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Roberts v. Shearin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 27, 2016

BRANDON ROBERTS, Plaintiff
v.
BOBBY P. SHEARIN, Defendant

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Bobby P. Shearin. ECF 37.[1]Plaintiff has responded. ECF 44 & 45. Upon review of the papers filed, the Court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion will be construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment and will be GRANTED.

         Background

         The case was instituted upon receipt of a civil rights Complaint filed by Plaintiff Brandon Roberts, [2] an inmate currently confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI"). ECF 1. Plaintiff alleged that Defendant violated his constitutional rights by denying him access to legal materials. Plaintiff was directed to supplement the complaint. ECF 4, By way of Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges he and the former Warden and administration at NBCI, entered into an agreement to establish a satellite law library within NBCI's segregation unit. ECF 8, p. 2. Thereafter, Plaintiff alleges, the administration ceased its work on the satellite law library and Plaintiff was released to general population. Id., p. 3.

         When Plaintiff returned to the segregation unit on or about January 28, 2012, he discovered that no legal library had been established. Rather, a book-mobile style cart was in operation in lieu of a library. Id., p. 3. Plaintiff indicates that the book carts are devoid of any legal research materials, and alleges that Defendant has failed to provide segregation inmates basic research materials such as federal or state digests, legal dictionaries, Sheppard's citations, United States Codes and Statues. Id., p. 4.

         Plaintiff indicates that the existing system used to access legal materials is inadequate in that he is forced to request legal research materials by exact citation, it takes weeks to months to obtain the requested materials, and he is only able to obtain five cases at a time, making it difficult to carry out meaningful legal research. Id. Plaintiff further indicates that frequently the wrong research is sent, or no response to the request is received, causing him to miss deadlines in with the court. He states that this puts him in a position where he needs to explain to the court the difficulties in preparing his pleadings. Id., p. 5.

         NBCI Correctional Librarian Rebecca Hammons avers that NBCI provides computers in the main library and in housing units 2, 3 and 4 which contain legal dictionaries. ECF 18-2, ¶ 4. Hammons further avers that on October 23, 2012, Black's Law Dictionaries were placed in each housing unit at NBCI and in the Main Library for use by inmates.[3] Id., ¶ 4. Inmates housed on housing unit 1, the segregation unit, are permitted to request legal materials from the main library. Those materials are delivered to the segregation inmates. Id., ¶ 5. Where the NBCI Main Library does not have the materials requested, the inmates may request materials through the Library Assistance to State Institutions ("LASI") program. Id., ¶ 9.

         From September 22, 2008 through October 12, 2012, Plaintiff checked out and received 17 legal materials, including the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, treatises, and portions of the Maryland Code. ECF 18-2, ¶ 7; ECF 18-3. From October 12, 2012, to the signing of Hammons' affidavit on February 4, 2014, Plaintiff did not request any legal related cases, books, citations or department directives form the NBCI main library. ECF 18-2, ¶ 8. From December 28, 2011 to October 14, 2013, Plaintiff requested and received approximately 140 legal resources through LASI. ECF 18-4.

         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. Allain, 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 ...

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