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Carter-El v. Gelsinger

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 23, 2015

DONTAY CARTER-EL, Plaintiff,
v.
ASST. WARDEN DENISE GELSINGER, et al, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

J. FREDERICK MOTZ, District Judge.

Pending in the above-entitled civil rights action is defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment (ECF 16), which is opposed by plaintiff (ECF 21). Also pending is plaintiff's motion for temporary injunction (ECF 22) and defendants' response thereto (ECF 23). The court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).

Background

Plaintiff, an inmate confined at Western Correctional Institution (WCI), alleges that on July 3, 2014, defendants placed him on administrative segregation and confiscated all of his property, including legal papers. He states he had a court date on July 15, 2014, and was required to bring all "photos, documents and other evidence" to the hearing. ECF 1 at p. 3. Despite defendants' knowledge of plaintiff's court date, plaintiff claims they refused to return his paper work. Plaintiff further alleges that defendants knew he had numerous legal deadlines.

Plaintiff claims that a "mandamus order" was issued against the warden of WCI in September of 2013, by Judge Finan of the Circuit Court for Alleghany County in September of 2013. Plaintiff does not state what the order required, but claims he has won and argued more meritorious grievance hearings than any other inmate at WCI or North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI). He asserts that the confiscation of his legal papers is retaliation for his successful litigation of claims and that he will suffer irreparable harm due to the confiscation of his paperwork. Plaintiff does not describe the nature of the pending litigation. ECF 1 at p. 4.

Defendants assert that plaintiff's paperwork was not confiscated by Division of Correction staff; rather, it was seized by the Baltimore City Police Department as a part of an investigation into an allegation made by plaintiff against another inmate, Eric Simmons. Specifically, plaintiff sent a letter to the Baltimore City Police Department stating that Simmons was conspiring with a woman named Tesha Forrest to murder a specific police officer. In response to the letter, two Baltimore City Police detectives came to WCI on July 28, 2014, to investigate the allegations. The detectives interviewed plaintiff and Simmons as part of the investigation. In addition, the detectives sought to review documents in plaintiff's possession and prison officials permitted the detectives to take the documents for review to assist in the conspiracy investigation. ECF 16 at Ex. 2 and 3. Officer Bradley Butler states under oath that he did not place plaintiff on administrative segregation as alleged, nor did he confiscate his property. Id. at Ex. 3.

Defendants further assert that the volume of documents taken, two grocery size bags full, made mailing the paperwork back to plaintiff not feasible. They further explain that the detectives have completed review of the documents and had plans to return the documents to plaintiff personally. ECF 16 at Ex. 2.

In his opposition response, plaintiff states that the instant complaint concerns the confiscation of his property from July 3, 2014 through July 17, 2014, and the documents taken on July 28, 2014, are irrelevant to this case. ECF 21. Indeed, plaintiff's complaint was filed prior to July 28, 2014. ECF 1. Plaintiff further states he never sent a letter to the Baltimore City Police Department and points out the absence of any such letter in the record of this case. ECF 21-1 at p. 4. He asserts that he received documents from the District Court for Baltimore City on July 8, 2014, after he had already been assigned to administrative segregation, indicating that Captain Butler had advised Teesha Forrest, a former friend to plaintiff, to seek a restraining order against him so that staff at WCI could further assist her. Id. at p. 3. Plaintiff further states that at every administrative segregation review hearing he was told he would remain on that status until Butler said he could be removed. Id. at pp. 3-4. Plaintiff's property was returned to him on July 17, 2014, and he asserts there was never any explanation or justification stated for removing his paperwork from his possession for two weeks. Id. at p. 4.

Injunctive Relief

A preliminary injunction is an extraordinary and drastic remedy. See Munaf v. Geren, 553 U.S. 674, 689-90 (2008). To obtain a preliminary injunction, a movant must demonstrate: 1) that he is likely to succeed on the merits; 2) that he is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief; 3) that the balance of equities tips in his favor; and 4) that an injunction is in the public interest. See Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc, 555 U.S. 7, 129 S.Ct. 365, 374 (2008); The Real Truth About Obama, Inc. v. Federal Election Commission, 575 F.3d 342, 346 (4th Cir. 2009), vacated on other grounds, 559 U.S. 1089 (2010), reinstated in relevant part on remand, 607 F.3d 355 (4th Cir. 2010) (per curiam).

In his motion for temporary restraining order, plaintiff asserts he was placed on disciplinary segregation without being charged with a rule violation in retaliation for filing the instant case. ECF 22. He claims that on December 11, 2014, he was attempting "to access the library to obtain the necessary copies of the exhibits and documents associated with his response to defendants' motion to dismiss this complaint, " when Officer Erdos refused to allow him to go to the library. Id. Plaintiff claims that ten days later Erdos came to his cell and ordered him to pack up his things because he was being placed on disciplinary segregation. He further alleges that defendant Gelsinger has placed restrictions on library privileges for inmates assigned to the tier where plaintiff was moved. Specifically, access to legal materials are limited to use of the LASI (Library Assistance to State Institutions) process. Id. Plaintiff seeks a temporary restraining order prohibiting prison officials from denying him physical access to the library. Id.

In defendants' response to plaintiff's motion, they explain that on December 23, 2014, Lt. Jeffrey Shimko intercepted a large envelope plaintiff had marked as legal mail and attempted to mail out of the prison. Shimko discovered that the envelope did not contain legal mail, but instead contained instructions directing individuals to smuggle cocaine, synthetic marijuana, and prescriptions drugs back into the prison using hidden pockets in the envelope. ECF 23 at Ex. 1. Defendants additionally point out that plaintiff had already submitted his response in opposition in the instant case. See ECF 21.

The motion for temporary restraining order shall be denied. Additionally, plaintiff is cautioned that false swearing in court documents will not be tolerated. The motion, supported by plaintiff's declaration under oath, is not only frivolous, it is based on fabricated allegations of retaliation and retribution. It is clear from the pleadings filed by plaintiff that he is highly intelligent and the reason for his placement ...


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