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Williams v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 17, 2014

WAYNE WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN FRANK B. BISHOP, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

ROGER W. TITUS, District Judge.

Before this Court is a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment ("Motion") filed by Correctional Defendants Warden Frank B. Bishop, Jr., Security Chief Michael P. Thomas, Fiscal Chief Donna L. Stigile, Correctional Dietary Manager (CDM) Lance Harbaugh, Lt. Rodney O. Likin, Sgt. Phillip D. Merling, Sgt. Christopher D. Bingaman, Sgt. James E. Krumpach, C.O. II Codey K. Linn, C. O. II Floyd P. Benson, C.O. II Ryan M. Harper, C.O.II Anthony D. Foor, C.O. II Brett A. Wilburn, C.O. II Sean P. Schiebel, C.O. II Marlin E. Randall, C.O. II William L. Logsdon, C.O. II Matthew J. Smith, C.O. II Matthew J. Davis, C.O. II Jeremiah L. Fontaine, Correctional Case Management Specialist II (CCMS II) David M. Bittinger, Correctional Case Management Manager (CCMM) James E. Tichnell, and Correctional Case Management Specialist II (CCMS II) Stephen W. Helmick (ECF No. 85).[1] The Court has reviewed the Motion, related memoranda, and applicable law. No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons presented below, the Court GRANTS the Motion.

Background

Plaintiff alleges that, in retaliation for filing civil rights claims against them, Correctional Defendants placed him in imminent danger by housing him with cellmates they knew or had reason to know would harm him. Compl. 1 (ECF No. 1). In April 2012, Plaintiff states he wrote Warden Bishop and Housing Unit Manager Lt. Likin regarding his cell assignment but did not receive a reply. Id. at 2. In May 2012, Plaintiff asserts he again wrote Warden Bishop and Lt. Likin to explain that he wished to be housed with inmate Taylor. Id. On May 3, 2012, Plaintiff's request was refused and Sgt. Merling notified him that he was not entitled to housing with an inmate of his choosing. Id.

Plaintiff alleges a "campaign of harassment" ensued and included adverse conditions of confinement, personal injuries, and food tampering (ECF No. 23). On May 26, 2012, Plaintiff states Sgt. Bingaman knowingly put him in danger by moving him into a cell occupied by inmate Kelson, who assaulted him on June 15, 2012. Compl. 3. On June 27, 2012, Plaintiff claims that C.O. Wilburn, C.O. Davis, C.O. Benson, C.O. Foor, and Sgt. Merling used excessive force to move him into a cell with inmate Bell and subsequently refused him medical care for his injuries (ECF Nos. 34, 50, 52, 64). Plaintiff also claims various ailments due to the lack of shoes, which he states went missing during the cell changes (ECF No. 56). In addition, Plaintiff insists that C.O. Smith spit in his food on January 24-25 and February 1-2, 2013; that C.O. Fontaine routinely limits his shower time to only nine minutes; that C.O. Fontaine has denied him outside recreation; that C.O. Randall refused him a cell with a window that opens; that C.O. Linn erroneously sanctioned him three-days loss of recreation privileges; that C.O. Schiebel, C.O. Smith, and C.O. Fontaine denied him medical treatment for the flu; that Correctional Defendants working the 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. shift threatened to stop his mail; and that he was generally refused his state-issued clothing order (ECF Nos. 31, 61, 66).

Plaintiff further alleges that Correctional Case Management Specialist Bittinger and Fiscal Chief Stigile failed to provide account information, which prevented him from pursuing his habeas corpus petition in the Circuit Court for Allegany County (ECF No. 33). Plaintiff states he attempted to submit this grievance through the Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") process, but claims he was unable because Correctional Defendants refused to sign (ECF Nos. 33, 43, 55).

Standard of Review

I. Motion to Dismiss

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the purpose of a motion to dismiss is to test the sufficiency of the 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 the defendant to establish "beyond doubt" that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (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 563. The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County 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).

II. Motion for Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), summary judgment requires that the court grant the motion if the movant shows that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that "the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean 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).

"The 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, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to... the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must, however, also 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 quotation marks omitted) (citing Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993) and Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).

In Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986) the Supreme Court explained that in considering a motion for summary judgment, the "judge's function is not himself to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." A dispute about a material fact is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 248. Thus, "the judge must ask himself not whether he thinks the evidence unmistakably favors one side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence presented." Id. at 252.

The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, which exists if the nonmoving party fails to make sufficient showing on an essential element of the case for which he has the burden of proof. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322-23. Therefore, on those issues for which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, it is his responsibility to confront the summary judgment motion with an affidavit or other similar evidence showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.

Analysis

I. Plaintiff Neither Satisfied the Administrative Exhaustion Requirement Nor Showed that Correctional Defendants Forfeited Exhaustion as a Defense

The Court must first examine Correctional Defendants' assertion that several of Plaintiff's claims should be dismissed due to his failure to exhaust available administrative remedies. The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") provides in part that "no action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. ยง 1997e(a) (2012). The Supreme Court has interpreted the language of this provision broadly, holding that the phrase "prison conditions" encompasses "all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002).

The PLRA's exhaustion requirement is designed so that prisoners pursue administrative grievances until they receive a final denial of the claims, appealing through all available stages in the administrative process. Chase, 286 F.Supp.2d at 530; see also Gibbs v. Bureau of Prisons, 986 F.Supp. 941, 943-44 (D. Md. 1997) (dismissing a federal prisoner's lawsuit for failure to exhaust, where the plaintiff did not appeal his administrative claim through all four stages of the BOP's grievance process); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 735 (2001) (affirming dismissal of prisoner's claim for failure to exhaust where he "never sought intermediate or full administrative review after prison authority denied relief"); Thomas v. Woolum, 337 F.3d 720, 726 (6th Cir. 2003) (noting that a prisoner must appeal administrative rulings "to the ...


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