United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Shawn Lee Brown, a prisoner confined at Eastern Correctional
Institution ("ECI"), has filed this
self-represented civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Brown seeks money damages against Stephen T.
Moyer, Secretary for the Department of Public Safety and
Correctional Services (DPSCS) for injuries caused when a
mechanical door abruptly slammed shut on his finger. Pending
before the Court is Moyer's Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, for Summary Judgment,  ECF No. 9, Brown's
Opposition, ECF No. 13, Brown's Motion for Jury Trial,
ECF No. 11, and Brown's Motion to Appoint Counsel, ECF
No. 12. No hearing is needed to resolve the pending motions.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the following
reasons, Brown's motions will be DENIED and Moyer's
Motion will be GRANTED.
facts surrounding Brown's Complaint are largely
uncontested. On January 14, 2017, the middle finger of
Brown's right hand was fractured when a hydraulic door at
the ECI-Annex abruptly slammed shut on it. Brown required an
emergency room visit for stitches and splinting. ECF No. 1 at
2-3; ECF No. 9-2 at l-2. Following his injury, Brown claims he
requested an incident report, but nothing was done. ECF No.
13-1 at 2. Brown alleges he still has problems moving his
finger. Id. He states that the problem
with the frequently-used door should have been discovered and
fixed prior to his injury. Id. at 4. Following the
incident, a repair order was received in the Maintenance
Department on February 6, 2017, and the door was repaired the
following day. ECF No. 9-3 ¶ 2 (Decl. of Kenneth
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. If the Court considers materials outside the
pleadings, as the Court does here, the Court must treat a
motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed. R Civ. P.
12(d). When the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion
for summary judgment, "[a]ll parties must be given a
reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is
pertinent to the motion." Id. When the moving
party styles its motion as a Motion to Dismiss or, in the
Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, as is the case
here, and the nonmoving party attaches exhibits to its
opposition, the nonmoving party is aware that materials
outside the pleadings are before the Court, and the Court can
treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See
Laughlin v. Metropolitan Wash. Airports. Autk, 149 F.3d
253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998). Further, the Court is not
prohibited from granting a motion for summary judgment before
the commencement of discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P.
56(a) (stating that the court "shall grant summary
judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute
as to any material fact" without distinguishing pre- or
judgment should not be granted, however, if the nonmoving
party has not had the opportunity to discover information
that is essential to his opposition to the motion.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
n. 5 (1987). If the nonmoving party feels that the motion is
premature, that party can invoke Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). See
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 326 (1986).
Brown, who has received copies of the exhibits that accompany
the dispositive motion, ECF No. 9, and has attached an
exhibit to his opposition, is aware that materials outside
the pleadings are before the Court, and that the Court may
treat the motion as one for summary judgment. Furthermore,
Brown has not filed an affidavit, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(d), to show what essential facts, currently unavailable to
him, he could present if given an opportunity to conduct
discovery. Thus, the Court is satisfied that it is
appropriate to address Moyer's Motion as one for summary
judgment is appropriate if "materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ...
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials"
show that there is "no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), 56(a); see also
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. The party moving for summary
judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine
dispute exists as to material facts. Pulliam Inv., Co. v.
Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If
the moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to
support the non-moving party's case, the burden shifts to
the non-moving party to identify specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial. See Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-23.
material fact is one that "might affect the outcome of
the suit under the governing law." Spriggs v.
Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179, 183 (4th Cir. 2011)
(quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A dispute of
material fact is only genuine if sufficient evidence favoring
the non-moving party exists for the trier of fact to return a
verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.
However, the nonmoving party "cannot create a genuine
issue of material fact through mere speculation or the
building of one inference upon another." Beale v.
Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985). The Court may
only rely on facts supported in the record, not simply
assertions in the pleadings, in order to fulfill its
"affirmative obligation... to prevent 'factually
unsupported claims or defenses' from proceeding to
trial." Felty v., Grave-Humphreys Co.,
818 F.2d 1126, 1128 (4th Cir. 1987) (quoting
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324-25). When ruling on a
motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the
non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences
are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477
U.S. at 255. Finally, because Brown is self-represented, his
submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007).
Appointment of Counsel
federal judge's power to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(1),  is a discretionary one, and may be
considered where an indigent claimant presents exceptional
circumstances. See Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779 (4th
Cir. 1975); see also, Branch v. Cole, 686 F.2d 264
(5th Cir. 1982). There is no absolute right to appointment of
counsel in civil matters; an indigent claimant must present
"exceptional circumstances." See Miller v.
Simmons, 814 F.2d 962, 966 (4th Cir. 1987). Exceptional
circumstances exist where a "pro se litigant has a
colorable claim but lacks the capacity to present it."
See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir.
1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S.
Dist. Ct., 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989) (holding that 28
U.S.C. § 1915 does not authorize compulsory appointment
careful consideration of Brown's filings herein, the
Court finds that he has demonstrated the wherewithal to
either articulate the legal and factual basis of his claims
himself or secure meaningful assistance in doing so. The
issues pending before the Court are not unduly complicated,
and there are no exceptional circumstances that would warrant
the appointment of an attorney to represent Brown under
§ 1915(e)(1). His Motion to Appoint Counsel, ECF No. 12,
shall be denied.