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Holloway v. Coakley

United States District Court, N.D. West Virginia, Elkins

March 13, 2018

JOE COAKLEY, et al., Defendants.



         On this day, the above-styled matter came before this Court for consideration of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Michael John Aloi [Doc. 110]. By Local Rule, this action was referred to Magistrate Judge Aloi for submission of a report and a recommendation ("R&R"). Magistrate Judge Aloi filed his R&R on February 7, 2018, in which he considered the plaintiffs Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Sanctions [Doc. 85], filed November 8, 2017, and recommended that this Court: (1) deny the plaintiffs motion for a temporary restraining order; (2) grant the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction and enjoin the defendants from transferring the plaintiff; and (3) deny the plaintiffs motion for sanctions as moot. The Government filed Objections [Doc. 116], on February 21, 2018.


         Plaintiff Timothy Holloway is currently serving a federal life sentence at USP Hazelton. The underlying action generally arises from an assault that occurred at the prison on June 29, 2015, in which security footage shows the plaintiff and four other inmates entering a cell with another inmate, where another inmate was seriously injured. The assaulted inmate suffered "severe head trauma and a broke L-4 vertabrae." [Doc. 27-1]. An investigation was conducted into the assault, and Holloway and the three other inmates (Sparks, Lighthill, and Cox) were detained in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at Hazelton for five months. An Inmate Investigation Report determined that all of the inmates could be returned to the general population without issue, and thus all four inmates were returned to the general population in November 2015. Holloway remained in the general population until June 2016, when contraband items (specifically, nine zip-ties in the color used to secure hatches) were found in his cell during a routine search. Holloway and his cellmate, Justin Dawson ("Dawson"), were transferred to the SHU.

         Both were brought before the Disciplinary Hearing Officer ("DHO") for "escape paraphernalia" write-ups. Dawson claimed ownership of the zip-ties and was found guilty; accordingly, Holloway's charge was dismissed. Dawson was released from the SHU a week later, but Holloway remained in the SHU, where he is currently held. During his time at USP Hazelton, Holloway has also been disciplined for possessing drug paraphernalia, and an incident occurred where Holloway "was influential in causing another prisoner to request protective custody in order to avoid the threat of physical violence." [Doc. 104-4, p. 2].[1" name="FN1" id= "FN1">1] Lieutenant Eric Howell, a BOP employee at USP Hazelton, states in his affidavit that the staff at USP Hazelton, based on the totality of their observations of Holloway's behavior, consider him to be a potential escape risk. Specifically because, "Holloway has repeatedly requested work assignments on the facilities crew, which would provide access to locations and equipment that could be used to facilitate an escape, " "Holloway has been observed monitoring the operation and timing of entrance doors, " "Holloway possessed a radio that appeared to be altered to intercept communications among USP Hazelton employees, " and the discovery of the aforementioned zip ties.

         A case was opened concerning the assault on February 18, 2016, after Assistant United States Attorney Andy Cogar ("AUSA Cogar") indicated that the Government intended to indict the plaintiff and the other inmates involved. Holloway was appointed counsel in the matter, Deanna Pennington. A plea agreement was offered to all of the defendants, which the defendant declined to accept. Holloway states that Ms. Pennington informed him that if he accepted the pre-indictment plea deal, that AUSA Cogar would "grease the wheels" to get him out of the SHU. While the Government did not ultimately proceed to indict any individuals in the assault, the BOP ultimately sanctioned him for assault with serious injury. The plaintiff is currently appealing this determination.

         On June 25, 2017, Holloway filed a Motion for Change of Custody [Doc. 26], stating that he had been referred for transfer to the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and requesting that the Court intervene and place him in the custody of the Marshals Service or another federal institution. Based upon the record, it appears that the plaintiff was referred for transfer to an SMU in August of 2017, and is held in the SHU pending "disposition of this request." [Doc. 104-1]. Holloway has since been appointed new counsel, Lydia Milnes, and has filed an Amended Complaint [Doc. 93], which clarifies the relief sought. Holloway has brought two claims. The first is a Bivens claim against the named parties in their official capacities, and seeks, in relevant part, injunctive relief. The second is a 28 U.S.C. § 1983 claim for monetary relief against the named parties in their personal capacities. The plaintiff filed a Motion for Temporary Restraining Order, Preliminary Injunction, and Sanctions [Doc. 85] on November 8, 2017. The plaintiff seeks a preliminary injunction to prevent the Bureau of Prisons from transferring him to the SMU at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and ultimately a mandatory injunction to release him from the special housing unit into the general population [Doc. 85].

         In his R&R, Magistrate Judge Aloi concludes that the plaintiff: (1) "appears to have a likelihood of success on the merits with what is known to the Court at this time"; (2) is likely to suffer irreparable harm to his ability to proceed with this matter and confer with counsel based on past difficulty between the plaintiff, the BOP staff, and plaintiffs counsel in arranging phone calls and access to legal materials, and based upon the risk of physical and mental injury that the plaintiff alleges; (3) has shown that the balance of equities tips in his favor, because the BOP would only be required to keep the plaintiff in the SHU; and (4) has shown that the public interest is in "facilitating its citizens' right of access to the courts and to counsel, and to ensure that constitutional rights of its citizens are upheld." [Doc. 110]. As such, the magistrate judge recommends that this Court grant the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction, deny the motion for a temporary restraining order as moot, and deny the motion for sanctions. The Government filed timely Objections [Doc. 116].


         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c), this Court is required to make a de novo review of those portions of the magistrate judge's findings to which objection is made. Further, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, the Court is not required to review, under a de novo or any other standard, the factual or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge as to those portions of the findings or recommendation to which no objections are addressed. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140');">474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985). In addition, failure to file timely objections constitutes a waiver of de novo review and the right to appeal this Court's Order. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Snyder v. Ridenour, 1363');">889 F.2d 1363, 1366 (4th Cir. 1989); United States v. Schronce, 1');">727 F.2d 91, 94 (4th Cir. 1984). Here, objections to Magistrate Judge Aloi's R&R were due within fourteen (14) days of receipt, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Government filed its Objections [Doc. 116] on February 21, 2018. Because the Court has determined that the recommendation below is clearly erroneous, it will not address the Government's specific objections.


         The plaintiff requests an injunction against transfer to the SMU, arguing in support that: (1) the transfer would cause irreparable harm because it would interfere with his ability to seek a mandatory injunction to transfer him to the general population of the prison, be a continuation of the violation of his rights, and interfere with his ability to confer with counsel; (2) he is likely to succeed on the merits; (3) the harm to the defendants is minimal because they would only be required to maintain the status quo; and (4) the protection of his constitutional rights is in the public interest [Doc. 85]. On review, this Court concludes that the plaintiff has not met his burden to show that injunctive relief is proper.

         To obtain injunctive relief, the plaintiff must demonstrate:

(1) that he is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) that the balance of equities tips in his favor, and (4) ...

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