United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. Hazel United States District Judge
Maurice Ragins was being housed at the Baltimore Central
Booking & Intake Facility ("BCBIF"),
where he alleges he was struck by Correctional Officer
Sergeant Brett Thomas ("Sgt. Thomas") with an open
hand, immediately followed by assaults from several other
officers. ECF No. 1-1 at 2.Mr. Ragins states that this
occurred while Lieutenant Derrick Burman
(“Lt. Burman") stood and watched from
the doorway. On August 20, 2015, the Court received
Ragins" civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss,
or in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No.
16, and Ragins filed an Opposition. ECF No. 21. Defendants
filed a Reply. ECF No. 24. No hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons, Defendants" Motion is denied.
Ragins states he was detained at the BCBIF in 2014. He claims
that on May 8, 2014, after conversations with correctional
officers regarding a prison transfer and cell reassignment.
Sgt. Thomas struck him in the face with an open hand. Ragins
alleges he was subsequently assaulted by other officers, who
used their boots and fists, while Lt. Burman stood and
watched the officers attack him. ECF No. 1 at 2. Ragins
maintains that after he complied with an order to place his
hands behind his back for cuffing, he was hither stomped and
kicked by the officers, including Sgt. Thomas. ECF No. 1 at
2. Ragins claims that he was then pulled from the cell floor
and escorted to the medical department, where he received
medical treatment, hand photographs were taken of his bloody
face and ear. Id. He asserts that he filed
administrative remedy procedure ("ARP") grievances
after his return to the Maryland Correctional Institution in
Hagerstown ("MCIH"), but that they were dismissed
for procedural reasons. Id. at 3; ECF No. 1-1.
Ragins further states that he was cited with disciplinary
rule violations and was found not guilty of the infractions.
Id. He alleges his rights were violated under the
Eighth Amendment Fourteenth Amendment, and Article 16 of the
Maryland Declaration of Rights and seeks $500, 000.00 in
damages. ECF No. 1 at 3.
their Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for
Summary Judgment, submitted without affidavit or exhibits,
Defendants argue that as a pre-trial detainee, Ragins cannot
maintain his claims under the Eighth Amendment. ECF No. 16-1
at 4. Instead they maintain that the claim should be raised
order the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. Defendants
further argue that Ragins has failed to state a chair upon
which relief can be granted as to his Maryland Declaration of
Rights allegation because such a state law claim is
"contingent on the presence of a federal claim, "
and because Ragins has failed to raise any claim cognizable
under Article 16. Id. at 5.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
dispositive motion, which solely questions the adequacy of
Ragins* 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 plaintiffs complaint must 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 formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or
"naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual
enhancement." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662,
678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).
stage, the court must consider all well-pleaded allegations
in a complaint as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S.
266, 268 (1994), and must construe all factual allegations in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See Harrison
v. Westinghonse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783
(4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v.
Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130. 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). Because
Ragins is self-represented, his submissions are liberally
construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007). In evaluating the Complaint, the Court need not
accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v. Charles
Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989),
nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual
allegations, Ashcroft, 556 U.S. 662 at 678, or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to
actual events. United Black Firefighters v.
Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also
Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir.
2009). "[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the
court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct,
the complaint has alleged, but it has not 'show[n] ...
that the pleader is entitled to relief.",
Iqbal 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). Thus, "[determining whether a complaint states
a plausible claim for relief will...be a context-specific
task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its
judicial experience and common sense." Id.
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss
Defendants are correct that as a pre-trial detainee Plaintiff
cannot bring a claim under the Eighth Amendment, see City
of Revere v. Massachusetts General Hosp., 463 U.S. 239,
244 (1983), he has indeed invoked the Fourteenth Amendment
and the court will liberally construe this pro-se complaint
as stating such a claim. The application of force involved in
a detainee's confinement is evaluated under the
Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. See United
States v. Cobb, 905 F.2d 784, 788-789 (4th Cir. 1990).
Under that standard, the use of force violates the Due
Process Clause if it is intended as punishment. See
id, 905 F.2d 784; Bibum v. Prince George 's
Cty., 85 F.Supp.2d 557, 562 (D. Md. 2000). Punitive
intent may be inferred when the application of the force was
not reasonably related to a legitimate non-punitive
objective. Cobb, 905 F.2d at 789.
Ragins' allegations that he was, without cause, assaulted
by Sgt. Thomas with an open hand and kicked and stomped on by
Sgt. Thomas and other officers while Lt. Burman stood by and
watched, set out a Fourteenth Amendment claim. Thus,
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is denied.
Pending Non-Dispositive Motions
argues in his Motion to Appoint Counsel that the appointment
of counsel is warranted because cf extraordinary and
mitigating circumstances associated with his case ECF No. 27
at 2. He contends that the Complaint has "very complex
issues." Id. He firmer states that he is
currently suffering from post-traumatic distress as a result
of being brutally abused with excessive force, ...