United States District Court, D. Maryland
ELLEN LIPTON HOLLANDER, District Judge.
Self-represented plaintiff Scotland Williams, a Maryland prisoner incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"), has filed suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the Eighth Amendment. ECF 1. He names a host of defendants: Gary D. Maynard, as Secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS"); Deputy Secretary of Operations J. Michael Stouffer; Warden Bobby Shearin; Warden Frank B. Bishop, Jr.; Sgt. Brett E. Payton; CO II Scott P. Biggs; CO II Robert R. Holler; CO II Kenneth W. McDowell; CO II Richard A. Porter; and CO II Phillip D. Tasker. ECF 19. Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (ECF 19, the "Motion"). The Motion is supported by a memorandum and several exhibits. Plaintiff has not filed a response.
No hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, shall be granted.
Plaintiff alleges that he is serving two life sentences without parole, plus 70 years. ECF 1 at 4. He claims that he has "been single-celled for over 15 years because psychologist[s] feel he presents a danger to himself and others." Id. Moreover, plaintiff claims he is "legally blind" and "suffers from a seizure disorder." Id. According to plaintiff, his medically prescribed eye-glasses were improperly confiscated by correctional staff while he was at Western Correctional Institution ("WCI"). ECF 1 at 7-8.
By way of background, plaintiff explains that on September 30, 2011, he was transferred to WCI from NBCI. Id. at 4. Plaintiff states that, pursuant to psychologist orders at NBCI, he was assigned to a single cell. He indicates that he advised the WCI escort officers that he was "on single-cell status, '" id. at 4, but they advised him that the NBCI psychologist had "no say'" over his cell assignment at WCI. Id. at 5.
Plaintiff was assigned to a double cell with Inmate Aaron Scott, on administrative segregation, in "extremely tight quarters, " where the two were confined for 23 hours a day. Id. at 5. He told Scott that "the cell was not big enough for the both of them." Id. According to plaintiff, he "fashioned a weapon out of razors and decided he would cut [Scott's] throat and any other inmate WCI dared double-cell him with." Id. at 5.
Later, Officers McDowell and Hollers removed Scott and plaintiff from the cell to escort them for showers. Plaintiff advised Hollers that the cell was too small and he wanted to speak with the shift supervisor. Hollers declined the request. Id. at 5. Plaintiff then broke away from Hollers and "ran down the tier with the intent of speaking to the shift supervisor, " but he was "grabbed" by Hollers and Officer Tasker. Id. at 5-6. They "dragged" him into a back room and "shoved him against the wall while shouting obscenities and threats." Id. at 6. Plaintiff states that other unidentified officers came behind him and punched him repeatedly, asking what his problem was. Id. When he replied that he was "not suppose[d] to be double-celled, '" the officers "were not satisfied" with his response and "collapsed him face down on the floor grabbing his legs and handcuffed arms to carry him back to the cell." Id. at 6. Plaintiff states that he struggled with the officers as they carried him back to the cell, and said, "I'm gonna file a lawsuit on all of you first chance I get if you dirty pigs put me back in that cell.'" Id. According to plaintiff, an unidentified officer then knelt on his back and said, "You can't sue, what you can't see'" and removed plaintiff's eyeglasses. Id. Plaintiff was then "thrown" into his cell. Id.
Plaintiff claims that he asked Officer Payton to return his eyeglasses. Id. at 7. However, he was told his attitude regarding double-celling and threats regarding lawsuits "won't get his eyeglasses back." Id. at 7.
Plaintiff admits that he "pulled the razor weapon he made from his shirt" and told Payton that he "was gonna cut Scott's throat'" when he returned to the cell. Id. In response, Payton sprayed plaintiff with "mace." Id.  Plaintiff dropped his weapon and was removed from the cell to "special observation housing (S.O.H.) suicide watch." Id.
On October 4, 2011, plaintiff was released from suicide watch. He states that he made numerous requests for the return of his eyeglasses but was advised that it was up to the Warden whether he would receive them "because plaintiff was labeled a trouble maker." Id. On October 6, 2011, plaintiff was transferred on an emergency basis back to NBCI. Id. He states that he believes he was transferred because of his threat of filing law suits and his unruly conduct. Id.
A week after plaintiff returned to NBCI, all of his property was returned to him except the eyeglasses. Id. at 8. According to plaintiff, without his glasses, his vision "falls within the parameters of a definition of blindness." Id.
On October 17, 2011, plaintiff submitted a sick call slip seeking replacement of the confiscated glasses. Id. at 8. He received replacement glasses on January 23, 2012. Id. Plaintiff states that as a result of being without his glasses for a few months, he experienced impairment of his regular activities, reading, writing, recognizing people, etc. Id. He also states he suffered anxiety and unremitting severe and debilitating headaches, which he believes caused neurological damage and resulted in his being found unconscious and diagnosed with a seizure disorder in February 2012. Id. He is currently taking anti-seizure medication. Id.
