United States District Court, D. Maryland
RODNEY B. GAINEY, #136-168, Plaintiff
WARDEN MICHAEL CAPASSO JUDGE VICTOR K. BUTANIS JOSEPH I. CASSILLY, States Attorney KELLY CASPER, Public Defender Defendants
Xinis United States District Judge
above entitled civil rights complaint, as amended (ECF 1 and
3), includes a Motion to Proceed in Forma Pauperis (ECF 4)
which shall be granted. The named defendants are Maryland
District Court Judge Victor K. Butanis; Joseph I Cassilly,
the Harford County, Maryland State's Attorney whose
office is prosecuting plaintiff's criminal cases; Kelly
Casper, the District Public Defender for Harford County; and
Michael Capasso, Warden of the Harford County Detention
Center. For the reasons stated below, the complaint must be
dismissed as to defendants Butanis, Cassilly, and Casper.
his arrest on “several Maryland felony and
misdemeanor” charges, plaintiff appeared in Harford
County District Court on January 9, 2017, where he was to be
formally advised of his rights. ECF 1 at p. 1. The case was
continued to the following day prior to advisement, and
plaintiff was released on bail. On January 26, 2017,
plaintiff appeared with private counsel and was remanded to
the Harford County Sheriff “on an unrelated
crux of plaintiff's claim is that although he had not
been fully “vetted” by the Maryland Office of the
Public Defender and had never been formally advised of his
right to counsel, Maryland District Court Judge Butanis on
March 22, 2017, denied his request for continuance of his
criminal case, citing “notes reflecting that I had been
advised of my rights at a hearing held on January 9,
2017.” ECF 3 at p. 3. Plaintiff reiterates the
advisement of rights never occurred because he was released
from detention prior to the assignment of a public defender
and remained unaware that the Harford County State's
Attorney had added charge against him. Id.
Plaintiff indicates that at the March 22, 2017 District Court
hearing, he was offered an opportunity to proceed to trial in
District Court without counsel, accept the States
Attorney's offer to plead guilty in exchange for a
sentence of one year and one day, or request a jury trial,
thus sending the cases to the Circuit Court. Id.;
ECF 1 at p. 2.
also complains that while detained from February 22 until
March 22, 2017, he attempted to contact the Office of the
Public Defender using the Harford County Detention
Center's institutional mail system and grievance system,
to no avail. Only after a family member contacted the Public
Defender was plaintiff granted appointed counsel on April 19,
2017. ECF 3 at pp. 2-3. In addition to money damages and
official reprimand of defendants Butanis, Cassilly and
Casper, plaintiff asks that his criminal cases be
“remanded back to [state] District Court and the same
offer from the States Attorney of 1 year 1 day stands.”
He further seeks to require the Detention Center to
“adopt a more proficient system for its grievance
procedure” and reorganize its institutional mail
system. ECF 3 at pp. 4-5.
filed his complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(1), which
permits an indigent litigant to commence an action in this
court without prepaying the filing fee. To guard against
possible abuses of this privilege, the statute requires
dismissal of any claim that is frivolous or malicious, or
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). This court is
mindful, however, of its obligation to construe liberally
self-represented pleadings, such as this complaint. See
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In
evaluating such a complaint, the factual allegations are
assumed to be true. Id. at 93 (citing Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-56
(2007)). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that
a district court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading
to allege facts which set forth a cognizable claim. See
Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th
Cir. 1990); see also Beaudett v. City of Hampton,
775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985) (stating a district court
may not “conjure up questions never squarely
presented.”). In making this determination,
“[t]he district court need not look beyond the
complaint's allegations . . . . It must hold the pro se
complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted
by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally.”
White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-723 (4th Cir.
affording plaintiff's claims the most liberal
construction, portions of the complaint, as amended, fail to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted. First, Judge
Butanis is entitled to absolute immunity for the actions
taken in his role as a judge. See Forrester v.
White, 484 U.S. 219, 226B 27 (1988) (“If judges
were personally liable for erroneous decisions, the resulting
avalanche of suits, most of them frivolous but vexatious,
would provide powerful incentives for judges to avoid
rendering decisions likely to provoke such suits”). The
allegations against Judge Butanis shall be dismissed.
States Attorney also is immune from suit regarding the
conduct described in the Complaint. Maryland's States
Attorneys are quasi-judicial officers who enjoy absolute
immunity when performing prosecutorial, as opposed to
investigative or administrative, functions. See Imbler v.
Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409 (1976). Absolute immunity is
designed to protect the judicial process; thus the
inquiry is whether the prosecutor's actions are closely
associated with the judicial process. See Burns v.
Reed, 500 U.S. 478 (1991). Accordingly, the claim as to
defendant Cassilly likewise must be dismissed.
claim as to the Public Defender also fails to state a federal
cause of action because attorneys do not act under color of
state law even if they are appointed by the court. See
Deas v. Potts, 547 F.2d 800 (4th Cir. 1976); see
also Hall v. Quillen, 631 F.2d 1154, 1155 (4th Cir.
1980). The claim as to Casper also shall be dismissed.
portion of plaintiff's claim against Warden Capasso may
state a cognizable claim. While there is no constitutional
right to administrative grievance procedures, see Adams
v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994) and Flick v.
Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th Cir. 1991), detainees and
prisoners retain the right to send and receive mail. An
unreasonable delay in delivery or mailing general mail within
a prison may state a cognizable claim, if such delay is
caused by unnecessary censorship. See generally Procunier
v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 408-09; Bolding v.
Holshouser, 575 F.2d 461 (4th Cir. 1975). Here, however,
plaintiff does not indicate whether censorship or unnecessary
regulations led to delay of his outgoing mail, nor does he
explain exactly how he was injured as a result of such delay.
An occasional delay in mail distribution not alleged to have
caused actual injury does not give rise to a constitutional
violation as envisioned by the Court in Procunier.
shall be given an additional opportunity to amend his
complaint against Warden Capasso with regard to the delay in
outgoing mail. The other defendants shall be dismissed from
suit. A separate Order follows.
 On March 23, 2017, plaintiff was
charged in Harford County Circuit Court in Criminal Case No.
12-K-17000530 with one count of malicious destruction of
property valued at less than $1, 000 and fourth-degree
burglary, occurring January 7, 2017. He is represented by
Public Defender Bruce Andres and trial is set for July 25,
Plaintiff was also charged on March 23, 2017, in the Harford
County Circuit Court with one count of possession of a
controlled dangerous substance other than marijuana. Attorney