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Jilani v. Harrison

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

March 29, 2018

DONNIE HARRISON, Warden, Wake County Sheriff's Office; JUAN ADAMS, Officer, Wake County Sheriff's Office; and WAKE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE, Defendants.



         This matter is before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment (DE 38). The issues raised have been fully briefed and are ripe for adjudication. For the following reasons, the court grants defendants' motion.


         On October 19, 2015, plaintiff, a pretrial detainee incarcerated at Wake County jail during the relevant time period, filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, against defendants Donnie Harrison (“Harrison”) and Juan Adams (“Adams”). Plaintiff alleges in his original verified complaint that on June 17, 2015, defendants falsely accused plaintiff of communicating threats while plaintiff was incarcerated, causing plaintiff to be detained in Wake County jail in disciplinary segregation for 30 days. (Complaint (DE 1)). On May 2, 2016, the court completed its frivolity review and ordered that the case proceed. (DE 9). On September 2, 2016, plaintiff filed his unverified amended complaint, adding defendant Wake County Sheriff's Office (“Sheriff's Office”), and alleging that defendants are “responsible for negligence, wrongful segregation, physically restraining him without cause, malice, harassment, breach of duty, misconduct, character defamation, false imprisonment, wrongful imprisonment, wrongful arrest and false arrest, breach of privacy, and medical malpractice/negligence.” (DE 24 at 1). Plaintiff also clarified that he is seeking money damages and relief pursuant to the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and brings claims against defendants Harrison and Adams in both their individual and official capacities. (Id.).

         The court entered a case management order on September 7, 2016, directing in part that all dispositive motions were due by February 9, 2017, which deadline the court subsequently extended twice, to May 10, 2017. (DE 25, DE 34, DE 37). On May 10, 2017, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment and submitted in support of their motion the following: materials related to charges brought against plaintiff prior to June 17, 2015; multiple grievances filed by plaintiff while incarcerated during the relevant time period, including jail staff responses; materials related to the June 17, 2015 incident involving defendant Adams, including incident and investigation reports, disciplinary hearing report, conditions of release, warrant for plaintiff's arrest, and additional court filings made by plaintiff; jail's dental care policy; records regarding the handling of plaintiff's legal mail; jail inmate log; and affidavits from the following persons employed at Wake County sheriff's office: defendant Adams; Brenda Cooke (“Cooke”), sergeant; Keith Curran (“Curran”), detention officer; Abderrazzak Elkhoudiri (“Elkhoudiri”), deputy sheriff; Eduardo Maldonado (“Maldonado”), detention officer; Heidi Steinbeck (“Steinbeck”), captain and administrative officer; and Obinnaya C. Umesi (“Umesi”), medical director.

         After several extensions of time, plaintiff filed his response in opposition to the instant motion on August 1, 2017, and in support of his response plaintiff filed most of the same supporting documents as filed by defendants. Plaintiff also filed additional materials relating to charges brought against plaintiff prior to June 17, 2015; an appeal submitted by plaintiff regarding the disciplinary hearing; letter plaintiff received from mail room staff regarding legal mail; and affidavits from plaintiff[1] and Bonnie Jilani, plaintiff's mother.

         Additionally, during this time period, plaintiff filed a motion for preliminary injunction on July 7, 2017, which the court denied on July 26, 2017. (DE 59).


         Except as otherwise noted below, the facts in light most favorable to plaintiff are as follows.

