United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG United States District Judge.
Carmichael, currently confined at Roxbury Correctional
Institution ("RCI") in Hagerstown, Maryland, filed
this action alleging that Benjamin Buss, a Correctional
Officer at RCI, used excessive force against him in violation
of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution. Pending before the Court is Buss's
Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary
Judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is
following facts are presented in the light most favorable to
Carmichael, the nonmoving party.
July 8, 2014 Incident
morning of July 8, 2014, Buss was conducting a routine count
of the inmates, during which he typically noted any inmate
requests for showers, recreation, and phone calls. Both
Carmichael and his cellmate, Bruce Owens, requested a shower,
recreation time, and a phone call, which Buss noted on a
piece of paper. Approximately 15 minutes later, Buss returned
to their cell to escort them to the shower stalls. After the
showers, Buss walked Carmichael and Owens back to their cell
rather than providing them with recreation and a phone call.
When Carmichael asked him why he had denied their requests
for recreation and phone calls, Buss became agitated.
Carmichael then asked to speak with a supervisor. Buss
responded that he would "send a supervisor to the cell,
" but Carmichael nevertheless asked again for a
supervisor. Carmichael Dep. 88:21, 89:1-11, Pl.'s
Opp'n Ex. A, ECF No. 51-1. Buss instructed Carmichael and
Owens, in an angry, forceful tone, to step into the cell and
closed the door behind them. Carmichael, who was handcuffed
with his hands behind his back, put his hands through the
food slot of the cell door so that Buss could remove his
handcuffs. Buss uncuffed his left wrist and, as Carmichael
extended his right arm through the food slot, Carmichael
asked again for a supervisor. According to Carmichael, an
agitated Buss then forcefully yanked Carmichael's right
arm, still handcuffed, causing the right side of
Carmichael's body, including his shoulder, to slam into
the inside of the cell door. Carmichael pulled back, in the
process breaking the handcuff key and pinching Buss's
hand between the food slot and cell door. According to Owens,
Buss "pulled" and "yanked" again once
more. Owens Dep. 32:17-21, Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. C, ECF No.
51-3. For his part, Buss denies pulling Carmichael against
the door and asserts that it was Carmichael, upset about not
getting recreation time, who pulled away, causing Buss's
hand to get caught in the food slot and the handcuff key to
result of the July 8 incident, Carmichael felt pain in his
right shoulder, which he described as an eight on a scale
from one to ten, and a numbing sensation in his right hand
from where the handcuff tightened around his right wrist.
Carmichael asked for medical care on several occasions and
continued to complain of pain for approximately one week or
filed three Administrative Remedy Procedure forms
("ARPs") regarding the July 8, 2014 incident.
According to the RCI inmate handbook, an ARP is "a
formal complaint allowing formal appeal of the Warden's
response to the Deputy Secretary for resolution of the
complaint at Division Headquarters." Mot. Summ. J. Ex.
2, at 4. The first ARP, numbered RCI-0463-14 ("First
ARP"), was submitted on July 8 and complains that Buss
denied Carmichael his recreation that day "for no
apparent reason." First ARP 1, Carmichael Dep. Ex. 6,
Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A. The second ARP, numbered
RCI-0462-14 ("Second ARP"), was filed on July 10
and complains, as relevant here, about Buss's use of
force on July 8, stating that Buss became "physically
aggressive by forcefully yanking my arm through the
door's open food slot" after Carmichael asked to
speak to Buss's supervisor. Second ARP 1, Carmichael Dep.
Ex. 7, Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A. The third ARP, numbered
RCI-0477-14 ("Third ARP") and submitted on July 18,
also alleges that Buss "physically assaulted"
Carmichael after he had asked for a supervisor. Third ARP 1,
Carmichael Dep. Ex. 8, Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A.
16, 2014, prison officials dismissed the First ARP as
repetitive of the Second ARP. Sometime after the Second ARP
was filed, Sergeant Harsh, the RCI ARP coordinator, asked
Carmichael to "sign off on it because the incident
involving Buss was "already being investigated" by
the Internal Investigative Unit ("IIU") and was
therefore "moot." Carmichael Dep. 156-57, Pl.'s
Opp'n Ex. A; Carmichael Dep. 181-82, Mot. Summ. J. Ex. 1.
On July 22, 2014, Carmichael withdrew the Second ARP, signing
a form that stated, "I acknowledge that my complaint can
not be further addressed through the administrative remedy
procedure. I also understand that failure to exhaust the
administrative remedy procedure by withdrawing my request may
result in dismissal of my complaint at a higher level."
Second ARP 1. Also on July 22, 2014, prison officials
dismissed the Third ARP because the complaint had been
forwarded to the IIU.
did not dispute the withdrawal of the Second ARP or appeal
the dismissal of the First or Third ARPs. Carmichael did not
take further action on the ARPs because of Sergeant
Harsh's statements. According to Carmichael, "I took
him for his word, " and "I had no reason to doubt
what he was saying" because Carmichael received the IIU
case number for the investigation of the July 8 incident.
Carmichael Dep. 156-57, Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A.
to the inmate handbook, an appeal of an ARP must be filed
with the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO") within 30
days of the final ARP decision. When Carmichael first arrived
at RCI, he received a copy of the inmate handbook at an
orientation session that included information on how to file
ARPs. Carmichael acknowledged reading the handbook. In
September 2014, Carmichael received a letter from Prisoner
Rights Information System of Maryland, Inc.
("PRISM"), in response to a request for guidance on
whether he could file a lawsuit or criminal charges against
Buss. The letter, in relevant part, summarized the exhaustion
requirement and appeals process, tracking the information set
forth in the Inmate Handbook and DCD.
8, 2014, after Carmichael had filed his first ARP relating to
the July 8 incident, Buss filed a disciplinary ticket against
Carmichael accusing him of assault or battery and damaging
prison property based on the pinching of his hand and the
breaking of the handcuff key. During a disciplinary hearing
on July 16, 2014, Carmichael maintained that Buss had yanked
him into the cell door by his cuffed right hand when he asked
for a supervisor, and that "as a normal reaction, "
he yanked it back. Mot. Summ. J. Ex 5, ECF No. 48-8. At the
hearing, Carmichael stated in his defense that "I did
not intentionally assault Officer Buss or cause any problem
for him to issue me a ticket, " that Buss had filed the
disciplinary ticket in retaliation for his filing of an ARP,
and "whatever happened between Officer Buss and I-we
both probably had a misunderstanding somewhere-and whatever
happened, it never was not intentional. And I do apologize
for that." Id. Hearing Office Peter Juknelis
accepted Buss's version of events and penalized
Carmichael by imposing 365 days of segregation, revoking 365
good-conduct credits, charging $4.99 in restitution for the
broken handcuff key, and suspending visitation privileges for
Motion, Buss seeks summary judgment in his favor on the
grounds that: (1) Carmichael failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies; (2) Buss did not engage in excessive
force against Carmichael; and (3) Buss is entitled to
qualified immunity because he did not violate a clearly
established federal right. For the reasons set forth below,
the Motion is denied.