United States District Court, D. Maryland
NATHANIEL L. HART, Plaintiff,
M.J. ROSE, et al.,  Defendant.
GEORGE L. RUSSELL, District Judge.
Self-represented Plaintiff Nathaniel L. Hart, an inmate at North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"), initiated this action on February 18, 2015, alleging a violation of his First Amendment rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012), through interference with, or processing of his mail later than prescribed by Division of Corrections Directive DCD-250-1. Hart alleges his incoming mail on October 21, 2014, November 1, 2014, and January 23, 2015, was not timely delivered. He requests $1 million in damages.
On November 19, 2014, Hart filed two Administrative Request Procedure ("ARP") requests complaining about mailroom processing. In ARP #NBCI 3076-14, Hart complained that mail addressed to him was received at NBCI on October 8, 2014, but was not delivered to him until October 21, 2014. (ECF 4-1, p. 1). On January 20, 2015, the Warden's designee found the ARP meritorious, stating:
An investigation revealed that in accordance with DCD 250-1 section VI-H, received mail will not be held for more than 24 hours excluding weekends, and holidays. Your mail was being processed for an additional 9 days excluding weekend and holidays. This was due in part to an overwhelming amount of incoming mail and limited staff to process incoming mail. These issues have been addressed in an attempt to ensure future incidents of this nature are not repeated.
In the second ARP, which was designated NBCI # 3077-14, Hart complained that on November 1, 2014, he received notice from the NBCI mailroom that mail addressed to him had been returned to the sender. Hart asserts the mail contained the proper identifying information. (ECF 4-1, p. 2). On January 20, 2015, the Warden's designee dismissed the ARP as lacking merit, stating:
Specifically, you claim that two money orders were returned against policy and procedure. Furthermore, you claim that it was clear that with the number provided you could have been identified and provided the funds. An investigation revealed that the money order in question was returned on or about 11-01-14 to the NBCI mailroom. During that time, a money order sent to an inmate required both the DOC number and SID number which had to be accurate. The money voucher in question did not provide all required information for you. As a result of the lack of information the voucher was returned. As of 12-11-14, this policy was changed and any voucher received must have one of the above mentioned numbers and must be accurate. Your administrative remedy allegations are without merit.
On January 27, 2015, Hart filed a third ARP, # NBCI # 0191-15, complaining that a money order, sent to him by his family approximately two weeks earlier, had not yet been posted to his account. As a result, Hart alleges to have "missed making commissary." At the direction of the ARP coordinator, Hart supplemented the ARP on February 5, 2015. In the supplement, Hart stated that he had since been provided a receipt indicating that his $100 money order was received on January 20, 2015. On February 13, 2015, the ARP was dismissed by the Warden's designee, who stated:
Specifically, your complaint is regarding money orders sent by your family that has [sic] yet to be posted in your account. An investigation revealed that you did receive mail from the WBCI/WCI mailroom on 01-20-15 which contained transcripts. Due to the item being packaged in an envelope which is considered contraband, it was placed in an acceptable package. A notification of this was provided to you from the mailroom. There was no indication that a money order was included in the original package. In the event a money order would have been included, the mailroom staff would indicate this by stamping the front of the packaging and providing a receipt. You are aware of the process due to the fact during the interview you provided your own example in which you received a money order and it was process and applied to your account. Your administrative remedy allegations are without merit.
A. Standard of Review
"Under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1915(e), which governs [in forma pauperis] filings..., a district court must dismiss an action that the court finds to be frivolous or malicious or that fails to state a claim." Michau v. Charleston Cnty., S.C., 434 F.3d 725, 728 (4th Cir. 2006). Although a pro se plaintiff's pleadings are liberally construed to allow the development of a potentially meritorious case, Gordon v. Leeke, 574 F.2d 1147, 1151 (4th Cir. 1978) (citing Rice v. Olson, 324 U.S. 786, 791-92 (1945)), the complaint must, nonetheless, articulate facts that, when accepted as true, demonstrate a claim to relief that is plausible on its face, see Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. for City of Balt., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990) (dismissing pro se complaint that fails to allege any factual basis for the claims); see also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 685 (2009) (outlining pleading requirements under Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for "all civil actions"). A claim is ...