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Daniel R. Dalrymple; and Leslie W. White Jr v. Robert Dooley

November 14, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Karen E. Schreier Chief Judge


Plaintiffs, Daniel R. Dalrymple and Leslie W. White Jr., are inmates at the Mike Durfee State Prison (MDSP) in Springfield, South Dakota. On February 14, 2012, and again on February 17, 2012, plaintiffs jointly filed pro se civil rights lawsuits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging harassment, denial of access to the courts, retaliatory discipline, and violation of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Docket 1.

The court consolidated plaintiffs' complaints and dismissed all claims except those for denial of access to the courts and retaliatory discipline. See Case No. Civ. 12-4025, Docket 9. The court also directed plaintiffs to file an amended complaint that included a prayer for relief. Id. Plaintiffs complied with this request and asked for punitive damages, expungement of each plaintiff's entire prison disciplinary record, and a written apology from each named defendant. Docket 29. Defendants answered, denied all claims against them, and asserted various affirmative defenses. Docket 61.

Defendants now move for summary judgment. Docket 120. Plaintiffs filed a "Statement of Material Facts Opposing Motion for Summary Judgment, which the court has considered. Docket 155. For the reasons set forth herein, the court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment.


In the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the facts are as follows: Plaintiffs have been the subjects of various disciplinary measures at MDSP--measures that plaintiffs contend were taken in retaliation for plaintiffs' conduct and to deny plaintiffs access to the courts. Docket 29. The first disciplinary measure in question occurred on December 10, 2011, when Officer Brian Benac allegedly observed Dalrymple kneeling in front of White, who was standing in front of an open locker door with his pants down. Docket 121 (Benac Aff. ¶ 4); Docket 120-12 at 1; Docket 120-13 at 1. Because Rule 4-3 of the South Dakota Department of Corrections (SDDOC) Inmate Living Guide prohibits inmates from "engaging in consensual sexual contact or sexual harassment with any person," Officer Benac wrote and submitted disciplinary reports for each plaintiff.*fn1 Docket 120-3 at 2; Docket 121 at ¶ 4; Docket 120-12 at 1; Docket 120-13 at 1. Upon receiving notice of the disciplinary report, Dalrymple denied the allegation and explained that he "was looking for an adaptor in [his] keyboard bag." Docket 120-12 at 1. Additionally, Dalrymple insisted that White's pants were not down. Id.

The reports were then referred to a disciplinary hearing before Sergeant Dykstra. Docket 120-12 at 2; Docket 120-13 at 3. Although plaintiffs denied the allegations, Sergeant Dykstra relied on Officer Benac's report and sanctioned each plaintiff to ten days in disciplinary segregation.*fn2 Docket 120-12 at 2; Docket 120-13 at 3. Despite White's concession that there was a basis for the complaint--he and Dalrymple were seen in the craft room and Dalrymple was on his knees in front of White--both plaintiffs maintain that no sexual act took place.*fn3 Docket 29 at 6; Docket 133-1 (White Dep. 21:5--13, Aug. 1, 2012); Docket 155 at ¶ 28.

White received another disciplinary write-up on December 12, 2012, while in disciplinary segregation. Docket 120-4 at 1. More specifically, Officer Zach Jackson reported that he had seen White "fishing with material from a sheet to another inmate." Id. On December 15, 2012, White admitted to committing the prohibited act and waived his right to appeal the matter. Id. at 2. Nonetheless, White now alleges that Officer Jackson prepared the disciplinary report because White had gotten into a disagreement with Officer Jackson two hours earlier. Docket 29 at 9. Furthermore, White alleges that Officer Jackson coerced White's admission of guilt on December 15, 2012. Docket 155 at ¶ 35.

After being released from disciplinary segregation, White was "forced to move from the B-2 pod into the B-1 pod of the barracks." Docket 29 at 10. White alleges that this "forced move" was in retaliation for the grievances he had previously filed with respect to the inaccurate reports of Officers Benac and Jackson. Id. About one month later, on February 8, 2012, White was forced to move again. Docket 10 at 1; Docket 29 at 15. Because this move came just two days after Associate Warden Jennifer Stanwick had a "negative discussion" with White regarding the number of grievances White had been filing, White alleges that the move constitutes a retaliatory transfer. Docket 10 at 1; Docket 11; Docket 29 at 15.

Also on February 8, 2012, Dalrymple and White received write-ups for violating Rules 3-15 and 3-21, respectively. Docket 29 at 15--16. More specifically, Dalrymple was found in possession of a legal document bearing White's name and was thus written up for a Rule 3-15 violation, which prohibits inmates from possessing "any article" belonging to another inmate. Id.; Docket 120-3 at 4; Docket 120-7; Docket 120-8. Nonetheless, Dalrymple contends that the write-up and subsequent loss of privileges amount to retaliatory discipline. Docket 29 at 16. White, on the other hand, was written up for a Rule 3-21 violation, which prohibits the transfer of property to another inmate. Docket 29 at 15; Docket 120-3 at 5. White asserts that the write-up constitutes retaliatory discipline. Docket 29 at 15--16.

