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Harris v. Schmitt

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 15, 2016

CHESTER B. HARRIS, JR., # 422-566, Plaintiff
SGT. SCHMITT, ARP Coordinator, CARROLL PARRISH, Warden DAYENA CORCORAN, Acting Comm'r, Defendants


          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         On May 8, 2015, Chester B. Harris, Jr., an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland ("MCI-J") filed a Complaint alleging that his "emergency" Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") request was improperly dismissed by Defendant ARP Coordinator Sergeant Sheila Schmitt. ECF No. 1. On June 12, 2015, Harris filed a court-ordered supplement to his Complaint in which he explained that he is a chronic care patient who suffers from asthma, allergies, depression, and anxiety. ECF No. 7. Harris claims that the living conditions at MCI-J, where there are "feces on the walls, ceiling, & feeding slot" and "excessive dust and dirt" and the heat is on in April, amount to "cruel and unusual punishment" and are "not compatible" with his ailments. Id. at 3-4. He added Warden Carroll Parrish as a Defendant, claiming that "[t]his issue was brought to the Warden's attention, and he too showed deliberate indifference to the life threatening conditions that [Harris] was forced to endure." Id. at 1, 4. Harris filed a second supplement on July 9, 2015, adding Acting Commissioner Dayena Corcoran as a Defendant and claiming that Corcoran denied his request for a "personal fan" to address the “inadequate” ventilation in his cell. ECF No. 9.[1]

         Defendants Sergeant Schmitt, Warden Carroll Parrish, and Assistant Commissioner Dayena Corcoran filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative Motion for Summary Judgment, along with a Memorandum in Support and verified exhibits and declarations. ECF Nos. 24, 24-1, 24-3, 24-8. Harris, who is a self-represented litigant, filed an opposition, along with an exhibit. ECF Nos. 30, 30-1. After considering the parties' briefs, exhibits, and applicable law, I find a hearing unnecessary to resolve the issues. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). I will treat Defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment[2] and, because Harris failed to exhaust his administrative remedies or present any claim of constitutional significance, I will grant it.

         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 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 v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The existence of only a “scintilla of evidence” is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could 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. Balt. 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)).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Harris' claims are premised on ARPs he filed complaining about the conditions of his confinement. Defendants provided the following verified information in support of their dispositive motion.

         A. First ARP

         Harris filed an ARP, labeled as an “emergency” request, dated April 5, 2015 (“First ARP”), complaining that there were “feces on the ceiling, excessive dirt & dust all over the cell, ” and that “the heat [was] on in April (allergy time) with NO ventil[]ation because the window doesn't open.” First ARP 2, ECF No. 7-1. Harris stated he was housed on a segregation tier and was a “chronic care patient” with “asthma, allergies, chronic constipation, & anxiety, & depression.” Id. at 1. According to Harris, his health conditions were “not compatible” with the conditions of his confinement, which therefore violated his Eighth Amendment rights. Id. at 1- 2. As relief, he asked to be moved to a medical unit or to a different facility. Id.

         Sergeant Schmitt dismissed Harris's First ARP for procedural reasons, explaining that an ARP may address only one issue, but the First ARP raised “medical, ” “housing” and “psychology issues.” Defs.' Ex. 2, at 4.[3] She instructed Harris to resubmit his grievances by April 28, 2015 as multiple ARPs, including one issue or a reasonable number of closely related issues in each ARP. Id.

         On April 19, 2015, Harris submitted a letter to Sergeant Schmitt, which appears to be a resubmission of his First ARP. Id. at 6. Harris's letter stated in part:

I find you to be both heartless & incompetently unprofessional in the performance of your duties, because you had the audacity & ignorance to ask for resubmission of the above-captioned ARP, despite it being marked & explained to be an “EMERGENCY.” I want you to read- READ- & try to comprehend that there is only ONE issue!:
“My health conditions are not compatible with the cruel and unusual punishment of my housing location.”

Id. (quotation marks and emphases in original). In response, Sergeant Schmitt sent Harris “appeal forms and copies of [his] ARP, ” explaining that “[i] n order to be process [sic], ” Harris “need[ed] to resubmit each complaint on separate ARP forms. On the back of the appeal form has [sic] instructions on how to file.” Id. at 8.

         Harris submitted his appeal to Commissioner of Correction on May 1, 2015. ECF No. Id. at 9-10. In his appeal, Harris maintained that he had resubmitted his emergency ARP with the explanation that “there was only the ONE issue, and all of the other info[rmation] was in support of the ONE issue.” Id. at 9. On May 4, 2015, the Headquarters Appeal Coordinator dismissed the appeal “for procedural reasons, ” namely, that he “failed to resubmit in accordance with the coordinator's instructions” and his “appeal also contains multiple issues- medical, housing, pysch.” Id.

         B. ...

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