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Rembold v. Helsel

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

June 13, 2017

DAVID HELSEL, M.D., Superintendent, et al., Defendants.


          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge

         On May 20, 2016, Donald Rembold filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights action challenging his previous confinement at Spring Grove Hospital Center (“SGHC”), [1] allegedly without properly being diagnosed as having a mental health disorder, and seeking declaratory relief that he was “unlawfully admitted” and damages for “202 days of ignominy.” Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Currently pending are Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 27, Rembold's Motion to Amend, ECF No. 33, and a May 24, 2017 derisive letter from Rembold regarding his case, filed the same day as his Motion to Amend, ECF No. 34. Because Rembold seeks to amend his complaint to add me as a defendant, I will refer his motion to amend (but not the entire case) to the Chief Judge of this Court for resolution, and I will stay resolution of the Defendants' summary judgment motion in the interim. As for Rembold's letter filed with his Motion to Amend, its contemptuous tone is an egregious violation of the behavior expected of any party involved in litigation in this Court, and Rembold is cautioned that any repetition will be treated as a contempt of Court warranting sanctions, which may include dismissal of his suit.


         Initially, this action was construed as a 28 U.S.C. § 2241 petition for habeas corpus relief, based on Rembold's challenge to the constitutionality of his involuntary commitment and request for declaratory relief. See Docket. Because Rembold was no longer confined at the SGHC, I dismissed the petition without prejudice, notifying Rembold that he could file a civil rights action in this Court requesting specific damages for alleged due process violations related to his detention at SGHC. ECF Nos. 3, 4. Then, by Superseding Memorandum Opinion and Order, I recalled the dismissal order and reopened the case to addresses the pleading as a hybrid § 1983 complaint for damages. ECF Nos. 6, 7. I identified the deficiencies in the complaint and permitted Rembold to file an amended complaint as to David Helsel, M.D. and/or any individual defendants.

         Rembold filed an Amended Complaint, ECF No. 13, as well as a series of three motions for temporary restraining orders (“TRO”) or preliminary injunctions, alleging that he was denied photocopies, writing paper, and access to the prison law library. ECF Nos. 8, 15, 23. I denied the first two motions as moot after he was transferred to a new facility and received the photocopies and writing paper he requested. ECF Nos. 16, 21. I denied the third one as premature, reasoning that, while a complete denial of access to the law library or the materials needed to pursue legal remedies could result in irreparable harm, Rembold's claims were made within weeks of his latest transfer. ECF No. 25. I did, however, order Defendants to provide a specific response regarding each of Rembold's allegations of denial of access to the law library and, in consequence, the courts. Defendants' response is due June 20, 2017. ECF No. 35.

         Defendants filed an Answer on April 28, 2017, ECF No. 26, and the pending motion for summary judgment the same day. Rembold filed a Response on May 10, 2017. ECF No. 30.

         Rembold also filed a second amended complaint, which was returned to him on May 23, 2017, because it did not contain a signature and because a second amended complaint cannot be filed without leave of court. ECF No. 32. He then filed the pending Motion to Amend, seeking leave to name me as a defendant for “sabotaging this case.” Pl.'s Mot. Am. 1.

         Motion to Amend

         Rembold seeks to amend the complaint to “charge Paul W. Grimm with conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1986, and 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), ” to have counsel appointed, to supplement his pleadings to add “New Civil Rights Violations, ” and to have the case reassigned to a judge in Baltimore. Pl.'s Mot. Am. 1, 3. Rembold notes that his three prior habeas petitions, Nos. PWG-15-1825, PWG-15-3233, and PWG-16-1069, all of which he claims “alleged misconduct in the Maryland judiciary, ” have been dismissed, and states that he has filed three judicial complaints, Nos. 04-16-90043, 04-16-90068, and 04-17-90021. Id. at 2. He reiterates his assertion that he “has been denied access to the prison law library, ” and insists that “Judge Paul W. Grimm has failed to respond to plaintiff's request for a TRO and Preliminary Injunction to cure this interference with the plaintiff's access to the courts.” Id. at 3.

         A judge “shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(a). The judge's purported “bias or prejudice must, as a general matter, stem from ‘a source outside the judicial proceeding at hand' in order to disqualify a judge.” Belue v. Leventhal, 640 F.3d 567, 572 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting Liteky v. United States, 510 U.S. 540, 545, 551 (1994)). Thus, a judge must recuse himself or herself if an extrajudicial source provides a reasonable factual basis for calling the judge's impartiality into question. In re Beard, 811 F.2d 818, 827 (4th Cir. 1987). “The inquiry is whether a reasonable person would have a reasonable basis for questioning the judge's impartiality, not whether the judge is in fact impartial.” Id.; see Liteky, 510 U.S. at 548 (“[W]hat matters is not the reality of bias or prejudice but its appearance.”); see also Demery v. McHugh, No. PWG-13-2389, 2015 WL 13049184, at *2 (D. Md. Oct. 23, 2015) (same), aff'd, 641 F. App'x 263 (4th Cir. 2016). A judge also is required to disqualify himself or herself if the judge is “likely to be a material witness in the proceeding.” 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(5)(iv).

         Because Rembold seeks to bring claims against me, it would be reasonable to question my impartiality were I to rule on his Motion to Amend. Therefore, recusal is appropriate with regard to this motion, but there is no basis to recuse myself from the remainder of the case. See In re Beard, 811 F.2d at 827. I will refer the Motion to Amend to the Chief Judge of this Court for resolution.

         May 24, 2017 Letter

         Rembold also filed letter on May ...

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