Smith v. Collins, No. 18-7313 (4th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff filed suit against various correctional officials under 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging a violation of his procedural due process rights. Plaintiff's claims stemmed from the four years that he spent in solitary confinement in prison. The district court granted summary judgment to the officials on the ground that plaintiff had failed to establish a protected liberty interest.
The Fourth Circuit vacated and held that plaintiff has presented evidence demonstrating that his confinement conditions were severe in comparison to those that exist in general population and that his segregation status may have had collateral consequences relating to the length of his sentence. Furthermore, although the duration of plaintiff's segregated confinement is not as long as the substantial periods of segregated confinement that this court has found sufficient to support a protected liberty interest in the past, prisoners need not languish in
solitary confinement for decades on end in order to possess a cognizable liberty interest under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In this case, the four-plus years that plaintiff spent in administrative segregation is significant enough to tip the scales in his favor, particularly in light of the other evidence of indefiniteness that he relies upon in this case. Therefore, the court held that there is at least a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether plaintiff's conditions of confinement imposed a significant and atypical hardship in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. The court remanded for further proceedings.