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Germain v. Oakley

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 2, 2016




         In response to defendant Robin Woolford's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, plaintiff filed a motion for continuance accompanied by an affidavit pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 56(d) seeking discovery. ECF 20 and ECF 20-2.

         In his motion for continuance plaintiff states that justice would be served and judicial resources saved if he is allowed to pursue his claims against both defendants at the same time, noting that defendant Scott Oakley was not served with the complaint. ECF 20 at p. 2. He states that his Rule 56(d) affidavit further supports his motion to delay "summary judgment proceedings" in this case. Id.

         The Rule 56(d) affidavit states that plaintiff requires discovery to fashion his opposition response to Woolford's dispositive motion. He prefaces the affidavit with the statement that he "has a multitude of evidence to refute the false assertions made by defendant Woolford but for the time being [he] will use the evidence submitted by the defendant." ECF 20-2 at p. 3. Plaintiff seeks to engage in discovery to "adduce evidence ... to prove that defendant Woolford's sole intent was to obstruct plaintiffs ability to receive a remedy" in the context of plaintiffs claim that Woolford improperly required plaintiff to provide evidence of an injury from water that was allegedly too hot in the prison's shower. Id. at p. 6. Plaintiff complains that Woolford never explained why medical evidence of an injury was needed for the preliminary review of his grievance. Id. at p. 5.

         Plaintiff also seeks to engage in discovery to establish that Woolford did not provide the court with the entire content of his Inmate Grievance Office (IGO) file.[1] Id. at pp. 8-9. He claims he requires the entire file to establish that he complied with Woolford's request to provide a "property inventory or confiscation form and commissary form or other order form and any receipt" in support of his grievance that his property was improperly confiscated when he was placed on disciplinary segregation. Id. at p. 8.

         Plaintiff seeks to discover evidence that Woolford's motive in requiring him to provide documentation that he was required to send certain items by certified mail, and subsequently ignoring the documentation plaintiff provided, was to deprive him of the opportunity to litigate that issue in the courts. Id. at pp. 12 - 14. Plaintiff states that he was attempting to serve defendants in a state court case, which required him to use certified mail. Id. His claim is that he was not permitted by prison officials to send the items by certified mail either at his expense or at the institution's expense. Id. Plaintiff adds that he must be allowed to depose Woolford to "show his evil motives" and to "adduce evidence from the defendants to prove that they were acting in a concerted effort or agreement between them to deny plaintiff access to the state courts." Id. at pp. 18 and 19-20.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) provides that:

If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts to justify its opposition, the court may:
(1) Defer considering the motion or deny it;
(2) Allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or
(3) Issue any other appropriate order.

         Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate "where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery." E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448-49 (4th Cir. 2011). However, "the party opposing summary judgment 'cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'" Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). To raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the non-movant typically must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why, "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, " without needed discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f))

         Notably, '"Rule 56(d) affidavits cannot simply demand discovery for the sake of discovery.'" Hamilton v. Mayor & City Council of Baltimore, 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 342 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Young v. UPS, No. DKC-08-2586, 2011 WL 665321, at *20, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14266, at *62 (D. Md. Feb. 14, 2011)). "Rather, to justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be 'essential to [the] opposition.'" Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., LLC, 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). A non-moving party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is properly denied "where the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment." Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see Amirmokri v. Abraham, 437 F.Supp.2d 414, 420 (D. Md. 2006), aff'd, 266 F.App'x. 274 (4th Cir. 2008).

         The claims asserted by plaintiff in his complaint are that defendants have denied him access to the courts through their actions. "Ultimately, a prisoner wishing to establish an unconstitutional burden on his right of access to the courts must show 'actual injury' to 'the capability of bringing contemplated challenges to sentences or conditions of confinement before the courts.'" O'Dell v. Netherland,112 F.3d 773, 776 (4th Cir. 1997), quoting Lewis v. Casey,518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996). "The requirement that an inmate alleging a violation of Bounds must show actual injury derives ultimately from the doctrine of standing, a constitutional principle that prevents courts of law from undertaking tasks assigned to the political branches." Lewis, 518 U.S. at ...

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