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Fleming v. Department of Safety

United States District Court, D. Maryland

October 18, 2016

WILLIE HERNANDEZ FLEMING #58277-037 Plaintiff
v.
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY and CORRECTIONAL SERVICES “DPSCS”[1]BALTIMORE CITY DETENTION CENTER RICKY FOXWELL MRS. FISHER, Warden, Maryland Reception Diagnostic Classification Center MRDCC” MRS. MIDDLETON, State's Attorney Baltimore City LT. DEPREE Intel LT. THOMPSON, Baltimore City Jail GARY D. MAYNARD, Secretary of DPSCS HOWARD RAY, JR., Commissioner of Pretrial CAROLYN A. ATKINS, Director Detention Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          RICHARD D. BENNETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Willie Hernandez Fleming, a federal prisoner, [2] alleges in a civil rights Complaint filed May 10, 2016, that he was assaulted on three occasions while detained in Maryland state facilities awaiting trial.[3] ECF 1. To date, five of the nine Defendants named in the Complaint have been served and have responded, filing a Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment (ECF 12), which is opposed by Fleming. ECF 15. After considering the pleadings, exhibits, and applicable law, the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016), as a hearing is deemed unnecessary. For reasons to follow, the Motion filed by Defendants Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”), Baltimore City Detention Center (“BCDC”), DPSCS Secretary Gary D. Maynard, Executive Director of the Maryland Commission on Correctional Standards Howard Ray, Jr., and BCDC Warden Ricky Foxwell, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, [4] will be GRANTED.[5]

         BACKGROUND

         Fleming states that during a bail hearing he “had words with members of [a] gang called the Black Gorilla Family (BGC).” ECF 1 at p. 8. After his bail hearing, and despite concerns for his safety expressed by Sgt. Lucas, a female officer in the Intel Unit, he was moved from Central Booking to the “steel side” of BCDC. His safety concerns were ignored by Lt. Thomspon, who “walked away” while nine officers assaulted him before tossing Fleming into a cell. This incident occurred on or about November 12, 2013. Id. at pp. 8-9.[6]

         Fleming claims the second assault occurred in January of 2014 at the hands of fellow detainees while he was housed in protective custody following his transfer from the Jail to the Maryland Reception and Diagnostic Classification Center (“MRDCD”). He states he was then returned to BCDC and assaulted a third time by gang members on an unknown date while housed at BCDC's Women's Detention Center (“WDC”).[7] ECF 1 at pp. 10-11.

         The five Defendants who have been served seek summary judgment in their favor on several grounds: they are not amenable to suit; they are not amenable to suit in in their official capacities; and they were not personally involved in the matters alleged.[8]

         In his opposition response, Fleming does not respond to Defendants' arguments in support of their dispositive Motion. Instead, he states he has witnesses to the incidents and requires appointment of counsel to assist in the development of his case. ECF 15.

         DISCUSSION

         Standard of Review

         Fleming was a pretrial detainee while detained at BCDC and MRDCC. He alleges that those responsible for his well-being failed to protect him from harm from both fellow detainees and detention center employees who assaulted him without provocation. The constitutional protections afforded a pretrial detainee as provided by the Fourteenth Amendment are coextensive with those provided by the Eighth Amendment. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979). “Due process rights of a pretrial detainee are at least as great as the eighth amendment protections available to the convicted prisoner.” Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987, 991 (4th Cir. 1992), citing Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 870 (4th Cir. 1988).

         Summary judgment is appropriate if “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); see Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “A material fact is one ‘that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.' ” Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Disputes of material fact are genuine if, based on the evidence, “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In order to avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party “ ‘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. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). While the Court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Francis v. Booz, Allen & Hamilton, Inc., 452 F.3d 299, 302 (4th Cir. 2006), it must also “prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993) (internal quotation marks omitted). Against this legal standard, the Court examines Defendants' defenses and arguments.

         1. Amenability to Suit

         At its core, a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is directed to unlawful conduct under color of law. See Owens v. Baltimore City State's Attorney Office, 767 F.3d 379 (4th Cir. 2014). Section 1983 of 42 U.S.C. provides, in part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party ...

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