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Blanchard v. P.G. County Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 25, 2017




         On February 29, 2016, the Court received for filing an “Affidavit” submitted by detainee Ray Blanchard. ECF No. 1. Blanchard raised a laundry list of claims regarding his detention at the Prince George's County Detention Center (“PGCDC”).[1] He alleged that he was denied access to the PGCDC grievance system; PGCDC staff used excessive force against him on July 14, 2015; detainees are provided inadequate medical treatment; the PGCDC commissary is overpriced; PGCDC staff hinder, obstruct and prevent the forwarding of personal, legal and special mail; detainees are denied due process in the taking of telephone, commissary, and other privileges prior to a disciplinary hearing; and detainees are denied “leisure and law library” public information.[2] Id.

         In his Supplemental Complaint, Blanchard alleges that on July 14, 2015, excessive force was applied against him when Officer Reid pushed Blanchard's arms against the wall and grabbed him around the collar and forced him “into the direction of the multipurpose room.” ECF No. 14. He also claims that Reid defamed him by stating very loudly “you mother fuckers aint nothing [but a] bunch of crackheads and dope fiends” and continuing to use obscene language. Blanchard further states that his medical needs were seemingly neglected as to his rheumatism, eyeglasses, medically restricted housing, pain medication, ace wrap bandages. He next claims that he and other detainees were denied meaningful access to the courts as they were denied copies of information related to civil litigation, the attorney grievance process, habeas corpus, and “misrepresentation.” Blanchard additionally claims that his grievance was not responded to, and he was subject to officer “harassment.” Id.

         Pending before this Court are Blanchard's Motion for Appointment of Counsel, a Motion Requesting Amendment and Consolidation with Ali v. Prince George's County Department of Corrections, et al., Civil Action No. PWG-16-186 (D. Md.), [3] a Motion to Amend the Civil Rights Complaint, and a Motion for Default Judgment. ECF Nos. 9, 10, 13, & 16.

         Defendants McTernan, [4] McDonough, and Reid[5] have filed a Motion to Dismiss and Alternatively, for Summary Judgment, arguing that Blanchard's Complaint should be dismissed for the failure to state a claim. They assert that Blanchard has failed to demonstrate injury associated with his excessive force, access-to-courts, medical, verbal abuse, grievance, defamation, and conditions of confinement (commissary) claims.[6] ECF No. 18.

         In his Opposition response, Blanchard seemingly claims that Defendants have answered the Complaint in an untimely and dilatory manner. ECF No. 20. He further argues that he can maintain a constitutional claim of excessive force even when the force applied does not result in serious injury. Blanchard states that he has set out a claim of defamation based upon Officer Reid's spoken words. He additionally claims that he was stripped of his medical necessities and denied treatment for his rheumatism. Blanchard complains that he was denied access to the courts in that he was deprived of copies of “civil litigation, ” and information regarding attorney grievance, habeas corpus cases, and misrepresentation information causing several legal proceedings to become “fatally flawed.” Finally he contends that his right to access the PGCDC grievance system implicated his access to the courts and resulted in “serious harassment.” Id.

         Pending Non-Dispositive Motions

         Blanchard, who was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, seeks the appointment of counsel, claiming that he is unable to afford counsel, his imprisonment greatly limits his ability to litigate this case, the issues in the case are complex, he has limited access to the law library, an d his case will likely involve conflicting testimony. ECF No. 9.

         “The court may request an attorney to represent any person” proceeding in forma pauperis who is “unable to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) (2012). In civil actions, however, the Court appoints counsel only in exceptional circumstances. Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779, 780 (4th Cir. 1975). In doing so, the Court considers “the type and complexity of the case, ” whether the plaintiff has a colorable claim, and the plaintiff's ability to prosecute the claim. See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court for the S. Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296 (1989). Exceptional circumstances include a litigant who “is barely able to read or write, ” id. at 162, or clearly “has a colorable claim but lacks the capacity to present it, ” Berry v. Gutierrez, 587 F.Supp.2d 717, 723 (E.D. Va. 2008); see also Altevogt v. Kirwan, No. WDQ-11-1061, 2012 WL 135283, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 13, 2012).

         Blanchard's proffered reasons for the appointment of counsel fail to show exceptional circumstances or a particular need that would require the immediate assistance of an attorney. He has presented his claims, as well as his motions, and his case has not yet proceeded to discovery or a hearing. For these reasons, appointment of counsel is not warranted at this time. Blanchard's Motion to Appoint Counsel is therefore dismissed without prejudice. Should the case progress to discovery or a hearing, he may renew his Motion.

         Blanchard next seeks to amend and consolidate his case with Ali v. Prince George's County Department of Corrections, Civil Action No. PWG-16-186. (D. Md.). ECF No. 10. The Motion shall be denied as review of both cases show that the allegations are personal to each of the claimants, and involve particularized claims, which have little to no shared assertions.

         Blanchard further seeks to amend his Complaint to add additional Defendants and facts to the Complaint, as their names are revealed to him. ECF No. 13. Blanchard then levels another laundry list of claims, but fails to provide any particular facts or dates as to how his rights were violated by the named and unnamed parties. For these reasons Blanchard's Motion to Amend shall be denied without prejudice.

         Dispositive Motion

         Defendants McTernan, McDonough, and Reid's dispositive motion, which solely questions the adequacy of Blanchard's Complaint, shall be evaluated as a Motion to Dismiss. The purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the Complaint. See Presley v. City of Charlottesville,464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A Plaintiff's Complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than “a ...

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