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Stephens v. Canino

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 26, 2014

MICHAEL STEPHENS
v.
MARY CANINO, MICHAEL TROYAN and C.O. JOHN DOE

MICHAEL STEPHENS, Plaintiff, Pro se, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For MARY CANINO, MICHAEL TROYAN, Defendants: BARRY N. KRAMER, PA OFFICE OF ATTY GENERAL, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

Page 511

MEMORANDUM OPINION

TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE, J.

In this § 1983 civil rights action, the pro se plaintiff, Michael Stephens, alleges that the defendants violated his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by returning him to prison from a halfway house and placing him in disciplinary custody, and conducting a hearing without notice and an opportunity to present and cross-examine witnesses. He has named as defendants Michael Troyan, the correctional officer who brought the charges against him, and Mary Canino, the prison hearing officer who presided over his hearing.[1]

Stephens claims that Canino and Troyan deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by charging him " with unsupported misconducts, without

Page 512

adequate pre-hearing notice or due process at the hearing and finding him guilty of the charges without sufficient evidence." [2] He contends that as a result of their actions, he spent an additional seventeen months in prison and was placed in a restricted housing unit under " conditions atypical of incarceration." [3]

The defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. Both defendants argue that Stephens cannot make out a procedural due process claim because he did not have a protected liberty interest. Essentially, they contend that his placement in disciplinary detention did not constitute atypical and significant hardship implicating a protectable liberty interest, and the state prison regulations did not create a liberty interest.[4] Canino also argues that Stephens had adequate state remedies which he did not pursue.[5] Troyan contends that he cannot be liable because he had no involvement or knowledge of any alleged procedural due process violations.[6]

In response, Stephens insists he had a liberty interest. He contends that he was denied due process when his " pre-parole" status was taken away and he was transferred from a halfway house to a correctional facility without timely notice as prescribed by prison regulations, and without the opportunity to confront the evidence presented against him and to present witnesses on his behalf.[7] Finally, Stephens argues that the available state remedies were inadequate.[8]

Accepting as true the allegations in his complaint and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, we conclude that Stephens did not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest of which he was deprived. Because his tenure in the Restricted Housing Unit (" RHU" ) did not exceed his maximum sentence and did not constitute an atypical and significant hardship, he had no protectable liberty interest under the due process clause. Nor did the Department of Corrections (" DOC" ) policy confer a state-created liberty interest. Therefore, we shall grant the motions to dismiss.[9]

Facts[10]

According to his complaint, on October 21, 2011, Stephens was taken from a Community Corrections Center (" CCC" ), a halfway house, to the State Correctional Institution (" SCI" ) at Graterford to face a misconduct charge filed by Troyan, the Security Lieutenant at ...


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