from restraint which, while not exceeding the sentence in such an unexpected manner as to give rise to protection by the Due Process Clause of its own force, . . . nonetheless imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life." Id. at 2300; see also Montanye, 427 U.S. at 242 ("As long as the conditions or degree of confinement to which the prisoner is subjected are within the sentence imposed on him for her] and are not otherwise violative of the Constitution, the Due process Clause does not in itself subject an inmate's treatment by prison authorities to judicial oversight.").
As the Court noted in Sandin, the methodology used in Hewitt has unduly shifted the focus of the protected interest inquiry from one based upon the nature of the deprivation to one based upon language of a particular statute. Sandin, U.S. at , 115 S. Ct. at 2299. This approach has "encouraged prisoners to comb regulations in search of mandatory regulations on which to base entitlements to various state privileges," id., created "disincentives for States to codify prison management procedures in the interest of uniform treatment," id., and "led to the involvement of federal courts in the day-to-day management of prisons, often squandering judicial resources with little offsetting benefit to anyone," id.
Therefore, as a threshold matter, courts should determine whether the "conditions suffered were expected within the contour of the actual sentence imposed." Id. at 2301 n.9. Applying that methodology to the facts in Sandin, the Court determined that prison regulations on confinement of an inmate did not create a liberty interest. In making its decision, the Court did not rely on the language of the regulations for mandatory language and substantive predicates. U.S. at , 115 S. Ct. at 2301; cf. Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 471-72. Rather, the Court focused on the particular discipline imposed -- disciplinary segregation for thirty days -- and held that it "did not present the type of atypical, significant deprivation in which a state might conceivably create a liberty interest." Sandin, U.S. at , 115 S. Ct. at 2301. The Court reached this conclusion after reviewing the record (the district court proceeding was resolved by summary judgment) and finding that, "with insignificant exceptions," the inmate's disciplinary segregation "mirrored those conditions imposed upon inmates in administrative and protective custody." Id. The Court supported this conclusion by discussing the various custodial conditions at the particular prison in question and by demonstrating that the plaintiff's segregation "did not work a major disruption in his environment." Id.
Post-Sandin courts have similarly rejected the notion that inmates have a protected liberty interest in remaining among the general population. See, e.g., Mujahid v. Meyer, 59 F.3d 931, 932 (9th Cir. 1995) (Disciplinary segregation for fourteen days did not constitute atypical deprivation sufficient to trigger Due Process Clause.); Seltzer-Bey v. Delo, 66 F.3d 961, 964 (8th Cir. 1995) (The Due Process Clause does not give an inmate a liberty interest in remaining in the general population and the plaintiff failed to identify any regulations or statutes that create such a liberty interest.). But cf. Gotcher v. Wood, 66 F.3d 1097, 1100-01 (9th Cir. 1995) (Reversing district court on its dismissal of an inmate's claim with regard to disciplinary segregation, when, "in contrast to the detailed record in Sandin, the record [on] appeal is insufficient for a determination of whether the disciplinary segregation at issue imposed an 'atypical and significant hardship [on the inmate] in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.'" (quoting Sandin, U.S. at , 115 S. Ct. at 2300)). There is nothing to suggest a contrary result here. The plaintiff does not have a protected liberty interest in a particular security classification, which is analogous to a claimed interest in remaining among the general population. Slezak v. Evatt, 21 F.3d 590, 594 (4th Cir. 1994) ("The federal constitution itself vests no liberty interest in inmates in retaining or receiving any particular security or custody status 'as long as the [challenged] conditions or degree of confinement is within the sentence imposed . . . and is not otherwise violative of the Constitution.'" (quoting Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 468 (internal quotation omitted)))), cert. denied, 513 U.S. 889, 130 L. Ed. 2d 158, 115 S. Ct. 235 (1994)); Newell v. Brown, 981 F.2d 880, 883 (6th Cir. 1992) (same) cert. denied, 510 U.S. 842, 126 L. Ed. 2d 91, 114 S. Ct. 127 (1993); Larson v. Mulcrone, 575 F. Supp. 1, 3 (N.D. Ill. 1982) (same), aff'd, 723 F.2d 914 (7th Cir. 1983); cf. Moody v. Daggett, 429 U.S. 78, 88 n.9, 50 L. Ed. 2d 236, 97 S. Ct. 274 (1976). Accordingly, any due process claim predicated on such an interest fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accord Knox v. Lanham, 895 F. Supp. 750, 759 (D. Md. 1995) (observing, without deciding, that, under Sandin, inmates do not have a protected liberty interest in remaining in their particular security classifications).
B. The defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
Prison officials enjoy qualified immunity from constitutional and statutory claims. Cleavinger v. Saxner, 474 U.S. 193, 206, 88 L. Ed. 2d 507, 106 S. Ct. 496 (1985). As the Supreme court made clear in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982), officials are shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. Id. at 818; see also Hunter v. District of Columbia, 291 U.S. App. D.C. 355, 943 F.2d 69, 75 (D.C. Cir. 1991).
"In order for a person to have a clearly established right, 'the contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right.'" Mahers v. Harper, 12 F.3d 783, 785 (8th Cir. 1993) (quoting Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523, 107 S. Ct. 3034. (1987)). "This is not to say that an official action is protected by qualified immunity unless the very action in question has previously been held unlawful, but it is to say that in the light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness must be apparent." Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640. (citation omitted). This analysis "focuses on the objective legal reasonableness of an official's acts." Harlow, 457 U.S. at 819
The Court must decide whether the plaintiff had a clearly established right not to have detainers issued against him. As a threshold matter, the Court notes that there are no outstanding detainers against the plaintiff. See Federal Bureau of Prisons, Sentry Report, attached to Defendants' Motion as Attachment 1. Thus, the factual predicate for the plaintiff's claims is absent. Even assuming that there were outstanding detainers against him, however, the plaintiff has no clearly established right to be free of them. Indeed, in light of the Court's conclusion that the plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect thereto, a fortiori he fails to demonstrate that the defendants violated any of his "clearly established rights."
C. Sovereign immunity bars any claims against the United States Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, or the individual defendants in their official capacities.
To the extent that the plaintiff seeks damages against the United States or the individual federal defendants in their official capacities, his claims must be dismissed absent a waiver of sovereign immunity. The inherent sovereign immunity of the United States protects it and its agencies from suit absent an express waiver. See United States v. Nordic Village, 503 U.S. 30, 112 S. Ct. 1011, 117 L. Ed. 2d 181 (1992). Sovereign immunity also bars suits for money damages against officials in their official capacities absent a specific waiver by the government. Clark v. Library of Congress, 242 U.S. App. D.C. 241, 750 F.2d 89, 101-02 (D.C. Cir. 1984). Because the Court cannot discern from the plaintiff's Complaint any colorable basis for such a waiver, to the extent the plaintiff asserts any claims for damages against the United States Department of Justice, the United States Bureau of Prisons, or the federal defendants in their official capacities, such claims must be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.
Upon careful consideration of the parties' pleadings, the entire record herein, and the applicable law with respect thereto, the Court will enter an Order of even date herewith consistent with the foregoing Memorandum Opinion GRANTING the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.
January 3, 1996
CHARLES R. RICHEY
United States District Court