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Tarpley v. Hogan

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 15, 2016

STEVEN E. TARPLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
GOVERNOR LARRY HOGAN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) and Plaintiff Steven Tarpley's Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 17) and Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 31). Having reviewed the Motions and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion and deny Plaintiff's Motions.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Tarpley, a white male, is a prisoner confined to North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. Tarpley shares a cell with one other inmate but maintains it is designed to accommodate only one inmate. He states there are no provisions to secure personal property and the cell is equipped with one power outlet, one television cable outlet, and room for only one person's appliances. The second inmate is required to store his belongings on the floor. Tarpley maintains double-celling inmates at NBCI creates an unacceptable risk of violence and is done for the purpose of inducing one inmate to harm the other.

         Tarpley further states inmates are routinely forced to accept cell assignments with other inmates who openly express intent to harm them. He claims the threats are commonly made by members of prison security threat groups such as the Aryan Brotherhood, Black Guerilla Family, Dead Men Incorporated, and Murder, Inc. Tarpley states custody staff refuses to acknowledge, or are deliberately indifferent to, the fact that members of these groups refuse to accept a cellmate who is not also a member of the same group. Tarpley also maintains inmates with severe and untreated mental illness are routinely placed into cells with inmates who do not suffer such an illness. As a result, the cellmate assigned with a mentally-ill inmate is subjected to bizarre and sometimes dangerous behavior while the mentally ill cellmate is experiencing active symptoms of their illness.

         On September 24, 2007, Tarpley claims that he was stabbed in the eye by a gang member, causing blindness. He states the assault was committed because he was not a member of the gang. Tarpley also claims he suffered two attempted rapes and has been forced to share a cell with the known perpetrator. He states he has been forced into housing assignments where a confrontation was certain due to his lack of affiliation with a prison gang and was then cited for a rule violation when he was forced to defend himself. Tarpley claims this occurred while confined at NBCI on April 11, 2011, November 5, 2011, December 24, 2012, February 19, 2014, and January 10, 2015. Tarpley also described violent incidents where he was not involved. On September 25, 2012, Tarpley states that an unnamed inmate was seriously injured by his cellmate after making requests to be reassigned to another cell. On September 27, 2012, another unnamed inmate was killed by his cellmate under similar circumstances. On February 10, 2013, an inmate was killed by his cellmate while assigned to administrative segregation.

         On March 16, 2015, Tarpley initiated this action claiming the practices regarding cell assignments violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment and Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (ECF No. 1). As relief, Tarpley seeks a declaratory judgment finding the housing practices at NBCI are unconstitutional, an order mandating the reduction of the inmate population to one inmate per cell, an injunction prohibiting Defendants from increasing the population size above 1, 024 inmates, and an award of costs.

         On May 11, 2015, Tarpley filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction asserting that he has been repeatedly exposed to a serious risk of harm based on an alleged practice of assigning cellmates who are openly hostile to him because of his race. (ECF No. 5). He maintained he had been put into cells with members of the BGF, black supremacists, and inmates with severe mental illnesses who are inadequately treated, despite alerting correctional staff that his safety was being threatened. Tarpley maintained he had been assaulted several times as a result of custody staff regularly placing him in housing situations with hostile cellmates, which he suffers from a degenerative disorder which seriously impairs his ability to defend himself, and that one of the assaults caused him to lose his eyesight. On July 30, 2015, the Court denied Tarpley's Motion because he admitted that his current cellmate did not pose a threat of harm to him. (ECF No. 11).

         On October 23, 2015, Tarpley filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's July 30, 2015 Order. (ECF No. 17). On November 9, 2015, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 18). On January 8, 2016, Tarpley filed an Opposition to the Motion. (ECF No. 24). On May 31, 2016, Tarpley filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel. (ECF No. 31).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment

         1. Standard of Review

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. 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)). But “[w]hen matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [12(b)(6)] motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)). Under Rule 56(a), the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must draw all justifiable inferences in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party's case. Id.at 248; see JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265.

         “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in [his] favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must, however, also abide by the “affirmative ...


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