United States District Court, D. Maryland
.Frederick Motz United States District Judge.
is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion for
Summary Judgment, filed by Tineeka Amason, Jason Anderson,
Warden, Assistant Warden, State of Maryland, and Patuxent
Institution. ECF 34. Plaintiff has responded. ECF 44.
Upon review of the papers filed, the court finds a hearing in
this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.
Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive
motion will be GRANTED.
Daniel Lanahan, currently confined at the Clifton T. Perkins
Hospital Center. ("Perkins"), filed this civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking
money damages and injunctive relief. At the time he filed the
case, he was undergoing mental health evaluation and
treatment at Perkins. ECF 1. The complaint contained a
plethora of claims, all of which were dismissed without
prejudice with the exception of his claims that he was
subjected to excessive force while housed at the Patuxent
Institution and was denied due process during the resultant
disciplinary infraction proceedings. ECF 3. State defendants
responded to the complaint with a motion to dismiss or in the
alternative motion for summary judgment (ECF 23), which
plaintiff opposed. ECF 28.
result of the altercation complained of, plaintiff was
criminally charged with second degree assault against a
Division of Correction employee. See Lanahan v.
Maryland, Civil Action No. JFM-15-2030, ECF 29-5, p. 1.
The District Court of Maryland for Howard County ordered, on
June 22, 2012, plaintiff be evaluated to determine if he was
competent to stand trial for the assault charge.
Id., ECF 29-7. Plaintiff was evaluated and on August
31, 2012, the District Court of Maryland for Howard County
found plaintiff incompetent to stand trial and a danger to
himself or others. Id., ECF 29-8. Plaintiff was
ordered committed to the Department of Health and Mental
September 4, 2014, the District Court of Maryland for Howard
County found plaintiff incompetent to stand trial and not
likely to regain competence within the foreseeable future.
Id., ECF 29-9. Plaintiff was ordered civilly
committed and the assault charge was dismissed the following
day. Id., ECF 29-5, p. 1. Plaintiff remains civilly
committed at Perkins, an administrative law judge having
found him a danger to himself or others. Id., ECF
court held that before it could examine the issues in this
case, the question of plaintiffs current mental competency
should be examined. ECF 33. The court noted that by
defendants' own admission, plaintiff had previously been
found not competent to stand trial and involuntarily
committed. His mental health status was not apparent based on
the parties' recent submissions. Where, as in this case,
"there has been a legal adjudication of incompetence
that is brought to the court's attention, [Fed R. Civ P.
17(c)(2)'s] provision is brought in play."
Id. As such, defendants' dispositive motion was
denied without prejudice subject to renewal and counsel for
defendants was directed to provide any information to assist
the court in determining whether plaintiffs continued
participation as a self-represented litigant in this matter
should continue. ECF33, p. 3.
have renewed their dispositive motion (ECF 34) and indicate
that there is no need to appoint counsel to assist plaintiff
in these proceedings. Id., Plaintiff has opposed the
renewed motion. ECF 44.
Civ. P. 17(c)(2) states:
A minor or an incompetent person who does not have a duly
appointed representative may sue by a next friend or by a
guardian ad litem. The court must appoint a guardian ad
litem-or issue another appropriate order-to protect a minor
or incompetent person who is unrepresented in an action.
respect to Rule 17(c)(2), the Fourth Circuit has observed
that "[t]he practical problem presented by a case in
which a presumably competent party might be thought to be
acting oddly, or foolishly, or selfdestructively in
prosecuting or defending a civil lawsuit, with or without
counsel, is a real one, " adding that "[p]arties to
litigation behave in a great variety of ways that might be
thought to suggest some degree of mental instability. Rule
17(c)(2) recognizes the existence of some forms of mental
deficiency which may affect a person's practical ability
to manage his or her own affairs that goes beyond
"something other than mere foolishness or improvidence,
garden-variety or even egregious mendacity, or even various
forms of the more common personality disorders."
Hudnall v. Sellner, 800 F.2d 377, 385 (4th Cir.
1986). While Rule 17(c)(2) allows the court to appoint a
guardian ad litem, it does not compel it to do so, but rather
grants it considerable discretion to issue an
"appropriate order" to protect the interest of an
unrepresented incompetent litigant. See Seibels, Bruce
& Co. v. Nicke, 168 F.R.D. 542, 543 (M.D. N.C.
Grimes, a Licensed Certified Social Worker employed by
Perkins avers that she is familiar with plaintiff. She
indicates that plaintiff has not been provided a legal
guardian, nor has Perkins sought to have a guardian appointed
for him. ECF 34-2, ¶ 6. She further avers that to her
knowledge there is no current finding that plaintiff is
legally incompetent. ECF 34-2, ¶ 7.
Civ. P. 17(b)(3) provides, in pertinent part, that a
determination regarding the capacity to sue or be sued is
controlled by the law of the party's state of domicile.
Under Maryland law, plaintiff retains a presumption of
competency. See Peaks v. State, 18 A.3d 917, 925
(Md. 2011). Even if plaintiff had been appointed a guardian
of the person, such appointment is not evidence, under
Maryland law, of incompetency. See Md. Code Ann.
Est. & Trusts, §13-706(b)). Similarly, plaintiffs
current status as an involuntary patient at Perkins does not
serve as an indicator of incompetence as no adjudication of
competency is necessary prior to involuntary commitment.
See Md. Code Ann. Health-Gen'l §10-607(1).
often bizarre and delusional statements also do not serve as
a bar to his proceeding in this case. In Hudnall v.
Seller,800 F.2d 377, 385 (4th Cir. 1986), Sellner
developed a delusional belief that the chief of police's
son murdered Hudnall's wife. Sellner published his
beliefs regarding the murder, along with his belief that the
police chief, the son, other police officers, and Hudnall
conspired to covered up the murder and that Hudnall and the
son switched identities. Id., at 379. Hudnall
successfully sued Sellner for defamation. Id., at
379. Sellner appealed arguing that the trial court should not
have permitted him to represent himself. Id., at
381. The court found that Sellner's bizarre conduct did
not raise such serious questions regarding his capacity to
sue such that the court was required to inquire into the
appointment of a guardian ad litem. Id., ...