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Sorenson v. Stevanus

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 26, 2015

KENNETH SORENSON, # 408-282, Plaintiff,


PAUL W. GRIMM, District Judge.

On June 5, 2015, Kenneth Sorenson, an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown, Maryland (MCI-H), filed this Complaint for a temporary restraining order, preliminary and permanent injunctive relief, [1] and $100, 000 damages against Mary Stevanus, a librarian at MCI-H. Sorenson, who is self-represented, also requests leave to proceed in forma pauperis and appointment of counsel. Sorenson will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis for the purpose of preliminary review of the Complaint.

Sorenson claims that from March 12, 2015 until May 28, 2015, Mary Stevanus "led a campaign of harassment" and subjected him cruel and unusual punishment in violation of his rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments, by "deliberately ignoring" an order of this Court requiring him to amend his complaint in Sorenson v. John Doe, et al., Civil Action No. PWG-15-1198, [2] by blocking Sorenson's access to the law library. (ECF 1, p. 4).[3] Sorenson alleges Defendant's actions and statements have caused him to experience severe anxiety and elevated his blood pressure.


The gravamen of Sorenson's verified complaint, which is some forty-nine pages long and supported by numerous exhibits, is summarized as follows. On March 12, 2015, Sorenson was last on line at 8 a.m. in the library to have photocopies made. Sorenson, who is in protective custody, explains that protective custody tier inmates leave the library at 8:20 a.m. When presented with the papers for photocopying, Stevanus "grabbed" them from Sorenson. She complained the papers were of various sizes and stated, "I don't have time for this, these arnt [ sic ] going in the copier." (ECF 1, pp. 10-11). Stevanus proceeded to copy some 115 pages, but did not finish copying them all. (ECF 1, pp. 10, 11).

On March 19, 2015, Sorenson returned to the library with more papers for photocopying. Sorenson says that he explained to Stevanus that he needed copies to complete administrative exhaustion of his claim. Stevanus explained that the copy machine was broken, and a second copy machine was for emergency use only.[4] Sorenson avers that Stevanus replied, "[u]nless you have something from the court... I can't help you." Id. at 13. Sorenson started shaking and trembling, felt dizzy, and had to sit. Five minutes later, Sorenson stood and told Stevanus that she was blocking his access to the courts. Id.

Stevanus informed Stevanus that his library pass was cancelled on March 26, 2015, because he was too loud. Id. at 14. On April 2, 2015, Stevanus allegedly refused to make copies for Sorenson, telling him that the copy machine was broken. Id. She allegedly cancelled Sorenson's library pass again on April 9 and 23 and on May 7, 2015. Id. at 14-16.

On May 14, 2015, Sorenson brought some 75 pages to the library for copying. The copier had been repaired, and Sorenson told Stevanus that it was "urgent that he get these copies made for his pending suit." Id. at 19. Stevanus informed him that "unless you have something from the court, I can't help you." Sorenson "begged" her for the copies. Stevanus took thirty pages from him and started to make two copies of each for Sorenson. The copier then ran out of paper, and once replenished became stuck. Stavenus stammered "I can't take this!!" and left the room. Another library worker, "June, " took over the copying, and Sorenson told her to stop making copies. Id. at 22. According to Sorenson, Stevanus then told him: "This has got to stop! [E]very week you do this, its [ sic ] the same thing every week. [Y]our [ sic ] not being considerate of other people." Stevanus continued "You cannot keep doing this! [I]n all my ten years I have never had anyone act like you!! You can't keep controlling' everything for the hour you are down here." Id. Stevanus told Sorenson to ask his case manager to make the copies.

On May 18, 2015, Ms. Marshall, a case manager, made copies for Sorenson. Sorenson was told that the library is responsible for making legal copies, and she could no longer make copies for him of legal documents. Id. at 24

On May 21, 2015, Sorenson went to the library for LASI[5] cases and was told by the library assistant that they were not there. Id. at 26. He requested several other items and received the same answer. Id. Following a verbal back-and-forth between Sorenson and the assistant as well as between Sorenson and Stevanus, Sorenson asked, "can you please make me copies, " and Stevanus agreed to do so. Id. at 27-33. However, Sorenson alleges that Stevanus "shoved" too many pages in the copy machine and it became stuck. Id. at 33. Sorenson alleges that Stevanus is hiding his LASI cases with retaliatory animus. Id. at 37.

On May 28, 2015, Stevanus canceled Sorenson's library pass. Sorenson avers Stevanus did this notwithstanding that he had a due date approaching and required access to the library to prepare his court papers.[6]


This complaint is filed under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915, which permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in federal court without prepaying the filing fee. To guard against possible abuses of this privilege, the in forma pauperis statute requires a court to dismiss any claim that fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). In this context, this Court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe the pleadings of pro se litigants such as Sorenson. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating a pro se complaint, a plaintiff's allegations are assumed to be true. Id. at 93 (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007)). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that a court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a claim cognizable in a federal district court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990); see also Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a district court may not "conjure up questions never squarely presented").

To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of a federal constitutional right or a right secured by federal law. See Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979). Section 1983 establishes a cause of action against any "person" who, acting under color of state law, "subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" of the United States. However, § 1983 "is not itself a source of substantive rights, ' but merely ...

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