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Administrative Law Court
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SC Administrative Law Court Decisions

Johnny Padgett #179791 vs. SCDOC

South Carolina Department of Corrections

Johnny Padgett #179791

South Carolina Department of Corrections




This matter is before the Administrative Law Judge Division ("Division") pursuant to the appeal of Johnny Padgett, an inmate incarcerated with the Department of Corrections ("Department") since May 17, 2000. On July 27, 2000, Inmate Padgett filed a grievance, stating that a mailroom employment opened and possibly made copies of a letter marked "legal mail." He requested that the Department fire the employee responsible. The Department denied his grievance, stating that the letter was opened by mistake but was not copied. He received a Final Decision from the Department on October 31, 2000, and filed this appeal with the Division on November 22, 2000. On January 26, 2001, the Department filed a Motion to Dismiss, claiming that Appellant's claim was moot or, in the alternative, did not rise to the level of a substantial grievance.

The Division's jurisdiction to hear this matter is derived entirely from the decision of the South Carolina Supreme Court in Al-Shabazz v. State, 338 S.C. 354, 527 S.E.2d 742 (2000). In Al- Shabazz, the Supreme Court created a new avenue by which inmates could seek review of final decisions of the Department of Corrections in "non-collateral" matters, i.e., matters in which an inmate does not challenge the validity of a conviction or sentence, by appealing those decisions to the Division and ultimately to the circuit court pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act. 338 S.C. at 373, 376, 527 S.E.2d at 752, 754. In its appellate capacity, the Division is primarily concerned with ensuring that the appellants receive all procedural process they are due.

"The requirements of procedural due process apply only to the deprivation of interests encompassed by the Fourteenth Amendment's protection of liberty and property." Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 369, 527 S.E.2d at 750, citing Board of Regents of State Colleges v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 92 S.Ct. 2701 (1972). This guarantee of due process is extended only to deprivations of life, liberty, and property resulting from deliberate decisions of government officials. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330, 106 S. Ct. 662, 664 (1986), overruling Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 101 S. Ct. 1908 (1981). Therefore, because mere negligence "cannot work a deprivation in the constitutional sense," a loss of liberty resulting from the negligent act of a state official is not actionable under the Due Process Clause. Id.

In this case, Inmate Padgett complains of a loss resulting from the negligent opening of his legal mail by a Department employee. As such, Inmate Padgett has failed to state a cognizable constitutional claim for which the Division may grant relief. In addition, the relief Inmate Padgett requests, that the offending employee be fired, is not a form of relief the Division may grant. Moreover, the opening of the letter cannot be undone. Accordingly, because this Division will not intercede in internal prison matters absent an inmate complaint of an infringement reaching "constitutional dimensions," see Al-Shabazz, 338 S.C. at 382, 527 S.E.2d at 757, I affirm the Department's final decision.

IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the Department's Motion to Dismiss is GRANTED, and Appellant's appeal is DENIED. The Final Decision of the Department is AFFIRMED.




Administrative Law Judge

Post Office Box 11667

Columbia, South Carolina 29211-1667

April 6, 2001

Columbia, South Carolina

Brown Bldg.






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