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Tarpley v. Moyer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 21, 2016

STEPHEN T. MOYER, et al., Defendants.


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants', Frank B. Bishop, Jr, Brian W. Custer, Cory A. Dolley, Wendell M. France, Robert M. Friend, Zachery D. Gentzler, Walter E. Iser, Jr., Richard S. Miller, Steven J. Miller, Jr, Stephen T. Moyer, Carroll A. Parrish, Richard S. Roderick, Bobby P. Shearin, Nicholas J. Soltas, Ronald R. Stottler, J. Michael Stouffer, and Bradley A. Wilt, Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 22)[1] and Plaintiff Steven Tarpley's Amended Motion under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) in response to Defendants' Motion (ECF No. 27). The Motions are ripe for disposition. Having reviewed the Motions and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion and deny Tarpley's Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Plaintiff Steven Tarpley is a prisoner confined to North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) and claims that he is “an inmate advocate/representative” who provides assistance to any other inmates with administrative or criminal proceedings. (Compl. at 6). He states that on November 1, 2012, he was summoned to the Sergeant's office in Housing Unit 3 where he met with Sgt. Brian Custer and Sgt. Leah Youngblood and three unknown correctional officers. Id. Custer was holding a copy of a notice Tarpley had put up advising other inmates to contact the U.S. Department of Justice with any serious complaints concerning NBCI staff and offering assistance in doing so. Id. Tarpley states that Custer and an unknown male officer verbally threatened him for posting the notice. Id.

         On November 7, 2012, Tarpley states that Officer Jennifer Robertson served a Notice of Infraction on him, but would not allow Tarpley to read the report before signing for service. (Compl. at 7). Tarpley explains he needed to read the report to learn the facts and list any relevant witnesses or other evidence he wanted to present at the disciplinary hearing at the time of service. Id. Tarpley admits that Robertson told him he was charged with refusing to lock in to his cell after receiving morning medication. Id. Tarpley learned, however, that the Notice of Infraction alleged the incident occurred on the date he moved to the new cell and that it was written by Sgt. Youngblood. (Compl. at 8).

         On December 18, 2012, Tarpley alleges a falsified report was written by Officer Dale Troutman charging Tarpley with interfering with an officer in the performance of his duties, inciting a riot or disturbance, and committing acts of disrespect. Id. The report was based on an incident where Tarpley refused to sit at a table with three gang members. Id. Following a brief interview with Troutman, Tarpley claims that Officer Daniel Robertson told Troutman he had heard enough and handcuffed Tarpley. Id. Robertson then escorted Tarpley to housing unit one where he was left in a strip cage. Id. Tarpley asserts his repeated requests to be taken to a holding cell to use the toilet were ignored and that he defecated in the strip cage. Id. He was then removed from the strip cage at approximately 9:30 p.m., without being allowed to wash the feces off of himself. Id.

         On December 24, 2012, Tarpley had a fight with his cellmate. (Compl. at 9). He claims his cellmate, Vincent, was a newly indoctrinated member of the Aryan Brotherhood who was angry with Tarpley for refusing to join the group and continuing to associate with people of color. Id. Following the fight, Tarpley was taken to a contingency cell. Id. He claims he was deprived of all his property except a mattress which was provided the following morning. Id. On March 4, 2013, Tarpley prevailed on a Motion for Preliminary Injunction seeking an order from the Circuit Court for Allegany County to enjoin Warden Shearin from obstructing his access to the library. Id. On March 7, 2013, Tarpley and his cellmate were stopped by Defendants Dolley and Gentzler as they were attempting to go to lunch. (Compl. at 10). A cell search was performed on Tarpley's cell and a razorblade was discovered. Id. Tarpley was handcuffed and escorted to a different housing unit. Id. Tarpley adds he was denied lunch. Id.

         On August 14, 2013, Tarpley claims that Defendant Nicholas J. Soltas said, “You know all of your ARPs and lawsuits really don't do anything. I just had to go and sign for counsel again, what do you think it is, the squeaky wheel gets the oil? Well I've got news for you, the squeaky wheel gets bumped around a lot here.” (Compl. at 12). Soltas then left claiming to resume checking Tarpley's property, and upon return, he told Tarpley he had found a note that contained a threat to another inmate. (Compl. at 12-13). Soltas informed Tarpley he was charging him with a rule violation. (Compl. at 13). Soltas refused to return Tarpley's property, even though he informed Soltas that he had pleadings due in court by August 24, 2013, but Soltas still refused. Id. Tarpley claims that in the days to follow, staff repeatedly refused to return his property. Id.

         On August 18, 2013, Tarpley states his cellmate, Richard Owens, put his arm out of the slot in the cell door to prevent it from being closed in an effort to bring a Sergeant to the cell and inform him that the officers were unreasonably refusing to return Tarpley's property. Id. Tarpley claims the usual practice when this occurs is for correctional officers to place a shield across the cell door and to notify the unit manager. Id. Instead, Officer Steven Miller sprayed both Owens and Tarpley with pepper spray and charged both men with violation of “various conduct rule[s].” Id. Tarpley states that Owens was provided with a decontamination shower, but he was not. Id.

         On September 19, 2013, Hearing Officer Jon Sandstrom dismissed all charges concerning the alleged threatening note Soltas found in Tarpley's property. (Compl. at 14). Despite dismissal of the charges against Tarpley, he was not removed from segregation status. Id. Instead, Tarpley was served with a Notice of Assignment to administrative segregation and “idle status” for more than four months. Id. Tarpley claims that from August 2013 through March 2014, Defendants engaged in an arbitrary practice of transferring him from one cell to another, housing him with inmates who were members of prison gangs. (Compl. at 14-15). Tarpley alleges this was purposefully done in order to provoke him into either fighting the other inmate or refusing a housing assignment, either of which would result in administrative penalties. (Compl. at 15).

         On April 16, 2015, Tarpley initiated this action claiming Defendants' conduct violate his rights under the Eighth Amendment and Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. (ECF No. 1). As relief, Tarpley seeks monetary damages as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. (Compl. at 21). On February 16, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 22). On May 25, 2016, Tarpley filed an Opposition to the Motion. (ECF No. 27).


         A. Standard of Review

         A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), or does not state “a plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Though the plaintiff is not required to forecast evidence to prove the elements of the claim, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish each element. Goss v. Bank of Am., N.A., 917 F.Supp.2d 445, 449 ...

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