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Brown v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction

Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth District

September 26, 2013

Frank C. Brown, Jr., Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, Defendant-Appellee.

APPEAL from the Court of Claims of Ohio. Ct. of Cl. No. 2011-03120

Frank C. Brown, Jr., pro se.

Michael DeWine, Attorney General, and James P. Dinsmore, for appellee.

DECISION

SADLER, J.

(¶ 1} Plaintiff-appellant, Frank C. Brown, Jr., appeals from the judgment of the Court of Claims of Ohio granting summary judgment in favor of defendant-appellee, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction ("appellee" or "ODRC"), on all claims asserted by appellant. For the reasons that follow, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

I. BACKGROUND

(¶ 2} Appellant filed an amended complaint (hereinafter "complaint") on March 25, 2011, alleging that ODRC's employees wrongfully destroyed his property which he claimed consisted of legal materials pertaining to ongoing litigation.[1] Appellant alleged that the conduct of destroying this property, three boxes of legal materials and a typewriter, was "willful, wanton, deliberate, intentional, malicious and in reckless disregard of [his] rights." (Amended Complaint, 6.) The complaint also alleged that, due to appellee's conduct, he has "suffered great mental and emotional distress, anxiety, humiliation, pain and suffering" and has been forced to spend unnecessary time and money. (Amended Complaint, 6.) Additionally, the complaint alleged that appellant's ability to pursue his legal proceedings was impaired. Appellant sought compensatory damages in the amount of $1 million against appellee jointly and/or severally.

(¶ 3} According to appellant's complaint, after being instructed to condense property he had previously stored in Unit Manager Kelly Mason's office, he condensed his belongings from five boxes down to three and placed the boxes in a storage room in Mason's office. Approximately two weeks later, appellant was again told he was storing property in excess of that permitted by ODRC policy and that the excess property needed to be either mailed home or destroyed. The complaint specifically states appellant's response to the request was, "I am not going to mail it to anyone nor throw any of it away." (Amended Complaint, 4.) Appellant alleges he was denied the opportunity to speak to a supervisor and that his request that photos be taken of the property that was to be destroyed was also denied. After the excess materials remained, ODRC employee Sergeant Leonard Gilliam ordered three boxes of material and a typewriter to be destroyed by being thrown in an "institution trash compactor." (Amended Complaint, 5.) Appellant filed an informal complaint against the employees for this conduct.

(¶ 4} The parties engaged in discovery, and on July 11, 2012, appellee filed a combined motion for judgment on the pleadings and motion for summary judgment. Appellant moved for an extension of time to file a responsive pleading which the trial court granted and extended the time to respond to August 31, 2012. Appellant also requested additional time to conduct discovery. This request was denied. On August 29, 2012, appellant sought a second extension of time to respond to the motion for summary judgment which was denied by the trial court. On September 11, 2012, approximately two weeks past the deadline of August 31, 2012 and prior to the trial court's ruling on the motion, appellant filed a responsive pleading to the motion for summary judgment.

(¶ 5} During the pendency of the case, appellant filed, on October 27, 2011, an "IMMEDIATE REQUEST AND MOTION FOR IMMUNITY AND JURISDICTIONAL DETERMINATION PURSUANT TO RC 2743.02(F)." Upon order of the court, appellant provided an immunity determination list containing the names of individuals for which he sought an immunity determination.

(¶ 6} On September 17, 2012, the trial court granted appellee's motion for summary judgment. In its judgment entry, the trial court concluded appellant's claim for retaliation was a claim requesting relief under 42 U.S.C. 1983 over which it lacked jurisdiction. With respect to the remaining claims, the trial court concluded the property appellant alleged was improperly destroyed was not organized or kept in a manner so as to be in compliance with ODRC's policies pertaining to an inmate's personal property. Therefore, based on the affidavits submitted by the parties, the trial court concluded the destroyed property constituted contraband that appellant was not entitled to possess and of which ODRC cannot be held liable for the loss.

(¶ 7} The court set forth the contents of Mason's and Gilliam's affidavits in its decision as follows:

Mason avers:
1. I have personal knowledge of the facts contained in this Affidavit and am familiar with the underlying facts of this lawsuit. Morevoer, I have personally reviewed [defendant's] records regarding [plaintiff].
2. I am employed by [defendant] as a Unit Manager at [LoCI]. I have held that position for approximately eight years. I manage the daily operations of housing units assigned to me at LoCI, which includes managing all staff and inmates assigned to those housing units.
3. [Plaintiff] is an inmate in the custody of [defendant] and is currently incarcerated at the Madison Correctional Institution (MaCI). However, at all times relevant to this lawsuit, [plaintiff] was incarcerated at LoCI in one of the housing units that I managed.
4. I am familiar with and trained to implement [defendant's] policy regarding the storage and handling of inmate personal property, which includes legal materials.
a. Attached to this Affidavit as Attachment 1 is a true and acute copy of [defendant's] Policy No. 61-PRP-01 that governs inmate personal property. The purpose of this policy is to establish policy and procedures regarding authorized personal property items for inmates. This policy defines inmate personal property as any item, not issued by [defendant], which the inmate has received permission to possess and provides that inmates are not permitted to possess state and personal property in excess of 2.4 cubic feet.
b. Attached to this Affidavit as Attachment 2 is a true and accurate copy of [defendant's] Policy No. 59-LEG-01 that governs inmate access to court and counsel. The purpose of this policy is to establish guidelines that ensure that inmates have adequate access to courts, attorneys and legal research materials. Pursuant to this policy, inmates are permitted to possess a reasonable amount of general and personal legal materials, which shall be maintained within the inmate's overall 2.4 cubic feet property limitation described in [defendant's] Policy No. 61-PRP-01. This policy defines personal legal materials as those documents that pertain to active litigation to which the inmate is a party. In addition, this policy requires that all excess legal material, including inactive case files, must be either mailed out of the institution at the inmate's expense or otherwise disposed of by the inmate. Finally, this policy requires inmates to keep legal materials organized by title and case number and to provide a list of the active litigation upon request.
c. Attached to this Affidavit as Attachment 3 is a true and accurate copy of [defendant's] Administrative Rule 5120-9-55 that governs contraband. This rule defines minor contraband as items possessed by an inmate without permission where 1) the location in which these items are discovered is improper; 2) the quantities in which an allowable item is possessed is prohibited; 3) the manner or method by which the item is obtained was improper; or 4) an allowable item is possessed by an inmate in an altered form or condition.
d. Attached to this Affidavit as Attachment 4 is a true and accurate copy of [defendant's] Administrative Rule 5120-9-33 that governs inmate packages and property restrictions. This rule states that contraband, as defined in [defendant's] Administrative Rule 5120-9-55, includes personal property that exceeds the inmate's overall 2.4 cubic feet property limitation described in [defendant's] Policy No. 61-PRP-01.
5. On March 9, 2009, I gave [plaintiff] a direct order to remove five boxes of his personal property that he had stored in my office, but he refused to comply with my order.
6. Although, in paragraph 8 of the Complaint, plaintiff alleges that I cursed at him during our March 9, 2009 interaction, I did not make ...

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