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Barnes v. Riddick

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 15, 2014

JANET RIDDICK, et al., Defendants.


DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, District Judge.

Pending in this civil rights case is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment. ECF 15. Plaintiff was advised of his right to file an Opposition Response and of the consequences of failing to do so, but has filed nothing opposing the motion. ECF 16. Also pending is Plaintiff's Motion for Recusal of the undersigned from this case. ECF 12. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted and Plaintiff's Motion for Recusal shall be denied.

Allegations in Complaint

Plaintiff Juan Sylvester Barnes ("Barnes") alleges that on December 14, 2012, he was transferred from a local county detention center to Maryland Reception Diagnostic Classification Center (MRDCC). On January 3, 2013, he was called to see a classification counselor, Defendant Janet Riddick ("Riddick"). He claims she spoke very quickly and would not slow down despite advising her that he is "slow" and needs more time to comprehend things. Riddick allegedly told Barnes, "well you understand how much time you have" and "there you have it." Barnes then informed Riddick he had enemies who were currently incarcerated in the Maryland Division of Correction (DOC) and provided her with two names: Cyril Williams and Andre Stevenson. Additionally, Barnes told Riddick he was a government informant and testified against both Williams and Stevenson, who were both convicted in part because of his testimony. Barnes states that both Williams and Stevenson's names were noted on his "Enemy List Alert." ECF 1 at p. 1.

Subsequent to his meeting with Riddick, Barnes was transferred to North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI) where he was assigned to "D tier." Upon his arrival on January 6, 2013, Barnes was placed in a cell with inmate David Wright. Barnes states that the tier was on lock-down because of a recent stabbing and cell searches were taking place. At some point during the cell searches, Wright walked over to the cell door and stated, "that's my man C.'" Barnes became concerned because he believed Wright was referring to Cyril Willaims, the man Barnes had testified against in a murder trial involving a state trooper. When Barnes went to the door to look, his suspicions were confirmed. ECF 1 at pp. 1-2.

Barnes told Wright about the history between himself and Williams. Wright advised Barnes to "get out of here" because if Williams saw Barnes he would retaliate against him for testifying against him at trial. Additionally, Wright advised that if word got out that Barnes was an informant his life would be in danger generally. During the conversation the cell door was opened and Barnes's name was called for "medical." Barnes claims when he walked out onto the tier he locked eyes with Cyril Williams, who smiled at Barnes and said, "got yo (sic) ass Mr. Barnes." ECF 1 at p. 2.

When Barnes arrived at the medical unit he states that the nurse could see he was visibly shaking and looked like he had been crying. He told staff that he had an enemy housed in the cell next to his, but was told he would be safe that night because there was no recreation for the tier at that time. Barnes wrote a request slip regarding the presence of Williams on his tier, but got no response that night. He states he wrote another request slip at an unspecified time and, in order to protect himself, stayed in the cell under the bunk. He stayed there until after his cellmate left the cell for recreation. ECF 1 at pp. 2-3.

When Barnes' cellmate Wright, returned to the cell after recreation, he told Barnes that he had intervened with Cyril Williams on his behalf. He claimed there was a plan to run into the cell where Barnes was and kill him, but Wright got Williams to abandon the plan if Barnes agreed to write a letter to the prosecutor for Williams's case apologizing for lying on the stand. Barnes was given 30 days to write the letter, have it notarized, and send it to the State's Attorney's office or he would "get chopped up." Barnes claims he told Wright he could not write the letter because it would be perjury and Wright told him if he did not write the letter Barnes would be killed. In addition, Wright told Barnes that Wright's life was now in jeopardy if Barnes did not sign the letter because he had vouched for him. ECF 1 at p. 3.

Barnes states he never had a chance to get the letter notarized because on January 13, 2013, he was removed from his cell and told he would have to go on protective custody. Barnes was told by case manager Zies that Barnes's mother, Betty Ransome, had called DOC headquarters to ask if Cyril Williams was in the same region as Barnes. She based her inquiry on the fact that she had searched Williams's name on the DOC's website and it showed Williams and Barnes were at the same prison. ECF 1 at p. 4.

In his court-ordered Amended Complaint, Barnes names as Defendants Felicia Hinton, the warden of MRDCC and Janet Riddick, the case manager who interviewed him at MRDCC. He states Hinton is responsible for the operation of MRDCC and the welfare of the inmates housed there and Riddick was responsible for calculating time of confinement and classifying inmates. Barnes claims that Cyril Williams was listed as his enemy since December of 2010 and that "there is no way it could have been removed." Barnes asserts he suffered emotional injury as a result of being sent to the same prison as Williams and continues to suffer anxiety. ECF 3 at pp. 4-5. As relief, Barnes seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting the DOC from housing him with any of his known enemies as well as monetary damages. ECF 1 at p. 4; ECF 3 at p. 6.

Motion for Recusal

Barnes asserts this court has been unfair to him in prior litigation because an investigation into his claims was not initiated by the court and the facts asserted were not construed in his favor. Additionally, he claims he has a learning disability which makes it difficult for him to read. He states this court was biased against him in one particular case concerning his claim that police used excessive force against him and he takes issue with this court's findings of fact in that case. He claims a settlement hearing in another case where he was represented by counsel, should have been transcribed because he was not present and adds that it is clear to him that the undersigned does not like him. He seeks to have all of his cases transferred to the United States District Court for New York. ECF 12.

Recusal is not appropriate under the circumstances. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 144, recusal can be considered whenever a party to any proceeding files a sufficient affidavit stating that the judge before whom a case is assigned has a personal bias or prejudice either against that party or in favor of another party. A motion for recusal must also be accompanied by a certificate of counsel stating that the motion is made in good faith. Another section of the code, 28 U.S.C.§ 455, requires a federal judge to recuse herself "in any proceeding in which h[er] impartiality might reasonably be questioned." Any alleged bias "must stem from an extrajudicial source and result in an opinion on the merits on some basis other than what ...

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