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Miller v. Hall

United States District Court, N.D. Mississippi, Greenville Division

August 9, 2018




         On August 7, 2018, plaintiff Anthony William Miller, an inmate confined at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman (“Parchman”) appeared before the Court for a hearing pursuant to Spears v. McCotter, 766 F.2d 179 (5th Cir. 1985), to determine whether there exists a justiciable basis for his claim filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. A plaintiff's claim will be dismissed if “it lacks an arguable basis in law or fact, such as when a prisoner alleges the violation of a legal interest that does not exist.” Martin v. Scott, 156 F.3d 578 (5th Cir. 1998) (citations omitted). The Prison Litigation Reform Act applies to this case because the plaintiff was incarcerated when he filed this lawsuit. Miller having consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the undersigned has the authority to enter this order and the accompanying final judgment.

         I. Plaintiff's Allegations

         Miller was placed in long-term, high-risk segregation in Unit 29-L Building in December 2016, after he received a Rule Violation Report (“RVR”) for murdering another inmate in self-defense. Miller alleges that while in segregation, he spent 24-hours a day locked in a cell with little sunlight, and that he was allowed yard-call approximately ten times in sixteen months.

         Miller contends that approximately three months after his placement in Unit 29-L Building, he developed a rash on his face and began making sick call requests for medical treatment and filing grievances for the denial of same. Miller claims that he did not receive medical treatment for approximately six months after his initial request, and that when he did receive treatment, it was in the form of hallway visits from a nurse who would merely prescribe medication. Miller states that he has since been examined by doctors and was initially diagnosed with eczema and provided creams. Later, he states, he was diagnosed with psoriasis and prescribed a steroid mixture which is improving his condition, but he claims that the medication he is currently prescribed is a temporary solution to an as-yet still unconfirmed condition.

         Miller alleges that on November 27, 2017, Parchman's K-9 Unit began a shakedown of Unit 29-L Building, and that upon search of his cell, officers stated they found contraband (a shank and a cell phone/charger) above the outside of his cell door. Miller states that the following day, Officers L. Williams and D. Sanders came to his cell with two RVRs for possession of contraband. Miller stated he told both officers that he wanted a hearing and witnesses to appear at the hearing, but that the officers refused to indicate so on the RVRs. Miller, however, signed both documents.

         Miller maintains that sometime in December 2017, Disciplinary Officer Kensi Terry came to his cell to hold an evidentiary hearing, and she agreed to “table” the RVRs based on Miller's argument that, as he was locked inside of his cell, he could not be charged with possession of items found outside of his cell door. She returned in January 2018, however, to find him guilty of both RVRs, which had allegedly been altered by officers to indicate that Miller had declined to request witnesses and/or a hearing. As punishment, Miller lost 180 days of canteen and visitation privileges.

         On February 2, 2018, Captain Mumford and Officer Fipps found a cell phone and charger in Miller's cell during a routine shakedown, and the cell phone was confiscated. According to Miller, no RVR issued from the incident. Miller contends that on February 28, 2018, however, an officer came to his cell and stated that Miller had received an RVR from Captain Mumford for possession of a cell phone. On May 14, 2018, Officer Terry held a hearing on two RVRs Miller received - one from the February 2, 2018, cell phone incident, and one for an unidentified incident alleged to have occurred on February 2, 2017. Miller asserts that the 2017 RVR was dismissed, while Terry found him guilty of the February 2, 2018, RVR, which resulted in a 180-day loss of privileges.

         Miller also alleges that sometime in mid-February 2018, he ate breakfast in his cell and woke up in the prison infirmary some fourteen hours later. After Miller denied any drug use, Miller states that the nurse treating him told him he must have been “slipped” something. According to Miller, recently-obtained lab results from his hospitalization show that he had methamphetamines in his blood. Mil ler alleges that upon his return to his cell from the hospital, he noticed that his sheets were bloody and asked another inmate what had happened. Miller states that the inmate told him that he had been shaking and convulsing, and that Officer Fipps, who was working on the zone at that time, had been advised that something was wrong with Miller. Miller contends that the inmate stated that Officer Fipps refused to intervene, and that he was only taken for medical treatment when a nurse visited the unit and presumably noticed Miller unresponsive. Miller claims that prison officials have refused to investigate the incident, though repeated calls from his family did result in Miller being moved to Unit 28-J building in April 2018.

         Miller additionally claims that he has been denied access to the court system, as Parchman has no law library, and he has been provided inadequate legal services through the Inmate Legal Assistance Program (“ILAP”). Miller contends that in connection with the instant case, he requested various RVR polices, an offender log print out, and case law from ILAP. On June 25, 2018, however, an ILAP employee informed Miller that he could not get case law unless he provided the year of publication. Miller contends that he is unable to provide such information without access to a law library, and that ILAPs failure to accommodate the restrictions placed on inmates essentially violates his right to effectively petition the courts.

         Finally, Miller states that inmates in Unit 29 are to file Administrative Remedy Program (“ARP”) grievances using the “black box, ” which allegedly resides in the Unit hallway, and that guards are prohibited from taking grievances from inmates. Miller contends, however, that he is locked in a cell and cannot access the hallway to file grievances. Miller states that he attempted to file a grievance about this against the ARP Director, R. Pennington, but that it was rejected by Pennington himself.

         Based on these allegations, Miller has filed the instant action against Commissioner Pelicia Hall, Superintendent Marshal Turner, ARP Direcor R. Pennington, Disciplinary Officer Kensi Terry, Officer Fipps, Officer L. Williams, and Officer D. Sanders, seeking various injunctive relief and monetary compensation.

         II. RVRs/Disciplinary Proceedings

         Miller claims that he has wrongfully been found guilty of several RVRs that were issued in violation of the policies and procedures of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”), and in violation of the United States Constitution. Specifically, he argues that he was denied the right to call witnesses at his disciplinary hearings, to be present at one of his disciplinary hearings, to receive accurate copies ...

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