United States District Court, District of Maryland
Tyrone Boone, Plaintiff, Pro se, Westover, MD.
For Tracy Palmer Taylor, Defendant: Stephanie Judith Lane Weber, State of Maryland, Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, MD.
For office of the attorney general, Interested Party: Stephanie Judith Lane Weber, State of Maryland, Office of the Attorney General, Baltimore, MD.
RICHARD D. BENNETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action seeks declaratory relief and money damages against Correctional Officer Tracy Taylor (" Taylor"). Plaintiff Tyrone Boone (" Boone"), a Maryland Division of Correction (" DOC") prisoner, claims that while he was working in the kitchen at Jessup Correctional Institution (" JCI"), Taylor slandered him by calling him " gay" and placed him on " lock down" without cause. Boone claims after the incident he was " fired" from his prison job, was threatened by staff and inmates, and transferred to another prison to prevent him from using the Administrative Remedy Procedure (" ARP") process to seek " redress." ECF 1, pp. 3-4. Taylor through counsel has filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF 8) which remains unopposed. A hearing is not needed to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2014), For the reasons that follow, that motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is GRANTED.
Standard of Review
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 Supreme Court has articulated the proper framework for analysis:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only " a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, " in order to " give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, " Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, ibid .; Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (C.A.7 1994), a plaintiff's obligation to provide the " grounds" of his " entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts " are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation"). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, see 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed.2004) (hereinafter Wright & Miller) (" [T]he pleading must contain something more ... than ... a statement of facts that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable right of action"), on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact), see, e.g., Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N. A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n. 1, 122 S.Ct. 992, 152 L.Ed.2d 1 (2002); Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338(1989) (" Rule 12(b)(6) does not countenance ... dismissals based on a judge's disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations"); Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974) (a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears " that a recovery is very remote and unlikely").
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (footnotes omitted).
This standard does not require Taylor to establish " beyond doubt" that Boone can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Id. at 563. 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. 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, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (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).
Defendant Taylor has styled her Motion as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. Given the exhibits included with the Motion, it is apparent that Taylor intends to seek summary judgment. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011). Ordinarily, a court " is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss." Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, " the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, " but " [a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When the movant expressly captions its motion " in the alternative" as one for summary judgment, and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur; the court " does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998). In any event, in accordance with Roseboro, 528 F.2d at 310, Boone was informed of his right to file a response to the Motion, and the opportunity to submit affidavits, declarations, and other documentary evidence. As noted, he filed no opposition response.
A district judge has " complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it." 5 C WRIGHT & MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion " should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties" procedural rights." Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material " is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, " and " whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure" is necessary. Id. at 165-67.
Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate " where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery." E.I. de Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011). However, " the party opposing summary judgment 'cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'" Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). Generally, to raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the party opposing the motion must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why, " for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, " without needed discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f)). Boone has not filed an affidavit under Rule 56(d). Accordingly, it is appropriate to address Defendant Taylor's Motions as a Motion for Summary Judgment.
Summary judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), which provides, in part: 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. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). The non-moving party must demonstrate that there are disputes of material fact so as to preclude the award of summary judgment as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith, Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986). 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. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (emphasis in original). A fact ...