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Shamsud'Diyn v. Lyons

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 9, 2016

KHALID SHAMSUD'DIYN, #330-816[1]Plaintiff


          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Khalid Shamsud'Diyn, a self-represented inmate at Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”), filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against five defendants, in both their official and individual capacities: Keith Lyons, Warden of Jessup Correctional Institution (“JCI”), and JCI Officers Robert Jordan, Brandon Barnett, Reginald Turner, and Jacqueline Proctor. ECF 1. In particular, plaintiff alleges a violation of his rights under the Eighth Amendment, arising out of an incident on September 19, 2015. Id. Pursuant to a court Order (ECF 2), plaintiff filed a supplement to his Complaint. ECF 4.

         Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF 22. It is supported by a memorandum (ECF 22-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and several exhibits. Plaintiff opposes the motion (ECF 26, “Opposition”), and defendants have filed a reply. ECF 29.[2] Shamsud'Diyn submitted his own declarations with his Complaint and his Opposition, under penalty of perjury, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1746. See ECF 1 at 8;[3] ECF 26 at 16.[4]

         The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons outlined below, the court will grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

         By Order of April 18, 2016 (ECF 25), I denied plaintiff's motion for counsel, without prejudice. See ECF 21. However, in light of my ruling on the Motion, I will reconsider ECF 21 and grant Shamsud'Diyn's motion for appointment of counsel.

         I. Background

         On September 19, 2015, Turner and Proctor escorted Shamsud'Diyn from his cell to receive his medication. ECF 4. According to Shamsud'Diyn, Proctor was not assigned to his tier, the D-tier, but assisted in the escort to confront him about a complaint that he had filed against her on September 14, 2015. ECF 4 at 3. Shamsud'Diyn, who was handcuffed, was in a wheelchair because his left foot was in a brace, and his left wrist was wrapped with an ace bandage as a result of surgery that took place earlier in September. ECF 4 at 4. Plaintiff claims that, when he refused to discuss his complaint against Proctor, she sprayed pepper spray directly into his right eye, while Turner stood by and did nothing. ECF 4 at 5. Jordan took plaintiff to the medical unit after the incident. ECF 4 at 4. Plaintiff claims that he heard Jordan ask Turner, “what did [Officer Proctor] do this time?” ECF 4 at 5. Further, Shamsud'Diyn claims that Lyons transferred him to Western Correctional Institution in retaliation for bringing suit, where he remains, despite the presence of known enemies at that institution. Plaintiff seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as money damages. ECF 4 at 5.

         Defendants present a different version of events. Proctor avers that on September 19, 2015, Shamsud'Diyn was on disciplinary segregation status and confined to a single cell. Proctor Decl., ECF 22-3, ¶ 7.[5] Proctor avers that she reported to C wing, B Building at about 1:50 p.m. to assist Turner with escorting Shamsud'Diyn to the medical unit to receive his medication Id. at ¶ 8; see also “Officer's Use of Force Incident Report, ” ECF 22-3 at 6. Shamsud'Diyn, wearing a white t-shirt and baggy shorts, exited his cell in a wheelchair. ECF 22-3 at 6; ECF 29-1, DVD of tier. After Proctor wheeled Shamsud'Diyn down the hall, she decided to return Shamsud'Diyn to his cell so he could dress in the required orange segregation jumpsuit before leaving the tier. ECF 22-3 at 6.[6] When plaintiff was told that he needed to change his clothes, Shamsud'Diyn stood up from his wheelchair, cursed, and threatened to assault Proctor, lunging at her with his fists. Proctor responded by firing a one or two second burst of pepper spray. ECF 22-3 at 4; ECF 22-2, ¶¶ 10-13; ECF 22-2 at 3. Shamsud'Diyn walked back to his cell. ECF 29-1, DVD. Proctor informed Jordan of the incident, and Jordan and Barnett entered the tier and escorted Shamsud'Diyn to the medical unit for treatment. ECF 22-2 at 6. Turner denies Shamsud'Diyn's claim that, after the incident, Jordan then asked him, “What did she [Officer Proctor] do this time?” Id. ¶ 16.

         Registered Nurse (“RN”) Mariama Coker found Shamsud'Diyn oriented to name, place, date, time, and situation. ECF 22-4 at 1 (Simmons Decl.); ECF 22-4 at 2 (record of plaintiff's nurse visit on September 19, 2015). Coker found no swelling, bruising, or open areas on the skin, he was provided with boxes of milk, which he used to wash his face and eyes. ECF 22-4 at 2. Shamsud'Diyn was provided two additional boxes of milk to take to his cell. Id. Coker noted that Shamsud'Diyn was calm and relieved from any burning sensation at the time he was returned to his cell an hour later. Id. During treatment, Shamsud'Diyn admitted to Coker that he was attempting to get up from his wheelchair to pull up his pants prior to being sprayed. Id.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants' motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept., Inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011). Ordinarily, a court “is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss.” Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, “the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56, ” but “[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d); see Adams Housing, LLC v. The City of Salisbury, Maryland, ___ Fed. App'x ___, No. 15-2589, slip op. at 7 (4th Cir. Nov. 29, 2016) (per curiam). However, when the movant expressly captions its motion “in the alternative” as one for summary judgment, and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur; the court “does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998).

