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Sorensen v. Wolfe

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 9, 2016

KENNETH SORENSEN, #408282, 1782085, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN WOLFE, Warden, Jessup Correctional Institution, S. PRIGGS, Manager, LT. BARNETT, Correctional Officer CAPTAIN SHAW, Correctional Officer, DR. MOORE, Psychologist, CAROL JACKSON, Chief Medical Supervisor, GEORGE ALLEN, Manager, ROBERT JORDAN, Correctional Officer, LT. LEGRAND, KEVIN J. McCOMANT, SERGEANT SHEKEY SELLMAN, FRANK B. BISHOP, JR., RICHARD J. GRAHAM, JR., MICHAEL P. THOMAS, W. SLATE, RONALD GORDON, ROBERT TICHNELL, DAVID SIPES, E. CLARK,

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Background

         Self-represented plaintiff Kenneth Sorensen filed a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint, as amended and supplemented, requesting damages and injunctive relief. Compl., ECF No. 1; Am. Compl, ECF No. 9; Suppl. Compl. No. 1, ECF No. 21; Suppl. Compl. No. 2, ECF No. 35; Suppl. Compl. No. 3, ECF No. 43; Suppl. Compl. No. 4, ECF No. 52; Suppl. Compl. No. 5, ECF No. 55; Suppl. Compl. No. 6, ECF No. 64.[1] Sorensen, who is an inmate in the custody of the Maryland Division of Correction, claims Defendants failed to protect him from harm during the time he was incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution ("WCI") when, shortly after Sorensen informed on a fellow inmate, the prison staff placed a prison-gang member in Sorensen's cell and the inmate upon whom Sorensen informed in the neighboring cell. Suppl. Compl. No. 2, at 22-24.[2] Further, he claims Defendants unlawfully retaliated against and harassed him; subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement; denied him necessary medical and dental care; denied his request to attend religious services; and denied him due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment during the time he was incarcerated at Jessup Correctional Institution ("JCI"). Compl. 10-15, 18-19; Suppl. Compl. No. 2, at 43, 51. Sorenson is presently housed on protective custody at Eastern Correctional Institution ("ECI").

         Pending is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 57, which Sorensen has opposed, ECF No. 62. Also pending is Sorensen's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction.[3] ECF No. 66. No hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For reasons stated herein, Defendants' motion will be treated as a motion for summary judgment, and will be granted in part and denied in part without prejudice to renewal within twenty-eight days. Plaintiffs Motion for Preliminary Injunctive Relief will be denied.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, " that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see also Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough avoid summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 252 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact could reasonably find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id. "In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party." Downing v. Bait. City Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs, No. RDB-12-1047, 2015 WL 1186430, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2015) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)).

         Sorensen has filed voluminous attachments including records, lengthy handwritten statements and declarations, and other documents, some of which are not relevant to matters at issue, in support of his claim.[4] Defendants have submitted declarations and verified records with their dispositive motion. ECF Nos. 57-2 to -7.

         The Court may consider a wider array of documents when it treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, which it may do pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). See Syncrude Canada, Ltd. v. Highland Consulting Grp., Inc., 916 F.Supp.2d 620, 623 (D. Md. 2013). When the Court does so, "[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). Notably, "the Federal Rules do not prescribe that any particular notice be given before a Rule 12 motion is converted to a Rule 56 motion." Ridgell v. Astrue, DKC-10-3280, 2012 WL 707008, at *7 (D. Md. Mar. 2, 2012). Thus, this requirement "can be satisfied when a party is 'aware that material outside the pleadings is before the court.'" Walker v. Univ. of Md. Med. Sys. Corp., No. CCB-12-3151, 2013 WL 2370442, at *3 (D. Md. May 30, 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)).. Though the Court "clearly has an obligation to notify parties regarding any court-instituted changes in the pending proceedings, [it] 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). Here, Defendants designate their motion as a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment. Further, Sorensen was provided the opportunity to dispute these exhibits and has done so. See PL's Opp'n, ECF No. 62. For these reasons, it is appropriate to treat Defendants' motion as a motion for summary judgment, and I will consider the exhibits attached to it.

         Discussion

         Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Defendants have raised the affirmative defense of failure to exhaust administrative remedies with regard to Sorensen's claims pertaining to his incarceration at WCI and several of the claims pertaining to his incarceration at JCI. On that basis, they argue that the claims must be dismissed. Defs.' Mem. 8-10, ECF No. 57-1.

         The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") provides, in pertinent part:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such ...

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