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Germain v. Arnold

United States District Court, Fourth Circuit

June 11, 2013

JEAN GERMAIN, Plaintiff,
KEITH ARNOLD, et al., Defendants.


J. FREDERICK MOTZ, District Judge.

Pending is defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF No. 24. Also pending are plaintiff's motions for leave to file an amended complaint (ECF No. 7), for partial summary judgment (ECF No. 14), to join claim (ECF No. 16), and for a hearing (ECF No. 27). Plaintiff was provided notice that he had the right to file a response in opposition to defendants' dispositive motion (ECF No. 25) and warned of the effect of failing to do so, but has not opposed the motion.[1] For the reasons stated below, defendants' motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, shall be granted.


Plaintiff alleges defendants, who are officers at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), handcuffed him behind his back in contravention of a medical order requiring him to be handcuffed in the front due to a shoulder condition. ECF No. 1. He claims the medical order was ignored for the sole purpose of causing him unnecessary pain and emotional distress. Additionally, he claims a policy permitting the security staff to ignore medical orders is unconstitutional. Id., see also ECF No. 7 and 14. The alleged incidents occurred in July and October of 2012.

Defendants assert that on July 16, 2012, Officer Ortt was working in Housing Unit 1, where plaintiff is assigned. The housing unit is populated by inmates on disciplinary and administrative segregation status for more than one year. In that particular housing unit, it is standard procedure to handcuff inmates behind their backs. In cases where a medical order has been written for front handcuffing, medical staff provide three copies of the order to security staff. One copy of the order is given to the inmate, another is kept in the tier officer's logbook, and the third is maintained in the housing unit's control center. The doors in Housing Unit 1 are equipped with a plastic sleeve on the outside to hold the inmate's photo identification. Any medical order regarding cuffing is folded and placed in the sleeve behind the photo, providing access to the order by officers who are charged with escorting the inmate out of the cell or the housing unit. ECF No. 24 at Ex. A.

On July 16, 2012, Ortt was the escort officer on Housing Unit 1, where work was being done to prevent inmates from pulling heaters from the walls for metal parts to make weapons. When workers reached plaintiff's cell, Ortt opened plaintiff's door and ordered him to come out of the cell to be handcuffed. Plaintiff refused to allow Ortt to apply the handcuffs behind his back and insisted he should be cuffed in front. There was no medical order requiring front cuffing in the plastic sleeve on plaintiff's cell door and when Ortt asked plaintiff to show him a copy of the order, plaintiff refused to do so.[2] Plaintiff instead told Ortt he should ask the other officers on the tier about the manner in which he should be handcuffed. Id.

In instances where there is no medical order posted on the cell door or the inmate cannot or will not produce a copy of the order, the standard practice is to contact the control center to ascertain if a copy of the order is there. When Ortt did this, no medical order could be located in the control center, therefore, Ortt cuffed plaintiff behind his back. The work that took place in plaintiff's cell took approximately five minutes to complete. Plaintiff stood outside the cell on the tier and when the work was completed, he was uncuffed and placed back into his cell. While plaintiff waited for the work to be completed, he voiced no complaints regarding pain or distress to Ortt. Id.

On August 30, 2012, Chief of Security Keith Arnold changed the procedure for handcuffing inmates escorted from their cells in Housing Unit 1, following several instances where inmates who had been cuffed in front pursuant to medical orders used the opportunity of having their hands in front of them to assault officers who were escorting them. In response to the assaults, Arnold issued a memorandum requiring that all inmates in Housing Unit 1, including those with medical orders for front cuffing, to be cuffed behind their backs when removed from their cells for short periods of time and for movement within the housing unit. Inmates with medical orders for front cuffing are, however, accommodated through use of cuffs with a much longer chain between the wrists, making it possible for their hands to rest on their buttocks and avoiding a rearward pull of their arms and shoulders. When Housing Unit 1 inmates are removed from their cells for longer periods of time, they are restrained using three-point restraints. The use of the three-point restraints minimizes the inmate's ability to move his arms and hands because the handcuffs are attached to a waist chain and black box. While housing unit managers retain discretion to authorize front-cuffing in cases of obviously serious medical conditions which would make cuffing behind the back painful or impractical, it is correctional policy that all disciplinary segregation inmates must be handcuffed behind their back at all times during escort. Defendants assert that medical orders do not supersede security decisions. ECF No. 24 at Ex. B.

On October 30, 2012, Officer Leroy Conrad escorted plaintiff to a shower on the tier. In compliance with Arnold's August 30, 2012 memorandum, Conrad ordered plaintiff to place his hands behind his back to be cuffed. Although plaintiff complied with the order, he told Conrad, "I'm going to sue you for this." Walking to and from the shower on tier takes approximately one minute and plaintiff was cuffed during his shower. Plaintiff did not appear to be in distress nor did Conrad notice plaintiff exhibiting any signs of pain or distress. The escort to and from the shower was uneventful. Id. at Ex. C.

Standard of Review

Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that the "court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion. "By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

"A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court must "view the evidence in the light most favorable to... the nonmovant, and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witnesses' credibility, " Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002), but the court also must abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotations omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).

Pending Non-Dispositive Motions

In his motion for preliminary injunction, plaintiff asserts that defendants are aware of the medical order requiring front cuffing and are ignoring it causing him to suffer physical and mental injuries. ECF No. 4. A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy. See Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008). To obtain a preliminary injunction, a movant must demonstrate: 1) that he is likely to succeed on the merits; 2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; 3) that the balance of equities tips in his favor; and 4) that an injunction is in the public interest. See Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc, 555 U.S. 7, 129 S.Ct. 365, 374 (2008); The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Federal Election Commission, 575 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2009), vacated on other grounds, ___ U.S. ___ , 130 S.Ct. 2371 (2010), reinstated in relevant part on remand, 607 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curiam). Additionally, "to survive summary judgment, he must come forward with evidence from which it can be inferred that the defendant-officials were at the time suit was filed, and are at the time of summary judgment, knowingly and unreasonably disregarding an objectively intolerable risk of harm, and that they will continue to do so; and finally to establish eligibility for an injunction, the inmate must demonstrate the continuance of that disregard during the remainder of the litigation and into the future." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. ...

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