United States District Court, D. Maryland
ROBERT P. HOWARD, #198806 Plaintiff,
KATHLEEN S. GREENE, WARDEN GARY MAYCOCK, S.C. LT. MATTHEW MITCHELL CO II D. TYLER SERGEANT BARKLEY GREGG HERSHBERGER HEARING OFFICER DAVID SIPES Defendants.
JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.
This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action was filed on March 25, 2014. Plaintiff alleges that he attempted to file a prison administrative remedy procedure ("ARP") grievance against Sergeant Barkley and Correctional Officer Tyler for denying him a meal and locking him in his cell. He complains that Barkley refused to sign the first ARP and give him a receipt. He also claims that Barkley refused to sign a second ARP, forcing him to send a third ARP directly to Security Chief Maycock and Warden Green, which was never responded to by prison personnel. ECF No. 1.
Plaintiff alleges that in retaliation for his filing an ARP, Lieutenant Mitchell forged a threatening letter to Barkley and pretended that it was written by plaintiff. He complains that Adjustment Hearing Officer Sipes allowed the fabricated writing to be entered into evidence and used against him. Plaintiff states that he was found guilty of the infraction and sanctioned with 75 days of segregation and the loss of 75 days good conduct time ("GCT"). ECF No. 1 at Attachments.
On June 9, 2014, defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment which has been treated as a motion for summary judgment. ECF No. 11. Plaintiff has filed an opposition response. ECF No. 14. The undersigned has examined the record and finds that no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For reasons to follow, defendants' dispositive motion will be granted.
II. LEGAL STANDARD
Rule 56(a) of the federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that:
A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on which summary judgment is sought. 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. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.
"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 former 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) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)). "The party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment may not rest upon mere allegations or denials of [its] pleading, but must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Rivanna Trawlers Unlimited v. Thompson Trawlers, Inc., 840 F.2d 236, 240 (4th Cir. 1988).
According to the declaration of Sergeant Michelle Switalski, on January 27, 2014, Security Chief Maycock received a note from plaintiff concerning an ARP he had filed and a request "of a new method of filing" the ARP. ECF No. 11, Ex. 1 at Switalski Decl. She further affirms that on February 11, 2014, plaintiff was assigned to administrative segregation and issued an infraction citing him with violating Rule 100 (engaging in a disruptive act); Rule 104 (use of intimidating, coercive, or threatening language); and Rule 405 (demonstrating disrespect or use of vulgar language) as a result of an investigation conducted by Lieutenant Matthew Mitchell. Id. Mitchell attests that in January of 2014, plaintiff handed him an ARP which alleged that he had been denied a bag lunch on January 8, 2014. Id., Ex. 2 at Mitchell Decl. Mitchell maintains that as the ARP was addressed and handled informally by Sergeant Barkley, he did not formally file the ARP, "as instructed by ARP protocols." Plaintiff, dissatisfied that his ARP had not been filed, submitted a complaint to Security Chief Maycock regarding the failure to process his ARP. In February of 2014. Mitchell met with plaintiff and addressed his complaints regarding the bag lunch and informed plaintiff that there was no need to file another ARP because the earlier ARP had been informally resolved. Id.
On February 11, 2014, Mitchell received an anonymous note, threatening Sergeant Barkley with physical harm, in his institutional mail box. In addition to this anonymous note was a complaint against Barkley filed by plaintiff. Id. Mitchell attests that the writing on both the note and complaint was similar and after conducting an investigation (review of plaintiff's request slips in his base file), he found the handwriting on the notes, slips, and complaint comparable to each other. Plaintiff was issued a notice of rule infraction for violating Rules 100, 104, and 405. ECF No. 11, Ex. 2 at Mitchell Decl. On March 12, 2014, an adjustment hearing was held by video conference before Independent Hearing Officer David Sipes. Plaintiff was found not guilty of violating Rule 100, but was found guilty of violating Rules 104 and 405 for the use of intimidating, coercive, or threatening behavior and demonstrating disrespect or the use of vulgar language. He was sanctioned with 75 days of segregation and the loss of 75 GCT. He filed this complaint soon after and. according to Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO") Executive Director Scott Oakley, plaintiff did not file a grievance with the IGO regarding the adjustment matter at issue here. Id., Ex. 3 at Oakley Decl.
In his opposition, plaintiff reiterates his claims that personnel failed to process his ARPs and he was falsely cited with an infraction in reprisal for filing his grievances. ECF No. 14. He claims that he was "thwarted" and "fatally incapacitated" from filing ARPs when they were ...