The next disciplinary measure at issue occurred on February 17, 2012. Docket 10, 15. Both plaintiffs allege that they requested passes to the prison's law library, but were denied access. Id.; Docket 29 at 19. Although plaintiffs admit they were given some access to the law library, they contend that defendants' denial of access on "all available days" amounts to a denial of access to the courts. Docket 29 at 19. More specifically, plaintiffs assert that they were wrongfully denied additional access to the law library to prepare time-sensitive court documents. Id.

White also alleges that he received two "false" write-ups for a Rule 3-13 violation, which prohibits inmates from "[b]eing in a housing unit other than [their] own, or entering living quarters other than [their] own, or being on the wrong floor or tier of [their] housing area." Docket 29 at 10--12; Docket 120-3 at 4. White does not specify when he received these write-ups, nor does he specify where he actually was when the alleged violations occurred. Id. Rather, White appears to allege that he was not "out of area" when he received notice of the violations.*fn4 Id. Hearings were held in both instances, and a disciplinary hearing officer found White guilty of violating Rule 3-13 on both occasions. Id. White believes these unfounded write-ups amount to retaliatory discipline, but White does not specify a purported reason for the alleged retaliation. Docket 29 at 12--12.

Again, without specifying dates, White generally alleges that Officer Jackson and Unit Coordinator Travis Tjeerdsma disciplined him because he had requested and filed two grievance forms. Docket 29 at 13--14. "One grievance form was filed on CO Jackson for more harassing write-ups, and the second grievance form was filed on Unit Coordinator Travis Tjeerdsma for allowing Jackson to harass [White] verbally as well as with write-ups." Docket 29 at 14. "Just two hours after [White] handed the grievance forms over to Mr. Tjeerdsma, [White saw] Mr. Tjeerdsma in the pod with CO Jackson." Id. "Shortly after the two staff members finished talking, [White] was called to the pod and placed in cuffs and taken to the SHU on a write-up written by Travis Tjeerdsma." Id. Although White represents that he received a major write-up from Tjeerdsma and minor write-ups from Officer Jackson, White does not explain the allegations contained in the retaliatory write-ups at issue. Id.

Finally, plaintiffs allege that they were denied grievance forms in retaliation for the number of grievances each of them had previously filed. Docket 29 at 19--20.*fn5


"Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence,*fn6 viewed in a light most favorable to the non-moving party, demonstrates that there is no genuine issue of material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Clark v. Kellogg, Co., 205 F.3d 1079, 1082 (8th Cir. 2000); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "Once the motion for summary judgment is made and supported, it places an affirmative burden on the non-moving party to go beyond the pleadings and by affidavit or otherwise designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Commercial Union Ins. Co. v. Schmidt, 967 F.2d 270, 271 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal quotations and citations omitted). "Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). Although "the court is required to . . . give [the nonmoving] party the benefit of all reasonable inferences to be drawn from the underlying facts," Vette Co. v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 612 F.2d 1076, 1077 (8th Cir. 1980), the nonmoving party may not "rest upon mere denials or allegations." Forrest v. Kraft Foods, Inc., 285 F.3d 688, 691 (8th Cir. 2002). Instead, the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts sufficient to raise a genuine issue for trial." Id.

Prisoners who proceed pro se are entitled to the benefit of liberal construction at the pleading stage. Guam v. Minnehaha Cnty. Jail, 821 F.2d 522, 522 (8th Cir. 1987). Nonetheless, the summary judgment standard set forth in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure remains applicable to prisoners proceeding pro se. Id. The district court is not required to "plumb the record in order to find a genuine issue of material fact." Barge v. Anheuser Busch, Inc., 87 F.3d 256, 260 (8th Cir. 1996). Moreover, the court is not "required to speculate on which portion of the record the nonmoving party relies, nor is it obligated to wade through and search the entire record for some specific facts that might support the nonmoving party's claim." Id. Courts must remain sensitive, however, "to the special problems faced by prisoners attempting to proceed pro se in vindicating their constitutional rights, and [the Eighth Circuit does] not approve summary dismissal of such pro se claims without regard for these special problems." Nickens v. White, 622 F.2d 967, 971 (8th Cir. 1980).


Defendants assert that plaintiffs' remaining retaliatory discipline claims fail as a matter of law because plaintiffs cannot demonstrate that they were disciplined for exercising a constitutional right. Docket 134. Defendants further assert that they did not deny plaintiffs access to the courts. Id. Lastly, defendants argue that each of them is entitled to immunity from any suit for money damages. Id. Plaintiffs object to defendants' assertion that they neither engaged in retaliatory ...

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