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Miller v. Fisher

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 24, 2015

DERROD MILLER, #426-175 Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN SUZANNE FISHER CO III SHANTE CLINTON[1] SERGEANT ARNOLD JOHNSON CO V RAYMOND PERE CO IV JOSEPH REED CO II M. SHAPRED Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

JAMES K. BREDAR, District Judge.

This 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 civil rights action seeks money damages and declaratory and injunctive[2] relief against five correctional officers and a warden. Plaintiff Derrod Miller ("Miller"), a Maryland Division of Correction ("DOC") prisoner currently incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution ("WCI"), claims that on March 12, 2014, while housed at the Maryland Reception Diagnostic & Classification Center ("MRDCC"), [3] he was assaulted by correctional officers, denied immediate medical care for injuries caused by the assault, and wrongfully charged with institutional infractions relating to the incident. (ECF No. 1, pp. 3-7).

Defendants, through counsel, have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) which is opposed by Miller.[4] (ECF No. 19). A hearing is not needed to resolve the motion. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, defendant Fisher IS DISMISSED but defendants' motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, otherwise IS DENIED.

Standard of Review

Defendants' motion relies on materials outside the pleadings, and is construed as a motion for summary judgment. Summary judgment is governed by Federal Rules Civil Procedure 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.

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. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis omitted). "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). Because Plaintiff is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). But the court must 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 Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).

Background

Miller claims that at approximately 9:50 a.m. on March 12, 2014, while participating in out-of-cell exercise, handcuffed to a "black box" and wearing leg irons, he stopped to talk to Officer Clinton about a dietary concern. Clinton had just found "some contraband" and was not receptive to conversation. (ECF No. 1, p. 3). Officer Reed, who had been summoned by Clinton, entered the area and interrupted the conversation, stating "I have more important shit to handle, take ya ass upstairs." ( Id. ). When Miller protested, Reed again responded rudely and "out of anger grabbed" Miller, slamming his head against a metal door and stabbing Miller in the face with the knife that Clinton had found. ( Id., pp 3-4). Miller was then "stomped" by Officers Shapred, Johnson, Clinton, and two unknown officers. (ECF No. 1, pp. 4-5).

Miller claims the assault continued while he waited in the medical area, and that afterward Officer Pere refused to conduct an investigation into the incident. (ECF No. 1, p. 5). He provides documentation supporting his statement that the institutional charges placed against him with regard to the incident were dismissed by a hearing officer on the basis that "the Institution[al] Rep]resentative] does not wish to pursue the charges due to the lack of evidence forwarded by MRDCC." (ECF No. 1-3).

Defendants present a different version of events based on incident reports prepared by Clinton, Reed, and other correctional officers. According to DOC personnel, on Wednesday, March 12, 2014, at approximately 9:52 a.m., Clinton observed a metal homemade knife wrapped in a white cloth fall from Miller's pants leg. (ECF No. 14-2, Sergeant Shante Clinton's Notice of Incident Report). Clinton retrieved the weapon from the floor and reported her finding to Reed. (ECF No. 14-3, Notice of Inmate Rule Violation, p. 2). While Reed and Clinton were discussing what had been found, Miller abruptly confronted Reed and said, "Fuck you, I don't want to hear that shit, that aint my knife." ( Id. ). Reed grabbed Miller by his waist chain and took him to the ground ( id. ), and Corporal Tia Taylor used a radio to call a Signal 13 (Office Needs Assistance). (ECF No. 1-4, Serious Incident Report, p. 4). Miller remained combative and resisted Reed's order to stop moving. (ECF No. 14-3, Notice of Inmate Rule Violation, p. 2). During the struggle, Miller attempted to take the knife from Reed, which resulted in cuts to Reed's fingers. ( Id. ).

Another inmate, Tavon Thompson, #421-159, ran towards the scuffle, prompting Clinton to restrain Thompson. ( Id. ). Officers Don Marcano and Tameka Cobb arrived on the scene and helped subdue both Miller and Thompson. ( Id. ). At approximately 10:47 a.m., Miller was taken to the medical department where he was evaluated, treated, and discharged by Registered Nurse Sarah Ross. ( Id. ). Ross diagnosed and treated Miller for a scratch to the right side of his face. (ECF No. 14-5, Office of Inmate Health Services Form).

Miller received an adjustment ticket for Rule Violation 101 (staff assault and battery) and Rule Violation 400 (disobeying an order). (ECF No. 14-3, ...


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