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Covington v. Lassiter

United States District Court, W.D. North Carolina, Asheville Division

August 29, 2017

KARL L. COVINGTON, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH E. LASSITER, et al., Defendants.

          ORDER

          FRANK D. WHITNEY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss by Defendants, (Doc. No. 21). Also pending before this Court is a Motion for Preliminary Injunction/TRO filed by Plaintiff. (Doc. No. 8).

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Karl L. Covington, Jr., a North Carolina prisoner incarcerated at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton, North Carolina, filed this action on December 1, 2016, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming the following persons as Defendants: (1) Kenneth E. Lassiter, identified as the “overseer” of the “RDU” program for the North Carolina Department of Public Safety (“NCDPS”); (2) Christian Crawford, identified as the Superintendent of programs at Marion Correctional Institution; and (3) Keith Turner, identified as a Unit Manager at Marion. (Doc. No. 1 at 3). Plaintiff alleges a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights stemming from his commitment to the “Rehabilitative Diversion Unit” (“RDU”) Program[1] while he was incarcerated at Marion Correctional Institution. (Doc. No. 1). Plaintiff alleges the following facts:

On 5-10-16 I was transferred to Marion C.I. for the RDU Program . . . . Upon arrival the rules were explained as well as the reason for my enrollment in the RDU program. On 5-18-16 I wrote a letter/grievance [to] Mr. Lassiter who is the program overseer as well as a grievance to Mr. Turner the unit manager of my unit.
On 5-31-16, Mr. Kenneth Lassiter forward a response through Mr. Christian Crawford . . . and we had a verbal discussion. The conversation was that the RDU program is a restrictive housing for control purposes program and the plaintiff is enrolled due to his past disciplinary history. And on 6-1-16 the procedural due process to enroll plaintiff in program will be started soon.
On 6-1-16, as Mr. Kenneth Lassiter/Christian Crawford said I received a notification of the recommended disciplinary disposition and my first classification hearing out of two. The facility classification is the first classification hearing where they judge on what action is necessary and either deny or agree or overturn it with another decision. . . . The facility classification board is not final it is just the first step. The actual hearing for FCC was on 6-6-16. When they recommended Max/I-Con/ RHCP (which is a control status and restrictive housing).
On 6-3-16 as of the defendant unit manager Turner acknowledged Plaintiff's letter he sent a policy on RDU explaining that RDU is a program in adherence with conditions of confinement. . . .
On 6-6-16 at the FCC hearing the taken by authority classification was overturned to RDU. . . . After FCC overturned the initial disposition on 6-1-16 they continued the procedural due process on to the DCA .....
On 6-14-16 I was notified of my DCA final disposition hearing . . . not for Max/I-Con/RHCP but for RDU.
On 6-20-16 at the final disposition classification hearing I was enrolled in the RDU program.
On 8-30-16 Plaintiff received his most recent incarceration summary, . . . show[ing] Plaintiff is not on restrictive housing for control purposes. It also shows Plaintiff is on general population inmate which proves that the control status Max/Icon/RHCP that was overturned on 6-1-16 . . . and the RDU status that the defendants say is a confined or restrictive housing for control purposes program is not the case. So basically the RDU program is violating the Plaintiff's 14th Amendment right because the procedural due process disposition was overturned but was still enforced under a disguised RDU program status.

(Id. at 3-7). Plaintiff also alleges that he is entitled to be classified as having general population status, but that the RDU program is “really another solitary confined program.” (Doc. No. 4 at 2). Plaintiff alleges that his “rights were violated due to being placed on disciplinary solitary confinement after the classification board denied disciplinary control status.” (Id.). As relief, Plaintiff seeks “injunctive relief as well as a declaratory judgment to be released from the RDU program and transferred to Maury C.I. and relieved of the disciplinary program.” (Id. at 4).

         On December 5, 2016, this Court ordered Plaintiff to provide documentation related to his inmate trust account and to document the exhaustion of his administrative remedies. (Doc. No. 3). On December 13, 2016, Plaintiff filed a document indicating that he had not exhausted his administrative remedies. (Doc. No. 6). On August 4, 2017, Defendants Lassiter, Crawford, and Turner filed the pending motion to dismiss, asserting that (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, (2) the Complaint fails to state a claim against them, (3) they are entitled to qualified immunity, and (4) they enjoy Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity from damages to the extent that Plaintiff has sued them in their official capacities. (Doc. No. 21). On August 16, 2017, this Court received notice from Plaintiff that he ...


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