United States District Court, D. Maryland
William M. Nickerson Senior United States District Judge
Plaintiff Anthony Nichols ("Nichols",, a former prisoner at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup ("MCIJ"), filed a self-represented 42 U.S.C. S 1983 civil rights Complaint for "monetary, compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages against Defendan,, the former Warden at MCU and current Assistant Commissioner for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS".. Nichols, using a kitchen sink approach in raising his claims, alleges that: his right to be free from sexual assault and battery was violated on May 29, 203,, by "shakedown specialists;" he has been subject to deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs, as the recommendation to see a specialist for his lower spinal injury was not followed; he has been exposed to unsafe living conditions; he was not provided a remedy; he has been subject to mail theft; he is being confined to his cell for twenty-three hours a day, where there is no ventilation system, causing him breathing complication;; and when he complained about his breathing difficulties, unspecified parties "became resistant about treatment." ECF No.1.
Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, which Nichols has opposed. ECF Nos. 21 & 23. Defendant's Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, shall be granted without oral hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014).
II. Standard of Review
Defendant's Motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept, Inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011). Ordinarily, a court "is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss." Bosiger v. U.S Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, " and "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).
When the movant expressly captions its motion "in the alternative" as one for summary judgment, and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur; the court "does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).
A district judge has "complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it." 5 C WRIGHT & MILLER, FEDERAL PRACTICE & PROCEDURE § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion "should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights." Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material "is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, " and "whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure" is necessary. Id. at 165, 167. The Court is more than satisfied that given the volume of exhibits presented here, it has ample information with which to address the motions as filed for summary judgment.
Summary judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), which provides in part:
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 requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). In analyzing a summary judgment motion, the court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to...the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002); see Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); FDIC v. Cashion, 720 F.3d 169, 173 (4th Cir. 2013).
"The party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment 'may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings'' but rather must 'set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). But, the district courtss "function" is not "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Anderso,, 477 U.S. at 249. Moreover, the trial court may not make credibility determinations on summary judgment. Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015); Mercantile Peninsula Bank.. French, 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007); Black &. Decker Corp. v. United States, 436 F.3d 431, 442 (4th Cir. 2006); Dennis, 290 F.3d at 644-45.
In the face of conflicting evidence, such as competing affidavits, summary judgment is generally not appropriate, because it is the function of the fact-finder to resolve factual disputes, including matters of witness credibility. Nevertheless, to defeat summary judgment, conflicting evidence, if any, must give rise to a genuine dispute of material fact. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If" the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, " then a dispute of material fact precludes summary judgment. Id. at 248; see Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013). On the other hand, summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence "is so one-sided that one party must prevall as a matter of law." M. at 252. And, "the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff" Id.
Because Nichols is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). But, the Court must also abide by the "'affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.'" Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, ...