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Shabazz Floyd v. McMahon

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

March 27, 2019

RAHEEM AKBAR SHABAZZ FLOYD, Plaintiff,
v.
EDWARD J. McMAHON and M.J. MOSALL, Defendants.

          ORDER

          LOUISE W. FLANAGAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the court on defendants' motions for summary judgment (DE 67, 73), filed pursuant to Federal Rule 56. Also before the court is plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal (DE 79). These motions were fully briefed and thus the issues raised are ripe for decision. For the reasons stated below, plaintiff's motion is denied and defendants' motion are granted.

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         On December 3, 2015, while he was a pretrial detainee, plaintiff filed this civil rights action pro se pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, that defendants tampered with his legal mail. On June 17, 2016, this court dismissed plaintiff's claims without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Specifically, the court determined that plaintiff had only alleged an isolated incident, and that plaintiff had failed to demonstrate any actual injury. The court also determined that it lacked jurisdiction under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and its progeny.

         Plaintiff appealed. On October 18, 2016, the Fourth Circuit dismissed plaintiff's appeal and remanded the case with instructions to allow plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Floyd v. McMahon, No. 16-6937, 2016 WL 6081359, at *1 (4th Cir. Oct. 18, 2016). On November 15, 2016, the court entered an order reinstating this action and directing plaintiff to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed his amended complaint[1] on December 7, 2016, contending defendants opened his legal mail, which has “put the defense of [his pending state court criminal] case in jeopardy.” In addition to monetary damages, plaintiff sought the dismissal of his pending charges in state court. The amended complaint survived frivolity review.

         On March 19, 2018, pursuant to defendants' motion, the court dismissed plaintiff's requests for injunctive relief pursuant to Younger. With regard to plaintiff's surviving claims for monetary damages, the court stayed the proceedings during the pendency of plaintiff's state court criminal proceedings. (Id.). The court lifted the stay on May 22, 2018.

         On June 18, 2018, defendant Edward J. McMahon (“McMahon”) filed the instant motion for summary judgment, supported by a memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and appendix. Defendant McMahon's appendix includes affidavits from McMahon and third-party Douglas W. Carriker and a transcript of plaintiff's guilty plea in the related state criminal case.

         On July 19, 2018, defendant M.J. Mosall (“Mosall”) filed the instant motion for summary judgment, supported by a memorandum of law, statement of material facts, and appendix. Defendant Mosall's appendix includes affidavits from Mosall, McMahon, and Carriker; the mail regulations for New Hanover County Detention Center (“NHDC”); a transcript of plaintiff's guilty plea; and a copy of an incident report from NHDC.

         Pursuant to Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975) (per curiam), the court notified plaintiff about the motions for summary judgment, the consequences of failing to respond, and the response deadlines. Plaintiff did not respond to the summary judgment motions. Rather, he filed a motion for voluntary dismissal.

         STATEMENT OF THE FACTS

         During the relevant time period, plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at NHDC. (Mosall Aff. (DE76-6) ¶ 6. On or about March 7, 2015, plaintiff drafted a letter to his appointed counsel regarding the charges pending against him. (See (DE 50-1)). The letter was returned to NHDC on March 12, 2015 in a large manilla envelop because it contained insufficient postage. (Mosall Aff. (DE76-6) ¶¶ 10-11). Mosall opened this manila envelope. (Id. ¶ 11). Inside the manila envelope, plaintiff's letter was sealed in a regular envelope labeled “legal mail.” (Id. at ¶¶ 12-13).

         NHDC maintains a policy which expressly prohibits staff from opening or inspecting legal correspondence if the addressee is not present. (Id. ¶ 8). In contravention of this policy, Mosall opened the sealed regular envelope to ensure it did not contain contraband. (Id. ¶¶ 14-16). Defendant McMahon was not present when Mosall did so. (McMahon Aff. (DE 76-1) ¶¶ 10-11). Although he checked the envelope for contraband, Mosall did not read plaintiff's letter. (Mosall Aff. (DE76-6) ¶ 17). Mosall put plaintiff's letter back in the envelope, and then returned the envelope to plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 17-18).

         In January 2018, plaintiff pleaded guilty to second degree murder pursuant to North Carolina v. Alford, 400 U.S. 25 (1970). (Carriker Aff. (DE 70-2) ΒΆ 6). Neither Mosall nor any other NHDC official shared the contents of plaintiff's letter ...


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