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Wood v. Oregon Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Oregon

September 17, 2019

LANCE CONWAY WOOD, Plaintiff,
v.
OREGON DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; J. MILLS; NICHOLE BROWN; GREG CLARK; LARRY BENNETT, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          Mustafa T. Kasubhai, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff is a Utah state prisoner housed at Eastern Oregon Correctional Institutional (EOCI) pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact. Plaintiff filed suit in January 2014 and alleged that Oregon Department of Corrections (ODOC) officials denied him access to the courts, improperly rejected or delayed his mail, and improperly limited visiting and marriage privileges. The court dismissed plaintiff's claims for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and after plaintiff appealed, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and remanded the case as to one claim. Defendants now move for summary judgment on plaintiff's remaining claim. For the following reasons, defendants' motion is granted.[1]

         BACKGROUND

         In 2012, plaintiff was housed in an Idaho correctional facility and preparing for trial in a lawsuit he had filed against Idaho correctional officials. Am. Compl. at 3 (ECF No. 5). At the time, Renee McKenzie - now Renee Wood (Ms. Wood) - worked at an Idaho law office as a paralegal, and she and plaintiff met in relation to plaintiff's litigation efforts. Ms. Wood offered to help plaintiff after the law office in which she worked declined to accept representation in his case. Id. at 3-4. The District Court for the District of Idaho (Idaho District Court) appointed Ms. Wood as plaintiff's volunteer legal assistant - not as his lawyer - to help plaintiff prepare for trial. Eventually, the Idaho District Court became troubled by Ms. Wood's tendency to overstep the boundaries of her role, particularly her attempts to circumvent prison security measures in order “to have unmonitored communication [with plaintiff] under the guise of legal communication.” Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. at 5 (ECF No. 77) (quoting Memorandum Decision & Order at 13-14, Wood v. Idaho Dep't Corr., No. 3:04-cv-99-BLW (D. Idaho April 8, 2013)). In February 2013, the Idaho District Court rescinded Ms. Wood's appointment as plaintiff's volunteer legal assistant. Id.

         In June 2013, plaintiff was transferred to ODOC custody. At that time, ODOC officials learned that Idaho law enforcement authorities were investigating potential criminal charges against Ms. Wood based on her statements to Idaho correctional officials. See Arendell Decl. ¶ 20 (ECF No. 79). The investigation concerned whether Ms. Wood's misrepresented the nature of her phone calls, visits, and correspondence with plaintiff as “legal” rather than “personal” in order to obtain unmonitored access to plaintiff. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

         On June 20, 2013, Ms. Wood applied for Basic Visitation status. ODOC denied her application due to the fact that Ms. Wood had called EOCI prior to plaintiff's transfer and asked about his status. Id. ¶¶ 16-18. ODOC officials were concerned because Ms. Wood possessed confidential housing information about an inmate that was not known to the public.

         On September 2, 2013, Ms. Wood appealed the denial of Basic Visitation. Arendell Decl. ¶ 19. Her appeal was denied due to the pending criminal investigation in Idaho. Id. ¶ 20; see also former Or. Admin. R. 291-127-0230(3) (“A person who has a pending criminal charge(s) is ineligible to visit.”). She was informed that her visitation request would be denied until she could show that the pending legal issues had been resolved. Arendell Decl. ¶ 23 & Exs. 6, 8.

         On February 7, 2014, Ms. Wood provided ODOC with documentation establishing that she would not be charged with any crime in Idaho. One week later, on February 14, 2014, ODOC granted Ms. Wood Basic Visitation status. Id. ¶¶ 26-27.

         On February 18, 2014, Ms. Wood informed ODOC that she had inadvertently checked the “Basic Visitation” box on the visitation application and instead sought Privileged Visitation status. Id. at ¶ 28. Ms. Wood was informed that she was approved for Basic Visitation rather than Privileged Visitation. Id. at ¶ 29.[2]

         On February 27, 2014, plaintiff received a misconduct report for alleged disciplinary rule violations of Distribution I and Racketeering. Arendell Decl. ¶ 30 & Ex. 11. The charges arose after Ms. Wood deposited several hundred dollars into the trust accounts of three ODOC inmates at plaintiff's request. On March 4, 2014, a Hearings Officer found plaintiff guilty of violating ODOC Rule 4.10, Distribution I. Id. ¶ 31 & Ex. 12.

         On September 15, 2014, Ms. Wood appealed her Basic Visitation status and sought Privileged Visitation. Id. ¶ 32. On October 2, 2014, Ms. Wood's request was denied due to her involvement in plaintiff's rule violation. Id. ¶¶ 33-34. Ms. Wood and plaintiff were informed that her visitation status would be eligible for review on February 14, 2015, after one year of Basic Visitation status.

         On February 14, 2015, Ms. Wood's visitation status was reviewed, and she was granted Privileged Visitation status. Id. ¶ 36; Miles Decl. ¶ 4 (ECF No. 78).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff alleges that defendants denied Ms. Wood visiting privileges in retaliation for plaintiff's lawsuits against Idaho correctional officials and his complaints, grievances, and legal claims against ODOC officials.[3] Plaintiff seeks an injunction requiring ODOC to grant Ms. ...


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