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Blackcloud v. Kaemingk

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

June 9, 2014

EDWARD P. BLACKCLOUD, Plaintiff,
v.
DENNIS KAEMINGK, Secretary of Corrections, South Dakota Department of Corrections, in his official capacity; DARIN YOUNG, Warden, South Dakota State Penitentiary, in his official capacity; BOB DOOLEY, Associate Warden, Mike Durfee State Prison, in his official capacity; JEFF NEILL, Case Manager, South Dakota State Penitentiary/Jameson Prison, in his individual and official capacities; LT. SOMMERS, Special Security, South Dakota State Penitentiary, in his individual and official capacities; SGT. CHRISTENSEN, (DHO) Sargent, Mike Durfee State Prison, in his individual and official capacities; SGT. WICKETT, (DHO) Sgt., Mike Durfee State Prison, in his individual and official capacities; LT. SESTAK, Officer in Charge, Mike Durfee State Prison, in his individual and official capacities; TAMMY DOYLE, Unit Manager, Mike Durfee State Prison, in her individual and official capacities; KIM LIPPENCOTT, Unit Case Worker, Mike Durfee State Prison, in her individual and official capacities; TAMMY DEJONG, Unit Coordinator, Mike Durfee State Prison, in her individual and official capacities; KEITH TOMKINS, Staff Representative, Mike Durfee State Prison, in his individual and official capacities; RANDY STEVENS, Property Officer/Mailroom Officer, Mike Durfee State Prison, in his individual and official capacities, Defendants.

ORDER

JEFFREY L. VIKEN, Chief District Judge.

On October 2, 2012, plaintiff Edward P. Blackcloud, appearing pro se, filed a complaint against the defendants alleging various violations of his constitutional rights. (Docket 1).

Pending before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment filed on November 15, 2013. (Docket 34). Defendants also filed a statement of undisputed material facts. (Docket 36). Plaintiff did not file a response to either the defendants' motion for summary judgment[1] or statements of material facts.[2]

BACKGROUND

On November 29, 2010, in Pennington County, South Dakota, Mr. Blackcloud was sentenced to serve a term of five years incarceration with two years suspended. (Docket 36 at ¶ 1). Following his sentence and incarceration, Jeff Neill conducted an assessment of Mr. Blackcloud's security risk. Id. at ¶ 2. The assessment included a review of Mr. Blackcloud's judgment of conviction, criminal history and an interview. Id . During the interview, Mr. Blackcloud stated he had been disciplined while at the Pennington County jail. Id . Based on this admission, Mr. Neill contacted the jail to ask for the disciplinary reports. Id.

Mr. Neill received information from Pennington County Jail that Mr. Blackcloud had been disciplined on several occasions for threatening jail staff and for fighting with other inmates. Id. at ¶ 3. Based on the assessment completed by Mr. Neill, Mr. Blackcloud was given a high medium risk status. Id. at ¶ 4.

In May 2011, Mr. Blackcloud reported being threatened by gang members. Id. at ¶ 5. As a result of this report, Mr. Blackcloud was moved into a more secure housing unit. Id . Mr. Blackcloud was reclassified at that time and was still given a high medium risk status. Id.

On August 26, 2011, Mr. Blackcloud was released on parole. Id. at ¶ 6. His parole was later revoked and he returned to custody on January 7, 2012. Id . After returning to custody, Mr. Blackcloud's security risk was assessed and he was given a low medium risk status. Id. at ¶ 7. Mr. Blackcloud was then housed at the Mike Durfee State Prison, which is a lower security facility. Id.

While incarcerated at Mike Durfee State Prison, Mr. Blackcloud received mail which was rejected. Id. at ¶ 8. The Department of Corrections maintains a policy which requires mail containing ten or more pages of extra paper unrelated to the correspondence to be rejected. Id . The stated purpose behind this policy is to minimize the burden on staff tasked with having to inspect each piece of mail for contraband, to minimize the time required when conducting cell searches and inventories, to prevent a fire hazard, and to protect the safety and privacy of inmates. Id.

Between February 2012 and November 2012, Mr. Blackcloud filed more than 25 grievances using the prison grievance procedure. Id. at ¶ 9. Mr. Blackcloud was released on parole on January 23, 2014, and remains on parole as of the date of this decision. Id. at ¶ 10.

Mr. Blackcloud's complaint contains six separate claims. (Docket 1). Mr. Blackcloud first claims his security classification was improperly calculated which resulted in him being assaulted. He also claims his security status interfered with receiving his mail and legal paperwork. Id. at p. 7. He alleges his classification was made in retaliation for exercising his right to access the courts. Id . Mr. Blackcloud's second claim alleges defendants' use of his Pennington County jail reports in calculating his security classification violated his constitutional rights. Id. at p. 8. Mr. Blackcloud also claims he was unable to use the grievance procedures at the jail. Id . Mr. Blackcloud's third and fourth claims allege defendants endangered his life by placing him in maximum security and later placing him in the general population where he was assaulted numerous times. Id. at pp. 9-10. Mr. Blackcloud's fifth and sixth claims assert defendants violated his constitutional rights by interfering with his legal mail which impeded his access to the courts. Id. at pp. 11-12.

Defendants' motion for summary judgment contends the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Docket 34). Defendants also argue they are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment and are protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity. Id.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

"Summary judgment is appropriate when the evidence, [3] 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. Kellog, 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. 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 ...


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