Further, plaintiff claims he has exhausted his administrative remedies, beginning in November 2011. Id. at 9. His grievance was dismissed. Id.
Defendants indicate that on September 30, 2011, Sgt. Payton was the Officer in Charge of Housing Unit 5, which houses inmates on segregation. See ECF 19-3 (Declaration of Payton), Ex. B at 2. In his Declaration, Payton recounts that at approximately 6:50 p.m. on September 30, 2011, McDowell and Holler removed plaintiff and Scott from their cells for their showers. As they exited the cell, plaintiff broke away from Holler and ran down the tier where Tasker tried to stop him by grabbing his arm. Plaintiff fell to the floor. Id. Tasker and Holler got Williams to his feet and escorted him behind door 6 to regain control of Williams. Id. at 3. Payton left the Control Center and joined the officers subduing plaintiff. He tried to talk to Williams but Williams would not answer any questions. Id. Payton avers that none of the officers struck plaintiff or used profane language toward him. Payton directed Tasker and Holler to return plaintiff to his cell. Plaintiff became combative during the escort to his cell and the officers needed to carry him to the cell, with Holler taking hold of one leg and Payton the other. Id.
Thereafter, Payton spoke to plaintiff's cellmate, Aaron Scott, who advised that plaintiff had been saying "crazy things'" ever since plaintiff entered the cell. Id. Payton returned to plaintiff's cell to check on plaintiff and "saw him holding a home-made weapon" and "threatening to cut himself." Id. Payton directed plaintiff to drop the weapon but plaintiff refused to comply. Id. Payton again directed plaintiff to drop the weapon and warned that he would be pepper sprayed. Id. Plaintiff again refused. Payton then "applied a burst of pepper spray through the feed-up slot, " and plaintiff "immediately dropped the weapon on the floor. Id. Williams was then secured and escorted to the medical unit by Tasker and Payton, where he was examined by Nurse Browning, and treated for exposure to pepper spray. Id. at 4. The medical records, ECF 19-2, Ex. A at 22-23, reflect that plaintiff was seen on September 30, 2011, by Ryan Browning, LPN. Williams was "covered in pepper spray" but "no injuries [were] noted and no injuries were voiced...." Id. at 22.
Plaintiff was placed in Special Observation Housing (SOH) at the direction of Shane Weber, Supervisor of the Psychology Department at WCI. ECF 19-2 at 6. Weber avers in his Declaration that inmates like plaintiff who are placed in SOH due to threats of self-harm or because they have demonstrated the ability to make a weapon are not allowed to possess items that could be made into weapons. ECF 19-5 (Weber Declaration), Ex. D at 2-3. Such items include the arms and lenses of eyeglasses, pencils, pens, plastic cups, plastic eating utensils, or other similar items. Id. at 3. According to Weber, eyeglasses have been used by inmates to make weapons. Id. Therefore, eyeglasses are confiscated from any inmate placed in SOH on a suicide watch, along with all other property in the inmate's possession. Id. Inmates in SHO on suicide watch are visually checked by staff every fifteen minutes. Psychology staff determines when it is safe to release the inmate from SOH and return him to regular housing. Id.
Additionally, Payton avers that plaintiff did not threaten, in his presence, to file a lawsuit against him or any other staff. ECF 19-3 at 4. Payton and Holler both aver that they did not confiscate plaintiff's glasses, and did not observe any other staff take plaintiff's glasses. ECF 19-3 at 4; ECF 19-4 (Declaration of Holler), Ex. C at 3. And, Holler denies speaking to plaintiff about his single cell status or plaintiff's desire to speak to a supervisor. ECF 19-4 at 2. He avers that he did not have authority to order the change of plaintiff's cell but would not have denied him an opportunity to speak to a supervisor. Id. at 3. Further, Holler asserts that no officer involved in the incident used obscene or threatening language toward plaintiff, nor did any officer punch plaintiff. Id.
Plaintiff was evaluated by medical staff on October 6 and 20, 2011, November 2, 2011, December 9, 13, 22, 27, 2011, and January 6, and 12, 2012. ECF 19-6 (Medical Records), Ex. E at 7, 8, 10, 13, 15-21, 23, 26-28. At no time did he complain of headaches or other problems due to the confiscation of his eyeglasses. Id. On January 23, 2012, he received eyeglasses and reported, "They are good." Id. at 29.
A Use of Force investigation was conducted as to the events of September 30, 2011. See ECF 19-2 at 4-39. Lieutenant Robert Gray concluded that the amount of force used and the method of use were consistent with established procedures. Id. at 6. Captain George W. Garlitz agreed. Id. at 7.
Standard of Review
Defendant's motion is styled 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. ECF 19. A motion styled in this manner implicates the court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., 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, " and "[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 ...