         A. Allegations Stemming from June 17, 2015

         Prior to June 17, 2015, plaintiff was being held in Wake County jail for multiple charges. (DE 43 at 47-71; DE 64 at 4-19). On June 17, 2015, plaintiff submitted a grievance to the officer on duty, defendant Adams. (Pl's. Aff. at 85; DE 43 at 4-6; DE 64 at 20-22). This grievance, which appears to have been made on a carbonless copy form, concerned previous grievances submitted by plaintiff that had not been addressed. (DE 43 at 4-6; DE 64 at 20-22). On the same day, part of plaintiff's grievance was returned to plaintiff by Curran, who had found the yellow copy of the grievance in the trash, with a notation on the grievance stating that defendant Adams had spoken with plaintiff, which plaintiff alleges defendant Adams did not, and had forwarded the grievance to Lt. Baggett. (Pl's. Aff. at 86; see DE 64 at 20 (“On 6/17/15 I Officer Adams spoke with inmate Mohammed about his paper that was thrown in the trash. Forward to Lt. Baggett.”).

         Plaintiff then asked defendant Adams “why he would not enforce that [plaintiff's] grievance be properly submitted and explained to [defendant Adams] that [plaintiff] was going to submit another inmate grievance form on [defendant Adams] for [defendant Adams's] conduct.” (P l ' s A f f . at 87). Defendant Adams became “defensive” and “aggressive” towards plaintiff, informed plaintiff that he was being placed on 24-hour lockdown, searched plaintiff's cell, and stated to Curran “I am going to show Mr. Mohammed that I do follow every rule.” (Id.). Defendant Adams searched plaintiff's cell, finding a torn rag used for cleaning, and rifled through plaintiff's possessions to the extent of damaging certain items. (Id. at 88). Defendant Adams mocked plaintiff during this time and stated that defendant Adams “was very good at submitting paperwork that [plaintiff] would not be getting out of the hole for awhile” and that plaintiff was “stupid” and that defendant Adams “gets to go home at night and [plaintiff] would be stuck in my cell.” (Id. at 88-89).[2]

         Defendant Adams charged plaintiff with multiple jail rule violations including property damage, interfering with lockdown, failure to obey orders, disrespecting staff, and threatening staff. (Id.; DE 43 at 13). Defendant Adams denies the allegations in the previous paragraph and alleges instead that on June 17, 2015, plaintiff started yelling at him from his cell about a grievance having been thrown away, had torn a jail-issued towel in his cell, and threatened to kill defendant Adams when he sees him at Walmart, including telling defendant Adams to “check [plaintiff's] reason for being in jail, ” presumably as a threat in that plaintiff had been charged with possession of a gun by a convicted felon among other drug charges. (DE 43 at 12, 24, 93).

         In any event, it is undisputed that defendant Adams notified the officer in charge, Lt. Baggett, that plaintiff had made a threat against him. (DE 43 at 93). A jail supervisor arranged for a deputy to investigate the alleged threat against defendant Adams separately from the other alleged jail rule violations. (Id.). Deputy Elkhoudiri spoke with defendant Adams, who stated he felt threatened by plaintiff's statements. (Id. at 24).[3] Thereafter, Elkhoudiri found probable cause to arrest plaintiff without a warrant, arrested plaintiff, and transported plaintiff to Wake County detention center, where magistrate judge Adam Everett issued an arrest warrant, finding probable cause to find plaintiff

unlawfully and willfully did threaten to physically hurt the person of Juan Adams. The threat was communicated to Juan Adams by stating that he was going to kill officer Juan Adams when he sees him at Walmart when the defendant gets out of jail, and the defendant repeatedly stated that he was charged with possession of firearm by felon, and the threat was made in a manner and under circumstances which would cause a reasonable person to believe that the threat was likely to be carried out and the person threatened believed that the threat would be carried out.

(DE 43 at 27, 103; DE 64 at 29).[4]

         On June 19, 2015, a detention disciplinary hearing was held where plaintiff was found guilty of threatening staff, based on “the written report by Officer Adams, the investigation report provided by Lt. Baggett, the outside charges handed to Jilani by Wake County, and the statement by Jilani, ” and was placed on disciplinary segregation for 30 days. (DE 43 at 13-15; Pl's. Aff. at 89, 92; DE 64 at 24-26).[5] Plaintiff was found not guilty of all other charges. (Id.).

