United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. Frederick Motz United States District Judge
Pending in the above-captioned civil rights case is defendant's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF 9. Plaintiff opposes the motion. ECF 11. The court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, defendant's motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment because, shall be granted.
Plaintiff Alexander Jiggetts is committed to the custody of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and resides at Spring Grove Hospital as a result of an order issued by the Circuit Court for Baltimore City finding him not competent to stand trial on charges of telephone misuse. In the instant complaint, plaintiff alleges that Robb Day, the mental health clerk at the District Court for Baltimore City, abused his authority when he disregarded pleadings filed by plaintiff in case number 1B02245342. ECF 1 at p. 1. Plaintiff claims that the pleadings he attempted to file were improperly docketed as letters and that an appeal of the judge's decision he filed was not forwarded to a judge for a ruling, but simply docketed as a letter. Id.
Plaintiff maintains that "there is no such thing as a mental health clerk" and that the title and position was simply made up by the District Court for Baltimore City. Id. Plaintiff surmises from this observation that it is "unlawful and violates one's right to due process and equal protection of state laws" for the state court to employ such a clerk. Id. Plaintiff claims that the practice of having a mental health clerk who screens his pleadings amounts to a deprivation of his right to a speedy trial and his right to have an out-patient evaluation. Id. He adds that he is seeking an injunction to end this "illegal and discriminative (sic) act and for the mental health clerk position to be destroyed." Id. In addition, plaintiff seeks monetary damages. Id.
In his amended complaint, plaintiff claims he mailed a petition for writ of habeas corpus to the District Court for Baltimore City together with 90 dollars for payment of the filing fee. ECF 3 at p. 1. Plaintiff admits that the district court does not handle petitions for writ of habeas corpus and alleges that defendant did not forward the petition to the circuit court, but instead sent the petition and the money to public defender Sharon Boggins. Id. Plaintiff states he is attempting to fire Ms. Boggins and is suing her "in court." Id.
Plaintiff explains that on June 18 or 19, 2015, Judge Lesser rendered a verdict of not competent to stand trial in case number 1B02245342. The following August or September, plaintiff states he realized he could appeal the decision finding him not competent to stand trial so he sent an appeal "titled Extension of time and leave to appeal" to the district court. Id. The regular docketing clerk sent the pleading to Mr. Day, who spoke with plaintiff on September 21, 2015. Id. Plaintiff states that Mr. Day told him he could not appeal the decision and advised that the money plaintiff sent in was given to public defender Sharon Boggins. Id. Plaintiff states that no one has returned his money. Id.
Plaintiff states that he never authorized Boggins to accept anything on his behalf. He seeks an order requiring the district court to docket his pleadings as motions and that the documents he files should be handled by the regular legal clerk for docketing. ECF 3 at p. 2.
Defendant Robb Day provides the following additional facts. In November 2013, plaintiff was charged with telephone misuse and related charges. See State v. Alexander Jiggetts, D. Ct. of Md for Bait. City, Case No. 1802245342, http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/inquiry. Plaintiff was found not competent to stand trial on December 19, 2013, and committed to the custody of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. ECF 9 at Ex. 2. Plaintiff has remained at Spring Grove Hospital, where his commitment is subject to annual review under Md. Crim. Proc, Code Ann. §3-108.
On September 10, 2015, the district court for Baltimore City, Patapsco Avenue received a handwritten letter dated September 6, 2015, from plaintiff, requesting an appeal for his 2013 commitment and demanding a speedy trial. Plaintiff enclosed a check for 90 dollars with the letter. ECF 9 at Ex. 3 and 4. The letter and the check was forwarded to defendant Robert Day, who is the Mental Health Clerk for the district court. Id. at Ex. 5. Defendant then forwarded the letter to his supervisor, Cynthia Mellette. Id.
On October 1, 2015, Mellette gave plaintiffs 90 dollar check to Kathleen Van Metter, a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), so that it could be returned to plaintiff at Spring Grove Hospital. ECF 9 at Ex. 5. Van Meter deposited the 90 dollars into plaintiffs account at the hospital the same day she received it. Id. Upon depositing the funds to plaintiffs account, a receipt acknowledging the deposit to plaintiffs patient account was sent from Spring Grove to Van Meter. Id. at Ex. 5 and 6 (true test copy of receipt).
Defendant Day admits he advised plaintiff that he could not appeal the court's finding of not competent to stand trial as under Maryland law, there is no such appeal available. Rather, the procedure in place requires a hearing before the court "every year from the date of commitment; within 30 days after the filing of a motion by the State's Attorney or counsel for defendant 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, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)). Self-represented pleadings are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nonetheless, this court has an "affirmative obligation" to prevent factually unsupported claims from proceeding to trial. Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).
Although the precise nature of plaintiffs claim is unclear, this case was allowed to proceed on the basis that it appeared plaintiff was being denied access to courts because his pleadings were not being accepted by the Clerk. Plaintiff reiterates that theory of liability in his opposition response. ECF 11. Plaintiff takes the view that he is entitled under the constitution to redress of his grievances in the courts and any pleading he files must be docketed and processed as he intends it to be construed. Id. Where, however, there is no legally cognizable claim asserted in the documents presented, he has suffered no actual injury for purposes of stating a constitutional claim. The requirement that he must "show actual injury derives ultimately from the doctrine of standing, a constitutional principle that prevents courts of law from ...