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Stewart v. Maryland Public Safety and Correctional Services

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 10, 2015

MAURICE BERNARD STEWART, JR., Plaintiff
v.
MARYLAND PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES GARY MAYNARD, Defendants

MEMORANDUM

J. Frederick Motz, United States District Judge

Maurice Bernard Stewart, Jr., is an inmate currently confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. Stewart filed the instant civil rights complaint against the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS") and former Secretary of DPSCS Gary Maynard, alleging that while housed at Jessup Correctional Institution he was assaulted by his wheelchair pusher. ECF 1. Pending are defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, Stewart's motion to appoint counsel, and his opposition to the dispositive motion. ECF 12, 14 & 15.[1] The court will dispense with a hearing. See Local Rule 105.6. (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the court will, by separate Order, GRANT defendants' dispositive motion and DENY Stewart's motion to appoint counsel.[2]

Background

In the instant case, plaintiff indicates that on or about September 12, 2013, he was transported to Jessup Correctional Institution where he was temporarily housed to attend court, ECF 1, pp. 3-4.[3] Plaintiff is disabled and uses a wheelchair. Id., p. 5. An inmate identified as "Paul" was assigned as plaintiffs wheelchair pusher and was responsible for pushing plaintiff to medical in the morning and evening for medications and to and from the shower. Id. On September 15, 2013, he was assaulted by Paul. ECF 1, pp. 3-4. Specifically, plaintiff indicates that Paul began to yell at him urging him to hurry up and go back into his cell. Paul then shoved the wheelchair quickly toward an empty cell that was used for supplies. Paul then hit and punched plaintiff injuring plaintiffs head, neck and back. Id., p. 4. Plaintiff states that he was seen by a nurse and pictures were taken of his injuries. Paul was placed on segregation status and served with an notice of inmate rule violation. Id. Plaintiff states that he told unidentified correctional officers in charge of the tier, on each shift, over several days, that he was threatened by Paul on numerous occasions. Id. Plaintiff states that the unidentified officers disregarded plaintiffs complaints. Id.

Defendants confirm that on September 15, 2013, Officer Musbau Akintunde observed inmate Paul Wallace arguing with plaintiff. ECF 12-2. Akintunde ordered Wallace to step away from plaintiff. Wallace refused to comply with the order and instead pushed plaintiffs wheelchair aggressively toward the shower. Wallace also slapped plaintiff with his left hand. Akintunde again ordered Wallace to step back and called for assistance. The inmates were then secured. Id. Plaintiff was evaluated by medical staff. He complained to a nurse that he had been hit in the face by another inmate. ECF 12-3 p. 2. Redness in the right eye was observed, however there was no swelling or open skin noted. Plaintiff stated that his back was re-injured during the assault. As plaintiff was already on Tylenol 3 for chronic back pain no additional medications were ordered. Id.

Standard of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss

The purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff s complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted does not require defendant to establish "beyond doubt" that plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Id. at 563. The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, see Papasan v. Attain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F, 2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

Summary Judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a) which provides that:

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 ...

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