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Isom v. Wagatsuma

United States District Court, D. Hawaii

March 30, 2018



          J. Michael Seabright, Chief United States District Judge


         On October 20, 2017, then-Hawaii state inmate and pro se Plaintiff Terence Olsen Isom (“Plaintiff”) filed a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) against Defendants Kauai Community Correctional Center (“KCCC”), Warden Neal Wagatsuma (“Wagatsuma”), and Adult Correctional Officer (“ACO”) Paul Lemke (“Lemke”) (collectively, “Defendants”) in their individual capacities, alleging a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his First Amendment right to “send and receive mail.” ECF No. 29. Before the court is Defendants' unopposed Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 31. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED.


         A. Factual Background

         Upon his admission as a pretrial detainee to KCCC, Plaintiff was given the Inmate Orientation Packet and correspondence list that are provided to all inmates housed at KCCC. Defs.' Concise Statement of Facts (“CSF”) ¶¶ 1, 3, 5-6.[1] The Inmate Orientation Packet provides inmates with information about KCCC's correspondence policies and procedures and information about services available to assist pretrial detainees with business and financial matters. Id. ¶ 2. Inmates are required to submit for approval a list identifying the name, relationship, and address of each person with whom the inmate wishes to correspond while at KCCC. Id. ¶ 3. The KCCC correspondence list includes a policies section specifying that “[f]ormer inmates, parolees, probationers and other persons having pending charges against them will not be approved for correspondence unless written permission is acquired from the Branch Administrator.” Id. ¶ 4; Defs.' Ex. D.

         As alleged in the FAC, Plaintiff submitted the name of his girlfriend, Kimberly Oakes, to be included on his approved correspondence list. FAC at 2. On June 20, 2016, Wagatsuma approved Plaintiff's request to correspond with Kimberly, who had just been released from KCCC custody on June 17, 2016. Defs.' CSF ¶ 7. Thereafter, a KCCC record clerk informed Wagatsuma and Lemke that Plaintiff and Kimberly were codefendants in a pending criminal action and therefore, Plaintiff was not permitted to correspond with Kimberly without written approval from Wagatsuma. Id. ¶ 8.

         Lemke then retrieved a letter Plaintiff wrote to Kimberly and submitted for mailing. Id. ¶ 9. Lemke returned the letter to Plaintiff indicating that permission to correspond with Kimberly was denied because she was a codefendant and former inmate and therefore, in order to correspond with her, Plaintiff needed written permission from the Branch Administrator. Id. Plaintiff did not submit a new request to correspond with Kimberly. Id. ¶ 10.

         Plaintiff then submitted a request to correspond with Kristen Oakes. Id. ¶ 11. In mid-July 2016, Lemke reviewed incoming mail from Kristen, and mistakenly thinking the letter was from Kimberly, marked it “Return to Sender, ” informed Plaintiff, and placed the letter in the outgoing mail. Id. ¶ 12. Plaintiff explained that Kristen was not a codefendant, and on July 15, 2016, Lemke opened the envelope for screening. Id. ¶¶ 13-14. Lemke determined that the envelope contained a letter written by and pictures of Kimberly. Id. ¶ 14. Lemke took the letter to Plaintiff, who admitted that it appeared to have been dictated to Kristen by Kimberly. Id. ¶ 15. Lemke told Plaintiff that he could not correspond with Kimberly through Kristen or another party, took back the letter, and again placed it in the outgoing mail. Id.

         On October 13, 2016, Wagatsuma received a letter from the Kauai Drug Court informing him that the court had directed Kimberly to have no contact with Plaintiff while in the Drug Court program. Id. ¶ 17. Wagatsuma showed that letter to Plaintiff and explained that he would not allow Plaintiff to correspond with Kimberly until permitted by the Kauai Drug Court. Id. ¶ 18. Plaintiff exhausted the grievance process with respect to his inability to correspond with both Kimberly and Kristen. FAC at 2-3.

         Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint on September 26, 2016. ECF No. 1. On April 3 and June 1, 2017, Plaintiff filed Notices of Change of Address, indicating that he is no longer incarcerated at KCCC. ECF Nos. 13, 20. On July 18, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. ECF No. 22. On September 18, 2017, the court granted the Motion and dismissed the Complaint with leave to amend. ECF No. 28. On October 20, 2017, Plaintiff filed the FAC. ECF No. 29.

         As alleged in the FAC, because Defendants denied Plaintiff permission to correspond with Kimberly or Kristen, Plaintiff was unable to give Kimberly “power of attorney so that she could handle [Plaintiff's] financial matters.” FAC at 3. Plaintiff's inability to convey power of attorney to Kimberly resulted in “several thousand dollars of debt and damage to [Plaintiff's] credit.” Id. In addition, Kimberly was unable to get a key made to recover Plaintiff's vehicle from a public parking area, resulting in the vehicle being vandalized and all of Plaintiff's personal belongings being stolen or destroyed. Id. This, and his lack of contact with Kimberly, caused Plaintiff to suffer mentally and emotionally. Id.

         B. Procedural Background

         On January 31, 2018, Defendants filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 31. The court issued a minute order setting this matter for hearing on March 29, 2018, and setting deadlines of March 1, 2018 for Plaintiff's Opposition, and March 8, 2018 for Defendants' Reply. ECF No. 33. The minute order and a Notice to Pro Se Litigants (informing Plaintiff of his obligation in responding ...

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