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Steele v. Warden Cicchi

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

May 3, 2017

YUSEF STEELE, Appellant
v.
WARDEN CICCHI; DEPUTY WARDEN F. MASONE; INTERNAL AFFAIRS SGT DEAMICIS; CAPTAIN C. BARTH

          Argued: June 16, 2016

         On Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey (D.N.J. No. 3-09-cv-03551) District Judge: Honorable Mary L. Cooper

          MICHAEL S. DOLUISIO CATHERINE V. WIGGLESWORTH Dechert WILLIAM STEWART [*] [ARGUED] University of Pennsylvania School of Law Counsel for Appellant

          LORI A. DVORAK [ARGUED] Dvorak & Associates Counsel for Appellee Edmond Cicchi

          CLARK W. CONVERY Convery Convery & Shihar Counsel for Appellee Deputy Warden F. Masone

          PATRICK J. BRADSHAW Kelso & Bradshaw Counsel for Appellee Internal Affairs Sgt. De Amicis SUSAN K. O'CONNOR Hoagland Longo Moran Dunst & Doukas Counsel for Appellee Captain C. Barth

          Before: AMBRO, RESTREPO, and NYGAARD, Circuit Judges

          OPINION

          RESTREPO, Circuit Judge.

         Plaintiff/Appellant Yusef Steele was a pretrial detainee housed at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center ("MCACC") in New Jersey in late 2008 and early 2009. During the course of his detention at MCACC, officials at the facility received credible information that Steele was involved in a scheme with an outside bail bonds service, Speedy Bail Bonds. Officials believed that Steele was threatening other detainees in order to coerce them into using Speedy and that Steele was receiving some form of compensation from Speedy for his efforts. After interviewing Steele and advising him of the allegations against him, officials placed him in administrative segregation while they continued to investigate his conduct. During his time in segregation, Steele's telephone privileges were restricted to legal calls only.

         Steele claims in this Section 1983 suit that the Defendant/Appellee MCACC officials violated his due process rights when they transferred him to administrative segregation in the facility and restricted his phone privileges, which interfered with his ability to attempt to find a co-signer for his own bail. The District Court granted summary judgment for all Defendants. For the reasons that follow, we will affirm.

         I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND[1]

         On December 22, 2008, Steele was arrested for violating a narcotics restraining order. He was then placed into pretrial detention at MCACC. The next day, Steele's bail was set at $50, 000, which he was unable to pay.

         On February 23, 2009, while Steele remained in detention at MCACC, Robert Gluck, a private attorney, contacted MCACC Deputy Warden Masone about safety concerns Gluck had for his client, another MCACC detainee. According to Gluck, Steele approached Gluck's client and threatened to disclose his client's sex offense charges to MCACC's general population if Gluck's client did not use a specific bail bonds service, Speedy Bail Bonds. Gluck reported that Steele handed his client a document that listed his client's charges and bail amount. Gluck also faxed to Masone a copy of the document.

         After obtaining this information from Gluck, Masone and Sergeant Paul De Amicis began an investigation of Steele and Speedy's activities within MCACC. They interviewed Gluck's client, who confirmed that Steele threatened him and provided him with a specific phone number to use to arrange his bail. Masone and De Amicis confirmed that the phone number belonged to a Speedy office.

         De Amicis continued the investigation by reviewing recorded phone calls from the unit in which Steele was housed. He found numerous calls between Steele and Speedy, during which Steele referenced detainees' names, identification numbers, and the specific amounts of their bails. According to De Amicis, Steele bragged in some of those phone conversations about "his ability to get other inmates to post bail using Speedy" and Steele "referred to credit he expected to receive for bails he recruited for Speedy." App. 1312. Based on the results of the preliminary investigation, MCACC officials believed that Steele "was acting as an illegal agent for Speedy" and that he was receiving some type of compensation from Speedy in exchange for his efforts to arrange detainees' bails. App. 1312.

         MCACC officials met with Steele on February 25, 2009, just two days after Gluck's call, to discuss the allegations.[2] During the meeting, MCACC officials apprised Steele of a complaint they received that he had been "making money for the bail bondsmen, " "threatening inmates, " and "trying to get money out of [them]." App. 1303. Officials asked Steele to explain his actions with Speedy and permitted him to respond to their questions. Steele admitted to helping other detainees arrange bails, but denied that he was receiving any compensation from Speedy. Steele stated that he was arranging detainees' bails with Speedy "out of the goodness of [his] heart." App. 1305. As officials were meeting with Steele on February 25th, MCACC corrections officers searched Steele's cell and found materials that corroborated the allegations against him. These materials included lists of detainees' names, bail amounts, and phone numbers of detainees' friends and relatives.

         That same day, Steele was transferred to administrative segregation.[3] De Amicis averred that Steele was placed in administrative segregation in order "to prevent him from posing additional security risks in the [MCACC] and to allow further investigation into Speedy's activities without [Steele's] interference." App. 1313. Later in the day on February 25th, Masone and De Amicis met with employees of Speedy, who confirmed that Steele was an "associate" who was recruiting other detainees to use Speedy for their bail bonds. App. 1313. After further investigation, MCACC officials contacted the county prosecutor's office and the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.

         The MCACC "Inmate Guidelines" manual ("the Manual"), which served as a guide for inmate conduct and jail procedures, contained a number of provisions addressing telephone access at the facility. It provided that individuals housed in the general population had open access to collect call telephones for personal calls and were allowed an unlimited number of legal calls. It also provided that individuals placed in "disciplinary lockup" were not permitted telephone access, with the exception of legal telephone calls. App. 1345. The Manual did not address telephone access for detainees housed in administrative segregation.[4] While he remained in administrative segregation, Steele was permitted only to make legal calls, through the MCACC social work office.

         On March 5, 2009, Steele's bail was reduced from $50, 000 to $2, 500. Thereafter, Steele made three attempts to contact his attorney to help him obtain a co-signer for his bail. Steele reached the attorney's secretary twice, and made contact with his lawyer on his third attempt. On March 20, 2009, Steele's bail was posted and he was released.

         II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Steele originally filed this action pro se in July 2009 in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. The operative Amended Complaint was filed pro se in May 2012. In his Amended Complaint, Steele asserted several claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983: violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

         In December 2013, after five rounds of summary judgment motions, the District Court granted summary judgment to Defendants as to Steele's First and Eighth Amendment claims. The Court denied summary judgment as to Steele's claims under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, but permitted Defendants to move for summary judgment again on those claims in January 2014. In May 2014, the District Court granted summary judgment to all Defendants on Steele's Fourteenth Amendment claims, holding that they did not violate Steele's rights under the substantive and procedural components of the Due Process Clause. Steele filed this timely appeal.[5]

         III. JURISDICTION & STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The District Court had jurisdiction over this Section 1983 action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. We have jurisdiction over this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

         Summary judgment is appropriate where the moving party carries its burden to establish 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). "We review an award of summary judgment de novo, applying the same test on review that the District Court should have applied." MBIA Ins. Corp. v. Royal Indem. Co., 426 F.3d 204, 209 (3d Cir. 2005). That is, we review "the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor." Burns v. PA ...


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