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Hart v. Shearin

United States District Court, District of Maryland

March 26, 2015



George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

Pending before the Court is Defendant Bobby Shearin’s Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) and Plaintiff Nathaniel Lekai Hart’s Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 17).[1] Having reviewed the Motions, the Court finds no hearing necessary pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant Hart’s Motion to Amend and Shearin’s Motion to Dismiss.


Hart is an inmate at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). He claims Shearin, who served as NBCI Warden during the time at issue, violated his rights under the First and Fourteen Amendments by prohibiting him from attending religious services for several months beginning in July of 2013.[2]

During the summer of 2013, there were numerous and frequent assaults on staff and inmates at NBCI. (ECF No. 12-7). As a result, NBCI was placed on institutional lockdown on August 5, 2013. (Id.). To reduce assaults, inmates were housed according to their behavioral history. (Id.).

In the months prior to and following the lockdown, Hart was housed primarily in Housing Unit (“HU”) #1 and #2 with a short amount of time in HU #3. (ECF Nos. 12-3, 12-7). Hart is currently housed in HU #2, a designated “step down unit, ” for inmates with a history of behavioral issues whose ability to transition to a less structured environment, such as the general population of HU #3 and HU #4, is in question. (ECF No. 12-7). Hart’s records show a history of inmate rule violations including refusing housing, disobeying direct orders of staff, and tampering with security equipment and resultant sanctions. (ECF Nos. 12-4).

For security and safety purposes, opportunities for HU #2 inmates to assemble are limited. (ECF No. 12-7). In his declaration, Frank Bishop, who succeeded Shearin as NBCI Warden, attests that HU #2 is on modified operational status pending completion of full screening of the population to a determine its maximum security designation.

For safety and security purposes this included limited contact and at this time congregate religious services are not officered [sic] for the individuals in this particular housing unit, and specifically outside of the Unit setting. All movement is in small controlled numbers for recreation, showers, religious services, etc. All inmates are free to worship within the confines of their cell or housing unit, TV video is offered and they also have access to a chaplain or other spiritual leader if they so request. All mandated minimum standards are being met during this transitional period.


On April 14, 2014, Hart filed a complaint through the Administrative Remedy Procedure (4th Cir. 1994) (setting forth requirements to show supervisory liability in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012) action). (“ARP”) process, claiming that he was prevented from attending religious services and seeing the chaplain. (ECF No. 12-5). He claimed this continued for ten months and violated his constitutional rights. (Id.). The ARP was dismissed as untimely. On April 18, 2014, Hart filed an appeal, but does not appear to have received a response. (ECF No. 14-1). On April 18, 2014, Hart also filed this action seeking injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages in the amount of $400, 000.


1. Standard of Review

“When matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the 12(b)(6) motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must draw all justifiable inferences in the non-moving party’s favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion ...

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