United States District Court, D. Maryland
ELLEN L. HOLLANDER, District Judge.
Self-represented plaintiff Mich. Aurel, a Maryland prisoner incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"), alleges in his court-ordered supplemental complaint,  ECF 3, that beginning in 2012, he began to be harassed by Jessup Correctional Institution ("JCI") officers, and was further subject to "abuse mental harassment, manipulation, corporal punishment, physical welfare and physical and psychological assault (and) discrimination." Id. at 3. He claims that the threats came "from officers to gangs of Blood and Crips." Aurel further alleges that he was denied overseas telephone access to contact friends and family in Romania and officials at the Romanian Embassy in the District of Columbia. Finally, he asserts that he has a fear of and is allergic to dogs, but was moved onto a JCI tier that housed a canine. Id. Aurel seeks $30, 000, 000.00 in damages.
Pending is a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment ("Motion"), filed by defendants Warden John Wolfe; Chief of Security Allen K. Gang; Major Ford; Captain Steven Rowlland; Lieutenant Marchant; Lieutenant Brandon Barnett; Case Manager Al; Captain Harris;, Lieutenant Harris; Lieutenant Raly; Lieutenant Yalite; Sergeant Romo; Case Manager Carol Jackson; and Case Manager Maria Fisher. ECF 17. The Motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 17-1) and several exhibits. See ECF 17-2 to 17-11. Plaintiff filed a response, entered on the docket as an opposition. ECF 19.
Although docketed as an opposition, Aurel's submission reads more like a motion for appointment of pro bono counsel. Although 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) permits a court to request an attorney to represent an indigent litigant, it "does not authorize the federal courts to make coercive appointments of counsel." Mallard v. U.S. District Court for the S. Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296, 309-10 (1989). Moreover, a district court need not request an attorney's assistance pursuant to § 1915(e)(1) unless the case presents complex issues or exceptional circumstances. See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard, 490 U.S. at 298.
This case, which raises a number of general claims of harassment, abuse, manipulation, and discrimination and specific claims of problems with mail and telephone access and conditions of confinement, presents no exceptional circumstances that would warrant a request for representation pursuant to § 1915(e)(1). Aurel has failed to show a particular need or exceptional circumstances that would require the assistance of a trained practitioner. Therefore, counsel shall not be appointed in this matter.
In any event, no hearing is necessary to resolve the Motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons that follow, defendants' Motion, construed as one for summary judgment, shall be granted.
Aurel has been an inmate in the Maryland Division of Corrections since December 4, 2003. ECF No. 17-3. He was housed at JCI from June 1, 2006, to November 1, 2013, when he was transferred to NBCI, where he is currently confined. Id.
Defendants maintain that phone services for long distance and international calling are provided by Global Tel*Link ("GTL") and that the inmate and family must make arrangements and pay the associated costs for an inmate to telephone Romania or the District of Columbia. ECF No. 17-9, Carter Decl. They assert, however, that it is up to the inmate to make sure that he meets all requirements to make the calls he wishes to make and, even if an inmate acquired GTL services, there are circumstances where he is not permitted to use the telephone, i.e., assignment to administrative or disciplinary segregation.
Defendants maintain that on July 14, 2013, Aurel's cell became inoperable, when the cell's door was broken. ECF No. 17-5. Aurel and his cellmate were moved to another cell on JCI's D Block, C Tier. However, Aurel refused to enter the cell and was charged with violating Rules 400 and 401 (disobeying a direct order and refusing to work, carry out an assignment, or accept a housing assignment). He was written up on an incident report and immediately taken to administrative segregation on JCI Building B, C Tier, pending a hearing. Id. As a result of this rule violation, Aurel was sentenced to a 30-day cell restriction. ECF No. 17-9, Carter Decl.
On July 20, 2013, Aurel filed an administrative remedy procedure ("ARP") grievance regarding the switching of his cell and his relocation to an area where the VET dog training program was located. He claimed he was allergic to dogs and being around them directly threatened his health. The ARP was dismissed for procedural reasons. ECF No. 17-40. Upon completion of his segregation sanction, on August 15, 2015, Aurel was transferred to JCI, Building F, D Tier.
Aurel filed another ARP on September 4, 2013, asserting that defendants were preventing him from sending mail. He was advised to resubmit the ARP with additional information to support his claims. Defendants state that although Aurel resubmitted his ARP, he provided no additional evidence and his complaint was dismissed. ECF No. 17-6; ECF No. 17-9.
On January 24 and August 16, 2013, JCI officers received notes that members of the Blood and Crips gangs were planning to stab Aurel. ECF No. 17-7; ECF No. 17-8. Defendants state that once officers were made aware of the threats, "steps were taken" to ensure Aurel's safety. For his part, Aurel wrote and signed statements indicating that he had been in jail for a long time, had no enemies, and did not fear for his safety. Id.
Defendants allege that although Aurel filed a number of ARPs, he did not file grievances with the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO") as to the issues raised in his § 1983 complaint. ECF No. 17-11, Oakley Decl. Therefore, they argue that his ...