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Matherly v. Gonzales

United States District Court, E.D. North Carolina, Western Division

May 18, 2015



W. EARL BRITT, Senior District Judge.

This matter is before the court on defendants Deborah A. Gonzales, Candice Gregory, Kenneth R. McKoy, Karen Steinour, J.F. Andrews, and Charles Samuels' (collectively "defendants" or "prison officials") motion for summary judgment.[1] (DE # 111.) Plaintiff Thomas Shane Matherly ("Matherly" or "plaintiff") filed a response, (DE # 121), to which defendants replied, (DE # 123). This motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.


Matherly pled guilty to one count of possession of child pornography in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(5)(B) and § 2252(b)(2). See United States v. Comstock, 627 F.3d 513, 517 (4th Cir. 2010), cert. denied, 131 S.Ct. 3026 (2011). He received a sentence of forty-one months imprisonment, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. Id. On 22 November 2006, one day before Matherly's projected release date, the United States certified him as a sexually dangerous person under the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 ("Adam Walsh Act"), codified at 18 U.S.C. §§ 4247-4248. Id.; see also United States v. Matherly, No. 5:06-HC-2205-BR (E.D. N.C. ), DE # 1. While Matherly was awaiting a civil commitment hearing under the Adam Walsh Act, he initiated the current action on 1 February 2011 pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (DE # 1, at 1.) On 3 May 2012, Matherly was civilly committed as a sexually dangerous person. See Matherly, No. 5:06-HC-2205-BR, DE # 133. He is currently detained in the Maryland Unit at the Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina ("Butner"). (DE # 1, at 4.)[2]

In his complaint, Matherly challenged numerous aspects of his confinement, arguing that they were unconstitutionally punitive under the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. (DE # 1, at 4-12.) By order dated 9 October 2013, the court granted in part and denied in part defendants' motion to dismiss. (DE # 86, at 17-18.) Remaining are Matherly's claims that defendants acted unconstitutionally by 1) subjecting him to "mass shakedowns" and strip searches; 2) providing criminal inmates more access to laundry and recreational facilities than they provide to civil detainees; 3) inspecting all of Matherly's incoming and outgoing mail; and 4) providing criminal inmates more educational and vocational training opportunities than they provide to civil detainees. (Id.) Now, defendants seek summary judgment on all of Matherly's remaining claims. (DE # 120, at 2.)


Summary judgment is proper only if "the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The court must ask "whether reasonable [finders of fact] could find by a preponderance of the evidence that the plaintiff is entitled to a verdict....'" Maryland Highways Contractors Ass'n, Inc. v. Maryland, 933 F.2d 1246, 1252 (4th Cir. 1991) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986)). Summary judgment should be granted only in those cases "in which it is perfectly clear that no genuine issue of material fact remains unresolved and inquiry into the facts is unnecessary to clarify the application of the law." Haavistola v. Cmty. Fire Co. of Rising Sun, Inc., 6 F.3d 211, 214 (4th Cir. 1993). "[T]he substantive law will identify which facts are material. 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, 477 U.S. at 248. The moving party has the burden to show an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party's case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The party opposing summary judgment must then demonstrate that a triable issue of fact exists; he may not rest upon mere allegations or denials. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court is required to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party and to view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. at 255.


The Fifth Amendment generally prohibits the federal government from subjecting civilly committed persons to punitive confinement conditions. See Youngberg v. Romeo, 457 U.S. 307, 321-22 (1982) ("Persons who have been involuntarily committed are entitled to more considerate treatment and conditions of confinement than criminals whose conditions of confinement are designed to punish."); Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979) ("For under the Due Process Clause, a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law."). However, the government need not have a "compelling interest" or "substantial necessity" to justify the conditions of confinement of a civil detainee. Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 322. As long as a particular condition is "reasonably related to a legitimate governmental objective, " it does not constitute "punishment" in the constitutional sense. Bell, 441 U.S. at 539. But if the government fails to establish the required connection between its letgitimate goal and the means used to achieve it, a court may infer an intent to punish. See id. ("[I]f a restriction or condition is not reasonably related to a legitimate goal - if it is arbitrary or purposeless - a court permissibly may infer that the purpose of the governmental action is punishment...."); Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988) (stating that an intent to punish may be inferred if the challenged condition of confinement is "not reasonably related to a legitimate nonpunitive governmental objective"). A civil detainee may also establish a Fifth Amendment violation by proving that the government "imposed [the condition] with an expressed intent to punish...." Martin, 849 F.2d at 870.

When examining the conditions of a civil detainee's confinement, the court must afford substantial deference to the professional judgment of prison administrators. See Youngberg, 457 U.S. at 321 (approving the standard that "the Constitution only requires that the courts make certain that professional judgment in fact was exercised. It is not appropriate for the courts to specify which of several professionally acceptable choices should have been made." (internal quotation omitted)); Bell, 441 U.S. at 547 ("[T]he problems that arise in the day-to-day operation of a corrections facility are not susceptible of easy solutions. Prison administrators therefore should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve [order and security]."). Further, "placement in a prison, subject to the institution's usual rules of conduct" does not alone amount to punishment of a civil detainee. Allison v. Snyder, 332 F.3d 1076, 1079 (7th Cir. 2003) (citing Bell, 441 U.S. 520); see also Ballard v. Johns, 17 F.Supp. 3d 511, 518 (E.D. N.C. 2014) ("[P]lacement of civil detainees in a prison, subject to the institution's usual rules of conduct does not in and of itself equate to punishment of civil detainees and civil detainees are subject to the same security policies as those used at correctional facilities."). The court additionally recognizes that institutional safety and successful treatment of civil detainees are legitimate governmental interests. See Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490 U.S. 401, 415 (1989) (identifying prison security as a legitimate governmental interest that is "central to all other corrections goals") (internal quotation omitted); Lamonda v. Johns, No. 5:10-CT-3221-D, 2011 WL 2036647, at *2 (E.D. N.C. May 24, 2011) (recognizing prisoner rehabilitation as a legitimate governmental objective).

With these considerations in mind, the court will address each of Matherly's claims in turn.

A. Strip searches and mass shakedowns

Matherly contends that prison officials often subject him to strip searches and conduct unannounced searches of his cell ("shakedowns") with an express intent to punish him. (Pl.'s Resp., DE # 121, at 3.) He also argues that they search his cell "with the main purpose of seeking information to be used as evidence against [him]." (Id.) Matherly testified that prison officials "conduct strip searches of [civil detainees] as punishment. These searches are conducted often when a [civil] detainee complains about their [sic] living conditions or speaks out against staff. They are also conducted to intimidate and humiliate [civil] detainees." (Compl., DE # 1, at 10 ¶ 16B.)[3] Matherly states that prison officials have subjected him to such searches after he objected to prison staff identifying him as an "inmate." (Id.)

Matherly has failed to produce sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable fact-finder to determine that defendants conducted strip searches or shakedowns as retribution, rather than for defendants' stated purpose of maintaining institutional security, (Def.'s Mem., DE # 120, at 11-12 (citing BOP Dep., DE # 120-1, at 153-54, 155, 157, 164-66)). He has not provided dates, times, or other specific details of searches, nor has he provided any testimony of other civil detainees who defendants allegedly subjected to retaliatory searches. Without more, his claim that searches are "often" conducted after he voices a complaint is insufficient to ...

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