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Roberts v. Pruitt

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 20, 2014

AARON B. ROBERTS, DOC #359-709, SID #230861[1] Plaintiff,
v.
CASE MANAGER WARREN PRUITT[2] CASE MANAGER KEITH BROWN[3] GREGG L. HERSHBERGER, SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES[4], Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

GEORGE LEVI RUSSELL, III, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a Maryland Division of Correction ("DOC") prisoner currently housed at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland ("WCI"), seeks money damages and injunctive relief requiring implementation of policies and procedures to clarify mail services available to indigent prisoners.[5] Plaintiff's claim for relief, filed as a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, is predicated on a 2011 incident wherein he missed a filing deadline in a state court case. The case is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10) and Plaintiff's opposition thereto.[6] (ECF No. 18). No hearing is needed to resolve the issue raised in the Complaint. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).

Plaintiff's Allegations

Plaintiff states his constitutional right to access to the courts was violated when the Defendants Brown and Pruitt failed to provide him with copies of legal documents in a timely manner, causing an untimely filing of a pleading in state court resulting in a dismissal of that case. Brown and Pruitt, case managers at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI") responsible for prisoner copy work during the time at issue here, are sued in their individual and official capacities. (ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 18 at 3).[7] Plaintiff names the current Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS") based on his role in "implement[ing] policies and procedures" designed to ensure prisoners are provided prompt copy work when pursuing legal matters. (ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 18 at 3).

Defendants' Response

Defendants contend that Plaintiff's own actions, rather than those of Defendants, resulted in the dismissal of his state court case. They further contend that Defendants are immune from damages, that any violation of state law or regulation is not actionable in this forum, [8] and that the granting of injunctive relief clarifying the process required for copying prisoner legal material is not warranted.

Standard of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b) (6) is to test the sufficiency of Plaintiff's Complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro , 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted does not require Defendant to establish "beyond doubt" that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 561-62 (2007). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Id. at 562. The Court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs , 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, see Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst , 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

In reviewing the Complaint in light of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc. , 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005); Ibarra v. United States , 120 F.3d 472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997); Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari , 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int=l Inc. , 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A. , 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the "simplified pleading standard" of Rule 8(a)).

Plaintiff's "obligation to provide the grounds' of his entitlement to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, the Complaint does not need "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss. Id . Instead, "once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Id. at 563. Thus, a Complaint need only state "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

B. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) which 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 ...

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