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McMillian v. Caple

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 15, 2016

SEBASTIAN M. McMILLIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
BRANDON CAPLE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, United States District Judge.

         Pending is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Brandon Caple, Lieutenant Michael Oates, Captain Joseph Cutter, Former Chief of Security Keith Arnold, and Former Warden Bobby Shearin. ECF No. 9. Plaintiff has responded. ECF No. 11. Upon review of the papers and exhibits filed, the court finds an oral hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion will be granted.

         Background

         The case was instituted upon receipt of a civil rights complaint filed by Plaintiff Sebastian McMillian, a state inmate confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff claimed that in 2011 he purchased finger nail clippers from the prison commissary at NBCI. Id., ¶ 10. In June of 2012, Chief of Security Arnold banned NBCI inmates from purchasing or possessing finger nail clippers. Id., ¶ 11. On November 1, 2012, Plaintiff’s cell was searched by Caple who discovered nail clippers concealed in the battery compartment of Plaintiff’s CD player. Id., ¶ 12. As a result, Plaintiff was placed on disciplinary segregation, and his nail clippers, CD player, and other personal property were confiscated. Id., ¶¶ 13-14.

         Plaintiff states that Caple fabricated a disciplinary report charging him with possession, use, and manufacturing of a weapon, in retaliation for Plaintiff’s having failed to relinquish the nail clippers as directed in Arnold’s memo. Id., ¶ 15. Oates and Cutter, reviewed Caple’s report, and recommended approving Caple’s charges, including the confiscation of Plaintiff’s property. Id., ¶¶ 16-18.

         A disciplinary hearing was held on November 15, 2012, before Hearing Officer Mack, after which Plaintiff was found guilty of the charges. Id., ¶ 19. Plaintiff maintains that Mack knew the evidence was insufficient and retaliatory and that he “maliciously based his finding of facts on both insufficient evidence and fabricated reports.” Id., ¶ 21. Plaintiff was sentenced to 180 days disciplinary segregation and indefinite loss of visitation Id., ¶ 22. Former Warden Shearin approved the result of the disciplinary hearing. Id., ¶ 23.

         Plaintiff alleges that Shearin, as the Warden at NBCI, was charged with overseeing and reviewing all disciplinary proceedings. Id., ¶ 5. Shearin was also responsible for overseeing all prison operations and “was present when Arnold disseminated the memo declaring finger nail clipper as contraband” (id., ¶ 26) giving tacit support to Arnold and the memo. Id., ¶ 27. Plaintiff alleges that neither Shearin nor Arnold had authority under DOC regulations to ban finger nail clippers. Id. ¶ 28. He further alleges that Shearin gave tacit support to Caple, Oates and Cutter to fabricate and approve the filing of false charges against him regarding the nail clippers. Id., ¶ 29.

         As a result of the disciplinary proceedings, Plaintiff states that he lost earned good time credit, was deprived of his job, back pay, and ability to earn good conduct credits. He also maintains that the deprivation of his nail clippers limited his ability to maintain proper hygiene resulting in an infection to his toe nails. He also alleges he was deprived of the opportunity to retain a job and reduce his security level. Id., ¶¶ 34-38.

         Defendants agree that on June 29, 2012, NBCI Chief of Security Arnold issued a memorandum advising that fingernail clippers had been used to manufacture weapons and that any inmate who possessed fingernail clippers must relinquish them by July 13, 2012; thereafter the clippers would be considered contraband and inmates in possession of clippers would be served with an inmate rule violation. ECF No. 9-4, p. 34.

         On November 1, 2012, Caple searched Plaintiff’s cell and discovered fingernail clippers concealed in the battery compartment of a Sony CD Player which Plaintiff claimed he owned. ECF No. 9-5, p. 18. That same day Plaintiff was charged with violating inmate rules 105 (possession of a weapon or any article modified into a weapon; the unauthorized possession of any implement, article, or tool that reasonably could be modified into or used as a weapon) and 406 (possessing, passing, or receiving contraband). Id.

         Plaintiff appeared before Hearing Officer Stephen Mack on November 21, 2012. After the hearing, where Plaintiff plead guilty to violation of rule 406, he was found guilty of violating both inmate rules and sanctioned to 180 days of disciplinary segregation and indefinite loss of visitation. Id., pp. 23-24. In finding Plaintiff guilty of violating rule 105, Mack noted the June 28, 2012 memorandum designating that nail clippers must be turned in or else would be treated as contraband and also cited “COMAR 12.02.27.04 H which provides “The term weapon under subsection B(6)-(2) An unauthorized material, substance, article, instrument, or tool that may be manufactured into or used as weapon regardless of it being used for a purpose other than as a weapon or whether its original character has been altered.” Id., p. 24. No good conduct credits were revoked. Id., 25. The Reduction in Violence Committee reviewed the sanction, affirming same with the addition of 60 days loss of appliances after Plaintiff’s segregation sentence expired. Warden Bobby Shearin affirmed the decisions of the Hearing Officer and RIV Committee. Id., p. 1, 14.

         On July 16, 2013, Plaintiff filed Administrative Remedy Procedure (ARP) NBCI 1897-13 complaining that his conviction should be vacated. ECF No. 9-7, pp. 5-6; see also ECF No. 11, ¶17.[1] The ARP was dismissed on July 17, 2013, on procedural grounds: that inmates may not seek relief regarding disciplinary decision through the ARP process and because it was not received within the established timeframe. Id., p. 5. Plaintiff’s appeal was also dismissed on the procedural basis that inmates may not seek relief through the administrative remedy process as to the results of disciplinary proceedings. Id., p. 1.

         Plaintiff filed a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Office, on October 11, 2012, (IGO No. 20122128) as an appeal of ARP-NBCI-1132-12 wherein Plaintiff complained he had been confined on disciplinary segregation for 7 days beyond his sanction. ECF No. 9-8, ¶3(a). The grievance was administratively dismissed by the IGO on December 6, 2012 as untimely. Id.

         Plaintiff filed IGO No. 20130035 on January 9, 2013, as a grievance appeal of the guilty finding entered at the November 15, 2012 disciplinary proceeding. Id., ¶3(b). The IGO dismissed the appeal on March 13, 2013, due to Plaintiff’s failure to respond to a letter from the IGO requesting Plaintiff provide supporting documents and ...


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