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Johnson v. Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

July 16, 2018

Ronald Johnson, Jr., Plaintiff,
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, et al., Defendants.




         Plaintiff pro se Ronald Johnson brings this lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ORDC), Warden C. Coleman, M. Elder, Investigator Jamison, Corrections Officer Logan, Lieutenant Good, and Captain Pattaway in their individual and official capacities (Doc. 1). He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages (id. at 10). This Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge James Knepp for general pretrial supervision (Doc. 13). Following discovery, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 25), to which Johnson has not responded.[1] This Court terminated the referral (see July 2, 2018 docket entry) and now grants the Motion.


         Johnson raises two claims regarding events during his confinement at the Toledo Correctional Institution (TCI), one involving visitation rights and the other involving cell conditions.


         In August 2016, Johnson's brother (Deandre), wife (Tanya), and nine-year-old son attempted to visit him at TCI (Doc. 1 at 3; Doc. 17-1 at 1-4). Prison officials received a tip from confidential informants that Tanya planned to deliver marijuana to Johnson during the visit (Doc. 17-1 at 10). When he arrived, Deandre smelled like marijuana and appeared to be under the influence (id.). Investigators Elder and Jamison informed Deandre and Tanya that they were suspected of attempting to convey marijuana into the facility and would be required to undergo strip searches before proceeding to visitation (Doc. 1 at 3-4; Doc. 17-1 at 10-12). Deandre consented to the search, which revealed no contraband. Tanya refused the search, and both Deandre and Tanya were removed from Johnson's visitation list (id.). Johnson claims that while Tanya was “detained, ” his son was kidnapped, questioned, and threatened by Jamison and Elder (Doc. 1 at 3-4).

         Following this incident, Johnson submitted three Informal Complaint Resolution (ICR) forms objecting to his visitors being turned away and removed from his visitation list (Doc. 1-1 at 3-5). In September 2016, Deandre's visitation restriction was lifted, and Tanya's restriction was reduced from a permanent prohibition to a six-month limitation (id. at 5).

         Meanwhile, Johnson was charged and convicted of violating Rule 40 of the Inmate Rules of Conduct, Ohio Administrative Code § 5120-9-06, which prohibits “[p]rocuring or attempting to procure, unauthorized drugs; aiding, soliciting, or collaborating with another to procure unauthorized drugs or to introduce unauthorized drugs into a correctional facility” (Doc. 17-1 at 29). The decision was upheld by Warden Coleman (id. at 36) and ODRC Director Mohr (id. at 40). Johnson does not challenge this disciplinary proceeding in the Complaint.


         Johnson asserts he went on a hunger strike after the visitation incident in an effort to obtain an explanation for TCI's actions (Doc. 1, at 5-6). At some point after the hunger strike, Johnson was moved to segregation (id. at 6). He claims that he was placed in a cell “with urine and feces in [the] toilet for days with no way to flush the toilet” (id.). He asserts he brought this to the attention of prison officials, but he was ignored (id. at 6-7). ODRC grievance records reflect no documentation of Johnson's complaints about the toilet conditions in his cell (Doc. 25-1 at 3).


         Summary judgment is appropriate where there is “no genuine issue as to any material fact, ” such that “the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Federal Civil Rule 56(a). This Court must draw all inferences from the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). This Court does not weigh the evidence or determine the truth of any matter in dispute; rather, it evaluates only whether the record contains sufficient evidence from which a jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49 (1986).

         “[A] plaintiff is deemed to have abandoned a claim when a plaintiff fails to address it in response to a motion for summary judgment.” Brown v. VHS of Michigan, Inc.,545 Fed.Appx. 368, 372 (6th Cir. 2013). This Court “cannot grant summary judgment in favor of a movant simply because the adverse party has not responded, ” for the moving party “always bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue as to a material fact.” Sough v. Mayville Cmty. Sch., 138 F.3d 612, 614 (6th Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). But this Court is not obligated to “sua sponte comb the record from the partisan perspective of an advocate for the non-moving party.” Guarino v. Brookfield Twp. Trs., 980 F.2d 399, 410 (6th Cir. 1992). Rather, this Court “may rely on the moving ...

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