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Calhoun-El v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 29, 2016

JAMES CALHOUN-EL, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK BISHOP, JR.,, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Richard D. Bennett United States District Judge.

         Now pending before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (“Plaintiff's Motion”) (ECF No. 75). Defendants have filed a Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion (“Opposition”) (ECF No. 76), and Plaintiff has filed his Reply (“Reply”) (ECF No. 80). The Court has reviewed the parties' submissions, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons stated herein, Plaintiff's Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff James Calhoun-El (“Calhoun-El” or “Plaintiff”) is an inmate at Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”). He filed this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on December 12, 2013. (ECF No. 1.) After briefing by the parties, this Court granted in part and denied in part defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment on November 25, 2014. (ECF Nos. 41, 42, 43.) The claims against Warden Frank Bishop and Chief of Security Michael P. Thomas were dismissed with prejudice, and Bishop and Thomas were dismissed from this case. (ECF Nos. 42, 43.) Calhoun-El's claims of due process violation, verbal harassment, and imminent danger of harm were dismissed without prejudice. Id. As to the remaining defendants, all correctional officers (“correctional officer defendants”), summary judgment on Calhoun-El's s excessive force claims was denied without prejudice, subject to renewal. Summary judgment was granted in favor of Defendants as to all remaining claims. Id.

         Defendants filed a Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 55), which was denied on October 19, 2015. (ECF Nos. 64, 65.) Pursuant to this Court's rulings on defendants' motions for summary judgment, only plaintiff's claim of excessive force remained in this case. See id.

         To help litigate plaintiff's excessive force claim, this Court appointed Bryan J. Harrison, Esq. as pro bono counsel on October 30, 2015. (ECF No. 67.) On January 15, 2016, Timothy F. McCormick, Esq. also entered his appearance as pro bono counsel for Plaintiff. (ECF No. 73.) On June 23, 2016, Mr. Harrison filed a Notice of Withdrawal of Appearance and is no longer involved in this case. (ECF No. 77.)[1]

         Nearly eight months after this Court's Order denying defendants' Renewed Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF Nos. 64, 65) and nearly six months after defendants filed their Answer (ECF No. 72), plaintiff filed his now-pending Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint (ECF No. 75). Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint would replace plaintiff's original, December 20, 2013 Complaint (ECF No. 1), as subsequently modified by plaintiff (ECF Nos. 24, 38, 61, and 62)[2] and limited by the orders of this Court (ECF Nos. 43, 65.)[3]The proposed Amended Complaint would be plaintiff's first pleading filed with the assistance of counsel. (ECF No. 75.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides the general rules for amending pleadings. Specifically, Rule 15(a) requires that, after a responsive pleading is served, a plaintiff may amend his complaint “by leave of court or by written consent of the adverse party.” In general, leave to amend a complaint pursuant to Rule 15(a) shall be “freely” granted “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2); see Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); Lance v. Prince George's County, Md., 199 F.Supp.2d 297, 300-01 (D. Md. 2002). The matter, however, is committed to the discretion of the district court, and the district judge may deny leave to amend “when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, the moving party has acted in bad faith, or the amendment would be futile.” Equal Rights Center v. Niles Bolton Assocs., 602 F.3d 597, 603 (4th Cir. 2010); see also Simmons v. United Mortg. & Loan Inv., LLC, 634 F.3d 754, 769 (4th Cir. 2011).

         DISCUSSION

         Plaintiff's proposed Amended Complaint seeks to add new parties and new claims to this case. (ECF No. 75.)[4] While defendants oppose Plaintiff's Motion in its entirety, they also raise specific arguments in opposition to several of the proposed amendments. (ECF No. 76.)

         I. Defendants Are Not Liable in Their Official Capacities for Alleged § 1983 Violations

         In Counts IX, X, XI, XIV, and XV of the proposed Amended Complaint, plaintiff seeks to hold defendants liable in both their individual and official capacities for alleged § 1983 violations. As set forth below, however, defendants are entitled to a sovereign immunity defense on these claims.

         “[A] suit against a state official in his or her official capacity is not a suit against the official but rather is a suit against the official's office. As such, it is no different from a suit against the State itself.” Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989) (citing Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471 (1985)). See also Shiheed v. Gursky, No. CIV.A. GLR-12-2974, 2015 WL 3752528, at *3 (D. Md. June 15, 2015). Under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, a state, its agencies, and departments are immune from suits in federal court brought by its citizens or the citizens of another state, unless the state consents. See Penhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). While the State of Maryland has waived its sovereign immunity for certain actions brought in state courts, it has not waived its immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to suit in federal court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 12-104(a), § 12- 103(2). The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is a state agency, and Western Correctional Institution is its prison. See Md. Code Ann., Corr. Servs. § 2-101; Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 8-201.

         Accordingly, the proposed amendments to all counts are futile as they seek to hold defendants liable in their official capacities for § 1983 violations-relief to which plaintiff is not entitled as a matter of law. Thus, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED insofar as it seeks to hold defendants liable in their official capacities for § 1983 violations in Counts IX, X, XI, XIV, and XV.

         II. ...


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