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Farid v. Smith

decided: June 22, 1988.

MUJAHID FARID, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
HAROLD J. SMITH, SUPERINTENDENT OF THE ATTICA CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE



Appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, John T. Curtin, Ch. J., granting appellee's motion for summary judgment and dismissing the 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action herein. Affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded.

Kearse, Pierce, and Pratt, Circuit Judges.

Author: Pierce

PIERCE, Circuit Judge:

This is an appeal from a judgment of the United States District Court for the Western District of New York, John T. Curtin, Ch. J., granting summary judgment in favor of the defendant-appellee, Harold J. Smith, the former superintendent of the Attica Correctional Facility ("Attica"). In April, 1984, appellant Mujahid Farid, an inmate then serving a sentence at Attica, commenced an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Smith had violated his constitutional rights by promulgating, promoting, and sanctioning various procedures carried out by officials working in the prison's package room. Farid in effect alleged that these procedures, which resulted in depriving him of certain items that prison officials had classified as contraband, violated (1) his right to a pre-deprivation notice and hearing, which, he asserts, is required by the fourteenth amendment, and (2) unspecified rights under the first and fourth amendments. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

At issue herein are certain procedures, in place at Attica during the early 1980's, relating to inmate property rights. A memorandum issued in February, 1983, by Acting Superintendent H.J. Speckard sets forth Attica's policy in the following terms:

From time to time an inmate will receive merchandise in a package which is not allowed into the facility. The inmate has three options. He may send the property home, give it to a charitable organization or have it destroyed. If the inmate leaves the package room without designating one of the above, it will be considered authorization for the facility to donate the property to a charitable organization.

In addition, the record suggests that any item of property confiscated from a prisoner's cell would be sent to the package room and be subject to the same disposition. Although a prisoner whose property was affected by this policy could file an "inmate grievance complaint" within six days of a deprivation, the record does not reveal that inmates were accorded any further opportunity to contest the deprivation.

The incidents giving rise to this action began in September, 1982, when prison authorities confiscated a tape player which Farid had loaned to another prisoner, allegedly in violation of a state regulation prohibiting inmates from exchanging property with one another. Farid contends that he was called to the package room on September 20 and informed that he could send the tape player to someone outside the prison, or else have it destroyed. Farid declined to exercise either of these options, whereupon the tape player was donated to charity. Farid filed a grievance the following day, but he received no further hearing on the matter.

The next incident arose on March 20, 1983, when package room officials refused to deliver to Farid a package containing two books on Tarot and a deck of Tarot cards. According to Farid, the only reason he was given at the time was that the officers could not "remember this type of material [ever] being allowed in." Farid filed a grievance, and was given a hearing before a grievance committee. Although the committee recommended that a prison chaplain review the incident, Superintendent Smith denied the recommendation and declared the materials contraband. Farid subsequently commenced an action against Smith in state court, alleging that Smith had violated his due process, equal protection, and first amendment rights. On December 30, 1983, the state court entered judgment for Farid, holding (1) that Farid was entitled to possession of the Tarot materials; (2) that the "policies and practices" denying him the materials were unconstitutional; and (3) enjoining Smith from interfering with Farid's efforts to obtain the materials. However, the Tarot books and cards were never turned over to Farid.

Four other incidents took place during 1983 and 1984. On July 23, 1983, prison officials confiscated a set of Everlast exercise gloves uncovered during a search of Farid's cell. Once again, Farid filed a grievance; this time, his grievance was dismissed on the ground that the gloves were "state property." On February 13, 1984, the package room personnel refused to allow Farid to receive a package containing a cassette tape. On March 27, 1984, officials confiscated a pair of pajamas, two pens, and a nail clipper from Farid's cell. Although the pens and the clipper were returned, the pajamas were donated to charity when Farid refused to designate anyone to whom they should be sent. Finally, on August 22, 1984, a package room official refused to allow Farid to receive a package containing a clock. Like the other items, the clock was donated to charity.

In April, 1984, Farid commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Smith in his individual and official capacities, alleging that he had been deprived of the foregoing items of property without due process of law. Farid sought a declaratory judgment stating that Smith's acts, policies, and procedures as described in the complaint infringed on Farid's rights under the first and fourteenth amendments. Farid also sought compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $25,000. Upon consideration of the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, Chief Judge Curtin granted summary judgment in favor of Smith. This appeal followed.

Discussion

I. Eleventh Amendment ...


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