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Firor v. Hardinger

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 24, 2016

CHRISTOPHER BRIAN FIROR, #1500437 Plaintiff,
v.
WARDEN GEORGE HARDINGER MAJOR STEPHEN REYNOLDS MAJOR DENNIS STRINE CAPT. DENNIS HARMON CAPT. STEVEN MILLER UNIT COORDINATOR TINA MUMMERT Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          J. Frederick Motif United States District Judge

         I. Background

         On September 23, 2015, plaintiff Christopher Firor ("Firor"), an inmate confined at the Carroll County Detention Center, [1] filed a 42 U.S.C. S 1983 civil rights complaint against prison administrators and employees at the Carroll County Detention Center ("CCDC".. He claims that dental floss or an alternative is not provided at the CCDC commissary, but acknowledges that "Keefe does provide floss and dental picks as an alternative to dental floss."[2] ECF NO.1, p. 3. Firor alleges that the failure to provide him dental floss has caused his gums to bleed and CCDC does not offer dental cleaning, adequate facilities for dentistry, or a part-time dentist on call for emergencies Id.

         Firor additionally takes issue with monies removed from his prison account in 2015. He states that on August 31, 2015, he was given notice by the Carroll County Sheriffs Office stating the he owed $119.62 and that money was removed from his account on September 1, 2016. Firor asserts that his attempts to set up a payment system plan were ignored and seemingly alleges that CCDC personnel have violated the terms of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act ("FDCPA") as they have ignored his attempts to set up a payment plan and "collected the debt less than 24 hours after the notice was given." He further contends that personnel violated the Electronic Fund Transfer Act ("EFTA") as they took funds without authorization and violated Md. Code Ann., Corr. Services SS 3-609 & 2-118 by failing to provide him due process prior to charging his account with a disbursement (for lab expenses incurred while confined at CCDC in2012). ECF No. 1, pp. 4-5; ECF NO.1-.. He states that the $119.62 was placed back in his account on September 9, 2015.

         Firor claims that another notice of collection of $288.00 was made against him on September 1, 2015 (for a previous dental charge), and the money was collected on September 9, 2015, although a payment plan had been arranged between his family members and CCDC staff. He claims that neither he nor anyone on his behalf is to have contact with CCDC personnel, making it impossible for him to arrange any payment plan on his remaining $119.62 debt. Firor claims that a judgment was placed against him for the $288.00 debt and he was offered a payment plan. ECF No.1, pp. 5-7; ECF NO.1-..

         Finally, Firor claims that CCDC has an ineffective and meaningless grievance system, in that grievances are not responded to by personnel and, if they are, they are responded to by the very person against whom they are written. He contends that CCDC personnel retaliate and intimidate prisoners for their use of grievances by threatening them with the denial of access to the drug or work-release program, or transfer to the Alleghany County Detention Center. ECF No.,, pp. 7-9. He seeks injunctive relief and compensatory and punitive damages. Id. at pp. 9-11.

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, supported by Memorandum of Law. ECF No. 11-1. Firor subsequently filed an amended complaint which seemingly discusses what, if any, knowledge defendants had of his grievances and dental issues and subsequent deductions made from his account. ECF No. 15. He further claims that his access-to-coutt rights have been violated as he is forced to split his 30 minutes of time in the inmate library between recreational or law library time and the one available librarian often is unresponsive to requests for case law due to the librarian's limited time. He states that while on segregation he had no access to the law library. Firor claims that the lack of access has caused him to "miss appeal deadlines when I wanted to appeal decisions in Circuit Court" and he has been forced to litigate this complaint without the use of a computer. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the complain.. See Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A plaintiffs complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a 'showing'' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or "naked assertions] devoid of further factual enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

         At this stage, the court must consider all well-pleaded allegations in a complaint as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and must construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). Because Firor is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating the complaint, the court need not accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). "(W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not 'show[n] ... that the pleader is entitled to relief.' "Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, "(determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will...be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         III. Discussion

         Legal Analysis

         Defendants argue that Firor has failed to state a claim against them because (a) he has failed to allege that any of the individuals are responsible for denying him access to dental care; (b) "nowhere to be found among the factual averments" related to his FDCP A claim does Firor mention defendants Hardinger, Strine, and Harmon; and (c) the complaint fails to state a claim under the FDCPA as defendants are not considered debt collectors under the FDCPA. ECF No. 11-1. In his opposition response, Firor claims that he has amended his complaint "to address his errors in omitting the names of the individuals to whom caused plaintiff harm." He further argues that nowhere in the FDCPA does it state that government employees are exempt from its regulations. ECF No. 17. In their reply, defendants claim that Firor's original complain should be the controlling pleading. Further, defendants again argue that none of the individual defendants who are employed by Carroll County, a political subdivision of the State of Maryland, may be considered a debt collector under the FDCPA. ECF No. 18.

         The court has examined the arguments presented under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 and shall grant ...


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