         In contrast, a court may not convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment sua sponte, unless it gives notice to the parties that it will do so. See Laughlin, 149 F.3d at 261 (stating that a district court “clearly has an obligation to notify parties regarding any court-instituted changes” in the posture of a motion, including conversion under Rule 12(d)); Finley Lines Joint Protective Bd. Unit 200 v. Norfolk So. Corp., 109 F.3d 993, 997 (4th Cir. 1997) (“[A] Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss supported by extraneous materials cannot be regarded as one for summary judgment until the district court acts to convert the motion by indicating that it will not exclude from its consideration of the motion the supporting extraneous materials.”); see also Adams Housing, LLC, supra, slip op. at 7 (“The court must give notice to ensure that the party is aware that it must ‘come forward with all of [its] evidence.'”) (citation omitted).

         A district judge has “complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.” 5 C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion “should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights.” Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material “is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, ” and “whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure” is necessary. Id. at 165, 167.

         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. 2012); see Putney v. Likin, ___ Fed. App'x ___, 2016 WL 3755783, at *5-6 (4th Cir. July 14, 2016); McCray v. Maryland Dep't of Transportation, 741 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2015). 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))

         “[T]o 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.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 885 (2008).

         If a non-moving party believes that further discovery is necessary before consideration of summary judgment, the party fails to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit at his peril, because “‘the failure to file an affidavit . . . is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (citations omitted). But, the non-moving party's failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit cannot obligate a court to issue a summary judgment ruling that is obviously premature. Although the Fourth Circuit has placed “‘great weight'” on the Rule 56(d) affidavit, and has said that a mere “‘reference to Rule 56(f) [now Rule 56(d)] and the need for additional discovery in a memorandum of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is not an adequate substitute for [an] affidavit, '” the appellate court has “not always insisted” on a Rule 56(d) affidavit. Id. (internal citations omitted).

         According to the Fourth Circuit, failure to file an affidavit may be excused “if the nonmoving party has adequately informed the district court that the motion is premature and that more discovery is necessary” and the “nonmoving party's objections before the district court ‘served as the functional equivalent of an affidavit.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (internal citations omitted); see also Putney, 2016 WL 3755783, at *5; Nader v. Blair, 549 F.3d 953, 961 (4th Cir. 2008). Moreover, “[t]his is especially true where, as here, the non-moving party is proceeding pro se.” Putney, 2016 WL 3755783, at *5.

         Plaintiff has not filed an affidavit under Rule 56(d). Moreover, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to address the defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment, because it will facilitate resolution of this case.

         Summary judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), which provides, in part: “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion. “By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

         “The party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘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) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1042 (2004). The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002); see FDIC v. Cashion, 720 F.3d 169, 173 (4th Cir. 2013).

         The district court's “function” is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. Moreover, the trial court may not make credibility determinations on summary judgment. Jacobs v. N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, 780 F.3d 562, 569 (4th Cir. 2015); Mercantile Peninsula Bank v. French, 499 F.3d 345, 352 (4th Cir. 2007); Black &. Decker Corp. v. United States, 436 F.3d 431, 442 (4th Cir. 2006); Dennis, 290 F.3d at 644-45. Therefore, in the face of conflicting evidence, such as competing affidavits, summary judgment is generally not appropriate, because it is the function of the fact-finder to resolve factual disputes, including matters of witness credibility.

         Nevertheless, to defeat summary judgment, conflicting evidence, if any, must give rise to a genuine dispute of material fact. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. If “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party, ” then a dispute of material fact precludes summary judgment. Id. at 248; see Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd, 718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013). On the other hand, summary judgment is appropriate if the evidence “is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Id. at 252. And, “the mere existence of a scintilla of evidence in support of the plaintiff's position will be insufficient; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the plaintiff.” Id.

         Because plaintiff is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). But, the court must also abide by the “‘affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.'” Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corporation v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)).

         III. Discussion

         Defendants raise four affirmative defenses, which I shall discuss, in turn.


         Defendants argue that Samsud'Diyn's request for monetary damages against them in their official capacity for alleged constitutional violations is barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. ECF 22 at 9-10. The Eleventh Amendment provides: “The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or subjects of any Foreign State.” Sovereign immunity accords states the dignity that is consistent with their status as sovereign entities. Fed. Mar. Comm'n v. S. Carolina State Ports Auth., 535 U.S. 743, 760 (2002).[7]

         The Eleventh Amendment bars suit in federal court against a state by its own citizens, absent consent or a valid Congressional abrogation of sovereign immunity. See Coleman v. Court of Appeals of Maryland,, ___ U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1327, 1333 (2012) (“A foundational premise of the federal system is that States, as sovereigns, are immune from suits for damages, save as they elect to waive that defense.”); Board of Trustees of Univ. of Alabama v. Garett, 531 U.S. 356, 363 (2001); Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54-55 (1996) (“For over a century we have reaffirmed that federal jurisdiction over suits against unconsenting States was not contemplated by the Constitution when establishing the judicial power of the United States.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); Pennhurst State School and Hospital v Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984).

         Under Eleventh Amendment jurisprudence, “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. Michigan Dept. of StatePolice, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989). Therefore, official capacity claims are subject to sovereign immunity under the Eleventh Amendment. Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167 (1985); accord Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991). As the Supreme Court explained in Graham, 473 U.S. at 165: “Personal-capacity suits seek to impose personal liability upon a government official for actions he takes under color of state law. Official-capacity suits, in contrast, ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'” (quoting Monell v. N.Y.C. Dept. of Soc. Servs.,436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55 (1978)) (citations omitted); see also, e.g., Huggins v. Prince George's Cnty., 683 F.3d 525, 532 (4th ...

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