, Defendants moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction as to Defendants Sanders and Patton, for failure to allege anything beyond respondeat superior liability as to any of the defendants, and on grounds that Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity. On March 18, 2009, Plaintiff filed the second motion to change venue and on April 2, 2009, he moved for summary judgment.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

In its review of Defendant Harrington's motion to dismiss, the Court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). Thus, "to survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its ...


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