United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
ARMOND R. LEWIS, #126613 PLAINTIFF
J. ERRINGTON, ET AL. DEFENDANTS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DISMISSING
SULEYMAN OZERDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court sua sponte. Pro se Plaintiff
Armond R. Lewis (“Plaintiff”), an inmate of the
Mississippi Department of Corrections, brings this Complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is proceeding
in forma pauperis. See Order . The named
Defendants are J. Errington, Superintendent of South
Mississippi Correctional Institution; Unknown Davis, a
Lieutenant at George County Regional Correctional Facility;
Mississippi Department of Corrections (“MDOC”);
and Richard Pennington, Director of MDOC's Administrative
Remedy Program. The Court, having liberally construed
Plaintiff's Complaint, finds that this case should be
April 27, 2017, Plaintiff received a rule violation report
(“RVR”) for possessing “major contraband
[b]y the specific act of having a cell phone charger.”
Attach. [7-1] at 1. As a result, he lost prison privileges
(including commissary, phone, and visitation) for six months,
and his custodial classification level was reduced to
“C-custody” for one year. Pl.'s Resp.  at 1.
Plaintiff states that his appeal of this RVR was denied via
the prison grievance system. Compl.  at 4.
lawsuit, Plaintiff asserts his innocence and claims the
disciplinary process violated his due process rights.
Specifically, Plaintiff claims that, because of Lt.
Davis's conduct, he was not allowed to attend his
disciplinary hearing and he was found guilty of the RVR.
Compl.  at 4; Pl.'s Resp.  at 2.
complains that Superintendent Errington and Director
Pennington failed to investigate and overturn the
disciplinary decision when Plaintiff appealed through the
prison grievance system. Compl.  at 4; Pl.'s Resp. 
at 2-3. As relief, Plaintiff seeks “cash
compensation” and the return of all “time”
he would have earned if his custodial classification level
had not been reduced. Compl.  at 4; Resp.  at 3.
Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1996 (“PLRA”), 28
U.S.C. § 1915, applies to prisoners proceeding in
forma pauperis in this Court. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(h).
The PLRA provides in part that “the court shall dismiss
the case at any time if the court determines that . . . the
action . . . (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to
state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Since
Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma
pauperis, his Complaint is subject to the case screening
procedures set forth in the PLRA.
claims Defendants violated his constitutional right to due
process when the prison disciplinary process resulted in a
reduction in his custodial classification level and the
revocation of privileges for six months. To invoke the
protections of the Due Process Clause, Plaintiff must have a
protected liberty interest at stake. In the prison context, a
constitutionally protected liberty interest is “limited
to freedom from restraint which . . . imposes atypical and
significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the
ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484-85 (1995) (finding the
discipline of inmates by prison officials is consistent with
the expectations of the sentence imposed by a court of law).
change in an inmate's classification level is not an
atypical or significant hardship warranting constitutional
protection. Wilkerson v. Stalder, 329 F.3d 431,
435-36 (5th Cir. 2003) (noting that “[t]his circuit has
continued to hold post-Sandin that an inmate has no
protectable liberty interest in his classification”).
The classification of prisoners falls well within the broad
discretion of prison officials and should be “free from
judicial intervention.” McCord v. Maggio, 910
F.2d 1248, 1250-51 (5th Cir. 1990) (citations omitted).
Plaintiff clearly does not have a “constitutionally
protected interest in either a custodial classification or
the possibility of earning good-time credits.”
Thomas v. Jordan, No. 07-60071, 2008 WL 4649095, at
*1 (5th Cir. Oct. 21, 2008) (citing Neals v.
Norwood, 59 F.3d 520, 533 (5th Cir. 1995)). A reduction
in Plaintiff's classification level or loss of the
ability to earn sentence credits associated with a specific
classification level does not implicate due process
privilege restrictions, like those in this case, are
“merely changes in the conditions of [Plaintiff's]
confinement and do not implicate due process concerns.”
Madison v. Parker, 104 F.3d 765, 768 (5th Cir.
1997); see Lewis v. Dretke, No. 02-40956, 2002 WL
31845293, at *1 (5th Cir. Dec. 11, 2002) (finding
restrictions on commissary, telephone, recreation, and
library privileges as well as attendance at religious
services, along with 15 days of solitary confinement,
resulting from allegedly false disciplinary charges does not
implicate due process); Berry v. Brady, 192 F.3d
504, 508 (5th Cir. 1999) (observing that prisoners have no
constitutional right to visitation privileges and that
restrictions on those privileges do not implicate any due
process concerns). Since Plaintiff does not have a
constitutionally protected right to a specific classification
level or certain privileges while in prison, Defendants did
not violate his due process rights. Therefore,
Plaintiff's complaints regarding the RVR for possession
of major contraband and resulting punishment are legally
frivolous. See, e.g., Lewis v. Dretke, No.
02-40956, 2002 WL 31845293, at *1 (5th Cir. Dec. 11, 2002)
(finding inmate's due process claims related to prison
disciplinary action frivolous).
Prison grievance system
also claims that Defendants Errington and Pennington violated
his constitutional rights when they denied his appeals of
this disciplinary action within the prison grievance system.
An inmate does not have a federally protected liberty
interest in having a prison grievance investigated or
resolved to his satisfaction. Geiger v. Jowers, 404
F.3d 371, 373-74 (5th Cir. 2005). Therefore, an inmate does
not suffer a constitutional violation when his appeal within
the prison grievance system is “arbitrarily and
capriciously denied.” Staples v. Keffer, 419
Fed.Appx. 461, 463 (5th Cir. 2011) (finding “a prisoner
does not have a constitutional right to a grievance procedure
at all, and he has no due process liberty interest in having
his grievances resolved to his satisfaction.”). Because
Plaintiff has no protected liberty interest in having his