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Dorsey v. Shearin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 17, 2017

TERRY L.S. DORSEY #193579 Plaintiff,


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants', Defendants Warden Bobby P. Shearin, Warden Frank Bishop, Jr, and Chaplain Kevin Lamp, Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17). The Motion is ripe for disposition. Having reviewed the Motions and supporting documents, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will deny Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         Plaintiff Terry L.S. Dorsey is an inmate at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). Beginning in March of 2013, Dorsey asked Kevin Lamp, Chaplain at NCBI, at least two times about Native American religious services. (Compl. at 2, ECF No. 1). Dorsey learned that Defendant Shearin, who was then Warden at NBCI, would not permit Native American services at NBCI because of their use of ceremonial tobacco. (Id.). Dorsey also learned that eight people were needed for a group. (Id.).

         Dorsey filed Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) request No. NBCI-1558-13 asking for Native American Worship Services at NBCI, which Shearin denied. (Id. at 6). On July 15, 2013, Dorsey appealed Shearin's decision to the Commissioner of the Division of Correction, who found his appeal meritorious, and instructed Shearin to adequately accommodate the religious requirements of the Native American Faith Group. (ECF No. 24-1 at 4, 5-6). On August 28, 2014, Dorsey filed a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”) complaining that he was improperly classified as Maximum II security. Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Georgia S. Brady held a hearing on May 20, 2015. (ECF No. 24-1 at 19- 39).

         In a written decision dated August 31, 2015, ALJ Brady concluded that Dorsey's reclassification to Maximum II security status did not comply with DOC policy or with COMAR and C or with COMAR 12.0207.03A or B. (Id.). The ALJ also found that violation of the policy and applicable regulations prejudiced Dorsey. (Id. at 38-39). The ALJ determined that as a matter of law, Dorsey did not have a liberty interest in avoiding assignment to Maximum II security status, and the DOC's reclassification process in this regard did not violate his rights to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. No damages or other relief arising from the reclassification decision was awarded. Id.

         On May 5 2015, Dorsey filed ARP NBCI 0886-15 complaining that he has not been able to attend religious services because he is classified as a Max II security inmate. (ECF No. 24-1 at 17-18). On July 10, 2015, the Warden denied the ARP as without merit, noting that Dorsey had been at NBCI for three years but in the general population for “a couple of days” due to his behavior. (Id. at 17).

         In his Opposition, Dorsey argues that the Native American worship services provided at NBCI is based on Lakota tradition and does not offer him the opportunity to study his Blackfoot Native American beliefs. (Pl.'s Opp. at 3, ECF No. 24). Dorsey raised this concern in ARP NBCI-2424-15, which he filed on November 25, 2015, and was denied on January 22, 2016. (ECF No. 24-1 at 12; ECF No. 17-3 at 10). On March 31, 2016, his appeal was dismissed by the Commissioner who wrote: “Your claim that the volunteer group, Iron House Council, strictly practices the Lakota form of worship is inaccurate assessment. Iron House Council members are of various Native American tribes of which some are even of the Blackfoot tribe . . .” (ECF No. 24-1 at 11). The Commissioner's denial indicated that the group is afforded latitude to practice and study other tribes, and noted that Dorsey had failed to specify the differences between what was being practiced and his practice requirements. (Id.).

         Defendant Lamp maintains that Native American religious worship requires congregate ceremonies to be held outdoors on sacred ground covered in grass. (Lamp Decl., ECF No. 24-2). Because there is little grassy area at NBCI and there is no outside area covered in grass far enough from secure areas, NBCI determined that no place was consistent with good security practices. (Id.). Lamp contacted Iron Horse Council, a volunteer group which assists in other DOC facilities, to hold services at NBCI. On May 27, 2014, the Council began conducting Native American services for general population inmates, and continues to do so on a bi-weekly basis. (Id.). Lamp attests that due to NBCI security concerns, religious congregate services are provided only to inmates in the general population. (Id.).

         Defendants provided copies of Dorsey's housing records. Case Manager Randy Durst summarized this information in his Declaration. (ECF No. 17-4 at 1).

         March 17, 2017 to March 19, 2014, Dorsey was in the general prison population.

         March 19, 2014 to August 4, 2014, Dorsey was placed in administrative segregation because there was reason to believe Dorsey had aided an assault on an inmate. ECF No. 17-4 at pp. 4-7.

         August 4, 2014 to September 26, 2014, Dorsey was returned to the general prison population.

         September 26, 2014 to January 15, 2015, Dorsey was placed on administrative segregation for security ...

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