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Simmons v. Zies

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 26, 2016

ANTHONY SIMMONS, #319-614 Plaintiff
CHARLOTTE ZIES, [1] Manager LT. BRADLEY A. WILT Defendants


James K. Bredar United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Anthony Simmons (“Simmons”), a Maryland Division of Correction (“DOC”) prisoner housed at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland (“NBCI”), seeks injunctive relief mandating his removal from segregation confinement and transfer to Patuxent Institution (“Patuxent”). The case is before the court on defendants’ unopposed[2] Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 14. No hearing is needed to resolve the pending motion. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, will be GRANTED.

Plaintiff’s Allegations

Simmons alleges he has been housed at NBCI for more than four years, and that NBCI personnel have refused to transfer him to Patuxent, where he has been accepted into a treatment program.[3] ECF No. 1 at p. 2. He further claims he was wrongfully placed on disciplinary segregation for having a weapon, which he needed for protection from gangs, and states that he never threatened injury to staff. Id. at pp. 2-3. He complains that after finishing his disciplinary segregation sentence he has been housed on administrative segregation without cause, in retaliation for a complaint he made against NBCI staff, and because Lt. Wilt believes he is dangerous. Id. at p. 2.

Defendants’ Response

Wilt has submitted a declaration stating that he took no action to hold Simmons on segregation beyond the expiration of his disciplinary segregation sentence. ECF 14-3, ¶ 5. Similarly, Zies has submitted a declaration indicating she has not impeded Simmons’s progress through segregation, and that according to correctional protocol, Simmons’s status is evaluated at regular intervals by a team of correctional personnel. ECF No. 14-4, ¶ 5.

Defendants argue that the record provides no support regarding Simmons’s allegations of threats from gang members, but does show that Simmons’s disciplinary history is poor and has resulted in his placement on segregation for a substantial period of time. ECF 14-2 at pp. 49 -51. He was convicted of rules violations in four incidents in 2012 (id. at p. 49), including an incident involving the making of a homemade weapon.[4] Id. at pp. 67-77. Relevant here, on October 10, 2013, he verbally threatened harm against a correctional officer. Id. at 52-66.

Defendants have provided monthly Case Management Assignment Sheets that reflect the monthly reviews by a team of correctional officials. Id. at pp. 2-18. These reports, which commence May 27, 2014, include an investigative report stating that there is “reason to believe” that Simmons would create a risk to the security and safety of the institution if returned to general population. Id. at p. 18. Simmons was given a Notice of Assignment to Administrative Segregation with a statement of reasons. Id. at p. 17. From May 2014 through February 3, 2015, neither Wilt nor Zies participated in Case Management committee review of Simmons’s administrative segregation status.[5] Id. at pp. 5-16. Neither had individual responsibility for the monthly determination of whether to retain Simmons on administrative segregation.

Simmons refused to participate in his monthly administrative segregation assignment reviews in February, March, and April of 2015. Id. at pp. 25-26. On January 6, 2015, the security review recommended that his security status be increased from Maximum I to Maximum II. Id. at p. 26.

Defendants provide information showing that Simmons was referred for treatment at Patuxent on July 29, 2015, nearly three months after he filed this lawsuit. ECF 14-2 at p. 21. Examination of the DOC’s Inmate Locator service shows that as of within date, he remains at NBCI.

Defendants argue that Simmons’s allegations are not cognizable and, thus, they are entitled to summary judgment on the merits.[6]

Standard of Review

Defendants’ motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 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.2d 431, 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).

In contrast, a court may not convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment sua sponte, unless it gives notice to the parties that it will do so. See Laughlin, 149 F.3d at 261 (stating that a district court “clearly has an obligation to notify parties regarding any court-instituted changes” in the posture of a motion, including conversion under Rule 12(d)); Finley Lines Joint Protective Bd. Unit 200 v. Norfolk So. Corp., 109 F.3d 993, 997 (4th Cir. 1997) (“[A] Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss supported by extraneous materials cannot be regarded as one for summary judgment until the district court acts to convert the motion by indicating that it will not exclude from its consideration of the motion the supporting ...

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