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Heid v. Hooks

United States District Court, S.D. Ohio, Eastern Division

July 31, 2018

RAY SCOTT HEID, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
MARK HOOKS, at al., Defendants.

          Vascura Magistrate Judge.

          OPINION & ORDER

          ALGENON L. MARBLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 10), which recommended that the Court dismiss Plaintiff Heid's and Plaintiff Damron's equal protection claim and class action allegations and that Plaintiffs be permitted to proceed on their claim of deliberate indifference to a risk of serious harm under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. For the reasons set forth below, the Court ADOPTS the Report and Recommendation with regard to Mr. Heid's and Mr. Damron's Fourteenth Amendment Claim, Eighth Amendment Claim, and class action allegations. This Court hereby DISMISSES Mr. Heid's and Mr. Damron's Fourteenth Amendment Claim and class action allegation and permits them to proceed on their Eighth Amendment Claim.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiffs Ray Scott Heid and James E. Damron, inmates at the Ross Correctional Institute (“RCI”), brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Mark Hooks, the Warden of RCI, and Jeffrey Howard, the Deputy Warden of Operations of RCI. Specifically, Mr. Heid and Mr. Damron seek to represent approximately 1, 000 similarly-situated white inmates, alleging violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 9 at 3).

         Mr. Heid and Mr. Damron allege that they and other white inmates are “denied equal privileges of telephone access at RCI” because, in their view, the phones are “controlled by black supremacists.” (ECF No. 9 at 3). Mr. Heid and Mr. Damron allege that prison officials allow this control of telephones to occur and have enacted no remedies to the problems in spite of having sufficient notice of these occurrences. (Id. at 7). This lack of action on the part of Mr. Hooks and Mr. Howard has, purportedly, emboldened non-white inmates to visit acts of violence against Plaintiffs and other white inmates. (Id.). Consequently, Plaintiffs Heid and Damron filed this Complaint on September 14, 2017, alleging violations of both the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, attempting to represent as a class all similarly-situated white inmates.

         B. Procedural Background

         Following the filing of the Complaint, the Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation, which recommended that Mr. Heid's and Mr. Damron's Fourteenth Amendment (equal protection) Claim and class action allegation be dismissed per 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and that they be permitted to proceed on their Claim of deliberate indifference to a risk of serious harm under the Eighth Amendment. (ECF No. 10 at 1).

         Mr. Heid and Mr. Damron filed an Objection (EFC No. 11) to the Report and Recommendation on September 29, 2017, objecting to the recommendation of dismissal of the Fourteenth Amendment Claim. (ECF No. 11 at 2).

         II. LAW AND ANALYSIS

         A. Equal Protection Claim

         To state an equal protection claim, “a prisoner need only allege sufficient plausible facts to show that a state actor intentionally discriminated against [him] because of membership in a protected class.” (Id.) (quoting Henry v. Metro Sewer Dist., 922 F.2d 332, 341 (6th Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted). Because Mr. Heid and Mr. Damron only allege indifference, not discriminatory intent, on the part of the individual defendants, the Report and Recommendation concludes that they failed to offer facts sufficient to state an equal protection claim. (Id.). Furthermore, the Report and Recommendation explains that allegations of indifference do not equate to an official policy of segregation, thus barring an equal protection claim. (Id.).

         The Court agrees. Neither the Complaint (ECF No. 9) nor the Objection to the Report and Recommendation (ECF No. 11) allege an intentional act of discrimination. Plaintiffs suggest that discriminatory intent on the part of Mr. Hooks and Mr. Howard can be inferred from their deliberate indifference and inaction as to the purported discriminatory activities. (ECF No. 11 at 8). But the facts, as alleged, do not support such an inference: nothing in the record suggests that Mr. Hooks or Mr. Howard harbored any discriminatory ...


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