         During disciplinary segregation, plaintiff “suffered 30 long days in a small cell depressed, sad, and hungry because of the incident, ” submitting “sick calls because I became claustrophobic, ” had “bad dreams, ” and “would cry.” (Pl's Aff. at 95). Also during this time, a no-contact order was in place between plaintiff and defendant Adams, (DE 43 at 19; DE 64 at 27); however, plaintiff alleges that during his time during segregation defendant Adams multiple times mocked plaintiff about the situation and friends and co-workers of defendant Adams continually harassed plaintiff. (Pl's. Aff. at 92, 96). On September 28, 2015, plaintiff appeared in Wake County District Court and was found not guilty of communicating threats to defendant Adams. (DE 43 at 28). Thereafter, plaintiff submitted a grievance regarding defendant Adams's misconduct. (Pl's. Aff. at 94; DE 64 at 49).[6]

         B. Inadequate Dental Care

         Plaintiff additionally alleges that he did not receive proper dental care while confined at Wake County jail. (Pl's. Aff. at 99). During his time of confinement, plaintiff had multiple dental problems, submitted sick call forms regarding them, and was taken to see the dentist. (Id. 99-100). At one point, a nurse informed him that one of his teeth “could possibly be saved, but . . . the dentist would only pull the tooth.” (Id. at 99). Plaintiff states that he had no other option “but to have the tooth pulled or I would continue to suffer with extreme pain and suffering.” (Id. at 99-100). While incarcerated, plaintiff had multiple teeth removed. (Id. at 99-100).

         C. Legal Mail

         During his confinement, plaintiff's legal mail was opened and read outside his presence by jail staff. (Pl's. Aff. at 104; DE 64 at 70). Plaintiff's legal mail was tampered with and did not arrive at various courts when sent, and plaintiff has been denied access to the jail's legal mail log book and certified notification. (Pl's. Aff. at 105; DE 43 at 72-83; DE 62 at 12).

         D. Additional Allegations

         Plaintiff additionally alleges other actionable offenses occurred during the time he was detained in Wake County jail. First, plaintiff alleges he was subjected to hundreds of hours worth of lockdowns and segregation due to shortages of jail staff, including every Friday night, with too few hours of recreation and no opportunity for fresh air, inconsistent with jail policy. (Pl's. Aff. at 102-3). Second, Cooke refused to investigate why plaintiff was not allowed to visit the dentist after plaintiff submitted a sick-call form, stating that she could care less about his toothache, which was overheard by Maldonado, who subsequently lied and stated he had not heard the comments as alleged. (Id. at 96-97; DE 43 at 84-89). Plaintiff states that he submitted a “notice of intent” by mail to defendant Harrison concerning the last incident and generally concerning misconduct by jail staff. (Pl's. Aff. at 98; DE 43 at 88-89; DE 64 at 74-75).[7]


         A. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when there exists no genuine issue of material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 247 (1986). The party seeking summary judgment bears the burden of initially coming forward and demonstrating an absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party then must affirmatively demonstrate that there exists a genuine issue of material fact requiring trial. Matsushita Elec. Industrial Co. Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). There is no issue for trial unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the non-moving party for a jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250.

         B. Analysis

         The court will first address plaintiff's § 1983 claims against defendant Adams regarding events that took place on June 17, 2015. The court will then address plaintiff's remaining § 1983 claims concerning: 1) deliberate indifference to plaintiff's medical needs, 2) mishandling of legal mail, 3) mishandling of grievance forms, 4) excessive lockdowns, and 5) verbal abuse. The court will then turn to claims directed at defendant sheriff's office and claims directed at defendant Harrison. Finally, the court will address plaintiff's state-law claims.

         1. Claims Against Defendant Adams

         Plaintiff's primary focus in his filings is that defendant Adams, on June 17, 2015, falsely accused plaintiff of communicating threats, resulting in plaintiff being placed in disciplinary segregation for 30 days. Plaintiff alleges that this accusation was in retaliation for plaintiff's ...

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