United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
EARL D. JOHNSON, #252-782, 335-615 Plaintiff,
RONALD MILL, MCI-H, RICHARD SARTIN, THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES, OFFICER ANNE MADDOX, Defendants.
J. HAZEL United States District Judge.
Earl D. Johnson is an inmate at the Maryland Correctional
Training Center in Hagerstown, Maryland. In this case,
Johnson filed his Complaint, ECF No. 1, alleging Defendants
violated his constitutional right to due process by finding
him guilty of prison rule violations and imposing sanctions.
Johnson also filed a self-styled "Motion Amended to Said
Summary Judgment, " ECF No. 29, which will be treated as
a Motion to Amend his Complaint and granted. Defendants, the
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
("DPSCS"), CO II Ronald Mills, CO II Richard
Sartin, and Hearing Office Anne Maddox, have filed a Motion
to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary
Judgment, ECF No. 30, and Johnson filed a Response in
Opposition, ECF No. 32. No hearing is necessary. Local Rule
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following reasons, the Court
grants Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 30.
Complaint is based on events that occurred during the time he
was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional
Institution-Hagerstown ("MCI-H"). Defendants filed
affidavits and prison records in support of their Motion for
Summary Judgment. The exhibits indicate that on July 6, 2014,
Officer Stephens and Defendant Sartin escorted Johnson to the
MCI-H recreation hall for a strip search. ECF No. 30-2 at
During the escort, Sartin noticed Johnson's left hand was
closed in a fist. Sartin ordered Johnson to open his hand in
order to ascertain whether he was hiding anything.
Id. Johnson opened and closed his left hand. Sartin
observed an object between Johnson's left ring finger and
pinkie finger. Sartin ordered Johnson to unclench his hand
and separate his fingers. Sartin observed a piece of rubber
glove containing a folded piece of paper with a small orange
strip inside. Sartin secured the paper with the orange strip,
and the officers conducted a strip search of Johnson.
tested the orange strip with a MMC field test kit. Id.
The strip tested positive for Buprenorphine, a drug also
known as Suboxone. The contraband was photographed.
Id. Due to its small quantity, the contraband could
not be weighed. Sartin issued a Notice of Rule Violation to
Johnson, charging him with violating Rule 111 (possession or
use of an unauthorized drug or substance) and Rule 112
(possession or use of a drug or controlled dangerous
substance). ECF No. 30-3; see also ECF No. 30-2 at
3-13. Johnson acknowledges that on July 10, 2014, he received
a Notice of Rule Violation for possessing the controlled
substance Buprenorphine. ECF No. 1 at 6.
10, 2014, Defendant Hearing Officer Maddox conducted
Johnson's disciplinary hearing. ECF No. 30-2 at 21.
Johnson did not request representation or witnesses. Johnson
pleaded not guilty and testified that the substance was found
on the floor of his cell during a cell shakedown and that the
officers charged him because his cellmate was scheduled for
release on the next day. Id. at 21-23.
Officer Maddox's decision reads:
Hearing Officer considered Notice of Inmate Rule Violation by
CO R. Sartin, photo printouts, chain of custody form, and
field test results as well as presentation of Earl Johnson.
Johnson's presentation is that Officer Sartin found the
strip on the cell floor and his cell buddy went home the next
day so he got the charge. Hearing Officer is not persuaded by
Johnson's presentation. Hearing Officer finds that
Johnson was being escorted in the recreation hall for a strip
search when Officer Sartin noticed the inmates' [sic]
hand clinched shut, and when the officer asked Johnson to
open his hand, a piece of rubber glove with a [sic] orange
strip concealed inside was recovered from Johnson's hand.
The issue did not occur in the cell and does not involve
another inmate. Officer Sartin tested the orange piece of
strip using the MMC Buprenorphine Test and got a positive
result for Buprenorphine. Hearing Officer finds Johnson
guilty of rule 112.
Id. at 23; see also ECF No. 30-4 (Office
Maddox stating that she found Johnson's testimony
unpersuasive). Maddox found Johnson not guilty of violating
Rule 111. Id.
sanctioned Johnson with 225 days of segregation,
revoked 150 good time credits, and indefinitely suspended his
visitation privileges for violating Rule 112. Id. at
23-24. Johnson appealed Maddox's decision to
Warden Richard Dovey, who affirmed the decision and sanctions
on July 23, 2014. Id. at 26. Johnson subsequently
filed a number of Administrative Remedy Procedure
("ARP") requests in July and August 2014, which
were each dismissed. These ARPs alleged that Defendant Mills
improperly confiscated Johnson's property-ARP
MCI-H-560-14, ARP MCI-H-630-14-and that the test for
Buprenorphine was improperly executed, ARP MCI-H-0583-14, ARP
MCI-H 0608-14, ARP MCI-H-0631-14, ARP MCI-H-0667-14. At the
same time, Johnson filed Inmate Grievance Office
("IGO") complaints in June 2014 and February 2015.
These were also dismissed. See ECF No. 30-5 at 3-4,
subsequently filed an action for replevin in Johnson v.
Mills, Civil Case No. 1102-0002560-2014 in the District
Court for Washington County. See ECF No. 30-2 at
48-49. The case was dismissed, and Johnson filed an appeal,
Civil Case No. 21-C-15-53102 (Cir. Ct. Washington Cnty).
Id.; ECF No 30-2 at 43-55. Johnson filed a separate
action in the Circuit Court for Washington County for review
of the dismissal of IGO Grievance No. 20141600. In the
Matter of Earl Johnson, Jr. for Judicial Review of the
Decision of the Secretary of the DPSCS was assigned
Civil Case 2I-C-15-52799. ECF No 30-2 at 42-55.
February 5, 2016, the Honorable Daniel P. Dwyer held a
hearing on Johnson's consolidated appeals. Id.
Present were Johnson, who appeared pro se, Officer
Ronald Mills, and Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Legum.
On February 19, 2016, Judge Dwyer entered judgment in Civil
Case No. 21-C-15-53102, in favor of Defendant, Ronald Mills.
Judge Dwyer found substantial evidence to support the IGO
decision, and affirmed. The Opinion and Order reads in
Regarding the de novo appeal from the District Court, this
Court is not convinced by a preponderance of evidence that
Mr. Johnson was wrongfully deprived of his property by
Officer Mills. Officer Mills was acting within the scope of
his duties following Division of Correction procedures.
Officer Mills afforded Mr. Johnson the opportunity to
safeguard his possessions by having them mailed to someone
and Mr. Johnson simply declined that invitation. Therefore in
the case 21-C-15-53102, judgment is entered in favor of the
Defendant, Ronald Mills.
In case 21-C-15-52799, the Court finds that there is
substantial evidence in this record upon which the Inmate
Grievance Office declined to grant Mr. Johnson the relief he
requested. Again, the record indicates that Officer Mills was
following the Division of Correction procedure. Mr. Johnson
was not permitted to possess his items of electronic personal
property in segregation. Also, pursuant to DOC regulations,
they could not be stored for more than 180 days. Mr. Johnson
could have, but declined to provide an address where they
could be safely mailed. Therefore in that case the ruling of
the Inmate ...