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Hampton v. Brown

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Terre Haute Division

January 30, 2017

DICK BROWN, Superintendent, et al., Defendants.

          EDWARD M. HAMPTON Electronically Registered Counsel


          Hon. William T. Lawrence, Judge

         Plaintiff Edward Hampton, who was at all times relevant to this action an inmate at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility (“Wabash Valley”), brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The defendants are Dick Brown, Superintendent of Wabash Valley; Bruce Lemmon, Commissioner of the Indiana Department of Correction (“IDOC”); and Kevin Hunter, a Unit Manager at Wabash Valley. Mr. Hampton's claims are predicated on his reassignment from general population to the Restricted Movement Unit without a hearing. He maintains that the conditions of the Restricted Movement Unit, and the lack of process preceding his placement there, violate his constitutional rights.

         Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. The defendants responded to the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment in conjunction with the filing of their motion, but the plaintiff did not respond to their motion or otherwise reply. For the reasons explained in this Entry, the defendants are entitled to summary judgment on all of Mr. Hampton's claims.

         I. Cross-Motion for Summary Judgment Standard

         A motion for summary judgment asks the Court to find that a trial is unnecessary because there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and, instead, the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In deciding a motion for summary judgment, the Court need only consider disputed facts that are material to the decision. A disputed fact is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Hampton v. Ford Motor Co., 561 F.3d 709, 713 (7th Cir. 2009). In other words, while there may be facts that are in dispute, summary judgment is appropriate if those facts are not outcome determinative. Harper v. Vigilant Ins. Co., 433 F.3d 521, 525 (7th Cir. 2005). Fact disputes that are irrelevant to the legal question will not be considered. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         On summary judgment, a party must show the Court what evidence it has that would convince a trier of fact to accept its version of the events. Johnson v. Cambridge Indus., 325 F.3d 892, 901 (7th Cir. 2003). The moving party is entitled to summary judgment if no reasonable fact-finder could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Nelson v. Miller, 570 F.3d 868, 875 (7th Cir. 2009). The Court views the record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Darst v. Interstate Brands Corp., 512 F.3d 903, 907 (7th Cir. 2008). It cannot weigh evidence or make credibility determinations on summary judgment because those tasks are left to the fact-finder. O'Leary v. Accretive Health, Inc., 657 F.3d 625, 630 (7th Cir. 2011).

         “The existence of cross-motions for summary judgment does not, however, imply that there are no genuine issues of material fact.” R.J. Corman Derailment Servs., LLC v. Int'l Union of Operating Engineers, 335 F.3d 643, 647 (7th Cir. 2003). Specifically, “[p]arties have different burdens of proof with respect to particular facts; different legal theories will have an effect on which facts are material; and the process of taking the facts in the light most favorable to the non-movant, first for one side and then for the other, may highlight the point that neither side has enough to prevail without a trial.” Id. at 648.

         II. Factual Background

         While the parties contest certain facts, all of the material facts are undisputed. At all times relevant to this action Mr. Hampton was an inmate incarcerated at Wabash Valley. In January 2015, officials at Wabash Valley converted one unit at the facility from a typical general population unit into a Restricted Movement Unit (“RMU”). Although the RMU imposes more restrictions on inmates than general population, it is considered to be a variety of general population instead of a segregation unit.

         Unlike an administrative or disciplinary segregation unit at Wabash Valley where offenders eat alone in their cells, offenders in the RMU are permitted access to a common room for meals three times a day where they can eat with twenty-two other inmates. Also unlike segregation units, inmates in the RMU have cellmates. They can leave their cells upon request for a variety of reasons, such as access to medical facilities, meetings with counselors, and one-on-one religious services. They also have access to visitation, mail, and telephone services, one hour of recreation time per day, and access to law library materials by request in lieu of access to the law library itself. Placement in the RMU alone does not cause an inmate to lose earned credit time or otherwise increase the duration of an inmate's sentence.

         Officials at Wabash Valley, including Superintendent Richard Brown, determined that converting a housing unit into the RMU would increase the efficiency, safety, and smooth operation of the facility. For example, maintaining the RMU could serve as a location to temporarily place inmates whose conduct required an excessive amount of attention from correctional staff. But other inmates could also be placed in the RMU based simply on facility need if no general population spaces were available.

         To select which inmates would be housed in the newly created RMU, Wabash Valley officials looked for inmates within general population to determine who merited placement there. Defendant Kevin Hunter is a Unit Team Manager at WVCF, and as such, asked his staff to make recommendations regarding which inmates would be suitable for the more restricted environment, especially by considering those inmates who had a history of conduct issues. Mr. Hampton was recommended for placement in the RMU to Mr. Hunter by his staff based on his history of conduct violations-specifically, Mr. Hampton had forty-two conduct violations at the time he was placed in the RMU, including four of the most severe type. Superintendent Brown approved the recommendation to place Mr. Hampton in the RMU. The placement was considered administrative rather than disciplinary because it had not been the direct result of a conduct violation.

         Mr. Hampton was moved to the RMU on January 16, 2015. A review board conducted periodic review of inmates' placement in the RMU. During his second placement review in May 2015, all five staff members on the review board recommended that he be transitioned back to general population. Mr. Hampton ...

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