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Bechtold v. Hogan

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

February 27, 2017

GOVERNOR LAWRENCE HOGAN, et al., Defendants.


          GEORGE J. HAZEL United States District Judge

         Brian Anthony Bcchtold ("Plaintiff") filed the instant civil rights action against slate officials and personnel, seeking injunctive relief and damages. ECF No. 1. Plaintiff has also tiled a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis, ECF No. 2. which shall be granted. For the following reasons. Plaintiffs Complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice.

         1. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff, who is confined at Clifton T. Perkins State Hospital ("CTPH"). claims that when female CTPH patients are classified to medium security, they are sent to CTPH's "North Side" minimum security housing and "are released to the community faster and released." ECF No. 1 at 3. He complains that although he was approved for and sent to medium security in 201 0 and subsequently in 201 6. he has never been sent to minimum security. Id. Plaintiff generally complains that he has been held for many years and that he has been treated unfairly due to his race and gender, in violation of his constitutional rights. Id. He seeks $75, 000, 000.00 in damages, and he asks that CTPH be shut down by NATO troops or that the Warden from the Maryland Correctional Institution of Jessup take over operations for CTPH. Id.

         The Maryland state court docket reveals that in 1992. Brian Anthony Bechtold was charged with two counts of murder in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County, was found not criminally responsible, and was committed to Clifton T. Perkins State Hospital ("CTPH") for inpatient care and treatment. See Stale v. Bechtold, CAEF 65215C (Montgomery Cty. Cir. Ct. 1992). Dkt. No. 41.[1] The docket shows that Plaintiff has received periodic review of his commitment and applications for release. Id. at Dkt. Nos. 70. 97. The applications have been denied and Plaintiffs continued commitment was ordered by a circuit court judge. Id., On January 9. 2017. the Court received for filing Plaintiffs action, brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. ECF No. 1.

         II. Discussion

         Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 28 U.S.C. %\ 915A. the Court must dismiss a complaint filed in forma pauperis or by a prisoner seeking civil redress against a government entity or officer if it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Ross v. Baron. 493 F.App'x 405. 406 (4th Cir. 2012). Although complaints filed by pro se plaintiffs should be liberally construed, see Harris v. Janssen Healthcare Prods., No. ELH-15-2730. 2015 WL 5897710. at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 6. 2015). such a complaint must plead facts sufficient to "state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic ('orp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544. 570 (2007): sec also Harris. 2015 WI. 5897710, at *2 (stating that the pleading standard articulated in Twombly applies to cases filed by self-represented plaintiffs). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662. 678 (2009), 'Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) ("a plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlc[ment] to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.").

         Plaintiff filed his Complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. which "authorizes a party who has been deprived of a federal right under the color of state law to seek relief through an action at law. suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress." City of Monterey v. Del Monies Dimes at Monterey. Ltd. 526 U.S. 687. 707 (1999) (internal quotations omitted). The statute "is not itself a source of substantive rights, but merely provides a method of vindicating federal rights elsewhere conferred, " Albright v. Oliver. 510 U.S. 266. 271 (1994) (internal quotations omitted).

         Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendants discriminated against him in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.[2] Plaintiff broadly claims that he has been discriminated against due to his race, without providing any further detail. ECF No. I at 3. Plaintiff also claims that he has been discriminated against due to his sex. alleging that female patients with medium security badges are sent to "minimum security level status on the North Side" of CTPI1 and that they are "released faster." Id., The Equal Protection Clause requires that "the classification of persons [to] which a law applies must be "reasonable, not arbitrary, and must rest upon some ground of difference having a fair and substantial relation to the object of the legislation."" Sylvia Dev. Corp. v. Calvert Cty., 48 F.3d 810. 818 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Roysler Guano Co. v. Virginia. 253 U.S. 412. 415 (1920)).

         To establish a prima facie case for violation of equal protection, a plaintiff must show first "that he has been treated differently from others with whom he is similarly situated." and second "that the unequal treatment was the result of intentional or purposeful discrimination." Morrison v. (iarraghty. 239 F.3d 648. 654 (4th Cir. 2001). "If a plaintiff makes this initial showing, the court analyzes the disparity under the appropriate level of scrutiny." Sandlands C & D LLC v. Cty. of Horry, 737 F.3d 45. 55 (4th Cir. 2013) (citing Morrison v. Garraghty, 239 F.3d at 654).[3]

         To meet the first prong, the "similarly situated" standard, a plaintiff must "identify persons materially identical to him...who have received different treatment." Applegate, LP, 179 F.Supp.3d at 533 (quoting Kolbe v. Bogtw, 813 F.3d 160. 185 (4th Cir. 2016). reh'g granted, 636 F.App'x 880 (4th Cir. 2016) (mem.); see also Bourne v. S. W, Va. Reg'l Jail No. 7:14CV00140, 2014 WL 2930053, at *3 (W.D. Va. June 27. 2014) (finding that the plaintiff had "not shown that he shares all relevant classification factors with the inmates in the areas he compares" because "his security level, the stage of his trial proceedings, his home, his criminal history, and dozens of other factors" could legitimately account for his different treatment).

         To meet the second prong, a plaintiff must prove "that there was 'clear and intentional' discrimination." Cent. Radio Co.. Inc. v. City of Norfolk, 811 F.3d 625. 635 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Sylvia Dev. Corp.. 48 F.3d at 825 (internal citations omitted)). Factors that are probative in determining intent include:

(1) evidence of a "consistent pattern" of actions by the decision making body disparately impacting members of a particular class of persons: (2) historical background of the decision, which may take into account any history of discrimination by the decision making body or the jurisdiction it represents: (3) the specific sequence of events leading up to the particular decision being challenged, including any significant departures from normal procedures: and (4) contemporary statements by decision makers on the record or in minutes of their meetings.

Central Radio Co.. Inc.. 811 F.3d at 635 (quoting Sylvia Dev. Corp.. 48 F.3d at 819) (internal ...

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