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Tarpley v. Stouffer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 21, 2014

STEVEN E. TARPLEY, #307233 Plaintiff,
v.
J. MICHAEL STOUFFER, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III, District Judge.

Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) which is unopposed.[1] The Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted.

Background

Plaintiff alleges that on June 7, 2010, he was improperly transferred from a medium security prison in Jessup, Maryland to North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI") in Cumberland, Maryland. He states the transfer was retaliation for his letter to Representative Elijah Cummings and that he did not receive a due process hearing prior to transfer. Plaintiff claims that NBCI was designed to house maximum security inmates who "pose a high risk of violence, disruption, and potential for escape" and who "cannot be managed in any other type of correctional facility or lesser security." ECF No. 1 at p. 4. He states that he has never displayed any behavior that would warrant classifying him as suitable for assignment to NBCI. Additionally, Plaintiff claims he is entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to being transferred to a super-maximum security facility such as NBCI. Id.

Plaintiff also claims that he is being housed in a "double cell, " but that there are no accommodations made for the two inmates in the cell other than an additional bed. He states that inmates are often locked into the cell for 22 hours per day. Plaintiff also alleges the conditions under which he is confined violate the Eighth Amendment. He claims the cells have no way to secure property; no electrical power for a television or fan; no desk; no shelf to hold hygiene items; no hook to hang a towel or coat; and no provisions to hold a second inmate's television or connect it to the cable terminal. He states no other prison in the state fails to provide a means by which to secure personal property. ECF No. 1 at p. 5.

Plaintiff further alleges that he is only permitted two hours a day out of his cell for recreation while in general population, while at other maximum security prisons inmates in general population are permitted five hours per day out of cell for recreation. He describes the indoor recreation room as measuring approximately 500 square feet before deducting the space taken by five steel tables. He states that on most nights there are more than 40 inmates crowded into the room and there is "standing room only." He claims there is seating for only 16 people, all of whom must wait for a turn to use the telephone, microwave, or shower. Plaintiff alleges these accommodations violate both the fire code and the Eighth Amendment. Id.

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges he was denied an opportunity to present favorable evidence at an adjustment hearing on April 13, 2011, when his request to introduce a security video into evidence was denied. He states he filed an appeal of the adjustment conviction to the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO"), but the IGO claimed they never received his appeal. He alleges that someone else appealed an adjustment conviction that was factually identical to his case and won, but the IGO refused to consider his case. Plaintiff states that case management withheld his paperwork when he asked for copies, and as a result he could not prove he properly appealed the adjustment conviction. ECF No. 6.

Defendants allege that on November 3, 2009, Plaintiff's security status was increased from medium to maximum with a recommendation to transfer him to a disciplinary segregation unit at any maximum security prison. The increase in Plaintiff's security allegedly occurred because of his continued poor adjustment history while confined on segregation. On June 7, 2010, Plaintiff was transferred from Jessup Correctional Institution ("JCI") to NBCI pursuant to the recommendation. ECF No. 18 at Ex. 1, pp. 2-3, 19 & 21.

With regard to Plaintiff's claim in the Amended Complaint, Defendants state that Plaintiff was charged with violating Rule 102 (prohibiting the assault or battery on an inmate) when he was observed hitting inmate James Ross with a closed fist while the two men were in the "big yard" outside Housing Unit 4 at NBCI. The hearing for the infraction took place on April 13, 2011, during which Plaintiff alleged he was the victim and not the aggressor during the fight. Additionally, Plaintiff alleged he had experienced problems with Ross prior to the incident in the yard. Officer Smith testified that Ross was not on Plaintiff's enemies list nor had he ever been found guilty of assaulting another inmate. In response to Plaintiff's request to present the security video, Smith testified that NBCI did not have the resources to copy video for disciplinary hearings and that the Warden's policy was not to produce the video for adjustment hearings. Plaintiff's request for the video was denied by Hearing Officer Sandstrom and, based upon the evidence presented at the hearing, Plaintiff was found guilty of violating Rule 102. As a result, Plaintiff was sentenced to 150 days of segregation; no loss of good conduct credit or other punishment was imposed. ECF No. 18 at Ex. 1, pp. 26-31.

Warden Shearin reviewed and affirmed Sandstrom's decision on May 10, 2011. Plaintiff received Shearin's decision on May 17, 2011. Id . at p. 25. In a letter dated November 4, 2011, addressed to Scott Oakley, Executive Director of the IGO, Plaintiff inquired about the status of his appeal of his adjustment conviction on June 1, 2011. Id . at Ex. 2, pp. 31-33. On January 9, 2012, Deputy Director Robin Woolford responded to Plaintiff's letter explaining there was no record of any paperwork received from him regarding his adjustment conviction. Id . at pp. 29-30. Plaintiff's November 4, 2011 letter was, however, accepted as an appeal of his adjustment conviction and he was told to provide all disciplinary paperwork within 30 days of Woolford's letter. Id.

Plaintiff responded to Woolford's letter in a letter dated January 18, 2012, addressed to Oakley. In it, Plaintiff claimed he had already sent almost all of the paperwork he had relating to his case, but attached a copy of the notice of infraction, appeal to the Warden, an ARP dated April 2, 2011, the hearing record, and the Warden's decision. Id . at pp. 13-27. Subsequently, Woolford advised Plaintiff in a letter dated February 7, 2012, that his IGO case was being administratively dismissed as untimely. Woolford explained that an adjustment appeal to the IGO must be filed within 30 days after receiving the Warden's Hearing Decision Review. Plaintiff's grievance was not received until approximately six months after the date of the Warden's review and good cause for waiver of the time limit had not been shown. Id . at p. 8.

Standard of Review

Summary Judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) which provides:

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 ...

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