United States District Court, D. Maryland
COLIN B. WILLIAMS, JR., #253-434 Plaintiff
BALTIMORE COUNTY DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER BLACK, Defendants
L. Hollander United States District Judge
Colin B. Williams, who is self-represented, filed suit during
the time he was confined at the Baltimore County Detention
Center as a pretrial detainee. ECF 1. Williams alleges that
defendant Officer Shakiara Black violated his Due Process and
Equal Protection rights by conducting two disciplinary
hearings that were not fair or impartial, and sanctioned him
with 45 days of restrictive housing. Defendant Baltimore
County Department of Corrections (“BCDC”) filed a
motion to dismiss (ECF 10), along with a memorandum. ECF
10-1. BCDC and Officer Black later filed a motion to dismiss
or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment (ECF 19),
supported by a memorandum (ECF 19-1) and exhibits. Williams
has filed an opposition (ECF 21). Defendants have replied.
hearing is necessary to resolve the issues. See
Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons that follow, I
shall grant BCDC's motion to dismiss (ECF 10). And, I
will construe Black's motion (ECF 19) as a motion for
summary judgment and grant it as to the equal protection
claim, but deny it, without prejudice, as to the due process
p.m. on March 31, 2017, Williams assaulted Officer K.
Johnson, which resulted in the use of “O.C.”
(oleoresin capsicum) (Incident A3170834). ECF 1-1 at 2 (Report
of Incident). Approximately one hour later, Sgt. T. Brooks
was packing Williams's personal property when he
discovered a bag of homemade wine wrapped in a blanket.
Report of Incident, ECF 1-1 at 1. Williams, who was the sole
occupant of the cell where the contraband was found, was
charged with possession of contraband (Incident A3170835).
ECF 1-1 at 1.
Black held a disciplinary hearing on Incident A3170835
(contraband possession) on April 4, 2017, at which Williams
pleaded not guilty. Williams argued the substance found was
not alcohol and it was not his. ECF 19-4 at 2. Moreover,
there were “no photos, test [sic], or reports”
introduced to show that that the substance was alcohol. ECF 1
at 2. Officer Black found Williams guilty of possession of an
unauthorized substance and imposed 10 days of restrictive
housing with loss of telephone, visiting, commissary,
television, and out-of-cell privileges. Id.; see
also ECF 1-1 at 1. Williams's appeal was denied by
Captain R. Alford. ECF 1-1 at 4; ECF 19-6 at 4 (appeal
letter). Captain Alford determined Williams had
“provided insufficient evidence to overturn the guilty
finding. The penalty is appropriate.” ECF 1-1 at 4.
April 5, 2017, Officer Black conducted a hearing on Incident
A3170834 (assault on Officer Johnson). Officer Black found
Williams guilty of all charges and imposed 45 days of
restrictive housing. ECF 1 at 2. Williams alleges that
because he was not present at the hearing, Office Black
interpreted his lack of attendance as a refusal to testify
and an indication of guilt. ECF 1 at 2. The incident report
boilerplate includes the statement: “At the
Disciplinary Hearing, you DO NOT have to testify in your own
defense. However, a refusal to testify may be interpreted as
an indication of guilt.” ECF 1-1 at 3. It also appears
that Officer Johnson, the officer involved in the assault,
was not present at the disciplinary hearing. ECF 1-1 at 3
(notation indicating K. Johnson refused to appear).
Williams's appeal of the guilty finding was denied by
Captain Alford. ECF 19-6; ECF 19-6 at 2 (appeal letter).
Alford found the evidence insufficient to overturn the guilty
finding and that the penalty was appropriate. ECF 19-6.
alleges the BCDC disciplinary procedure is unfair and does
not comply with the Code of Maryland Regulations
(“COMAR”), because it “subjects one to a
disciplinary hearing in front of an officer who is not
detached or neutral from the institution.” ECF 1 at 2.
Williams adds: “Black is an employee of the institution
as she wears the badge and uniform of the institution.”
seeks an order to bar correctional officers from conducting
disciplinary hearings, and to have the “County
Commissioner” preside over them instead. ECF 1 at 3.
Williams also seeks compensatory damages of $1, 000 a day for
the 45 days he was assigned to restrictive housing, without
Standard of Review
Motion to Dismiss
purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is
to test the sufficiency of a complaint. See In re
Birmingham, 846 F.3d 88, 92 (4th Cir. 2017); Goines
v. Valley Cmty. Servs. Bd., 822 F.3d 159, 165-66 (4th
Cir. 2016); McBurney v. Cuccinelli, 616 F.3d 393,
408 (4th Cir. 2010), aff'd sub nom. McBurney v.
Young, 569 U.S. 221 (2013); Edwards v. City of
Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). A Rule
12(b)(6) motion constitutes an assertion by a defendant that,
even if the facts alleged by a plaintiff are true, the
complaint fails as a matter of law “to state a claim
upon which relief can be granted.”
a complaint states a claim for relief is assessed by
reference to the pleading requirements of Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2). It provides that a complaint must contain a
“short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.” The purpose of the
rule is to ensure that defendants are provided with
“fair notice” of the claim(s) made against them
and the “grounds” for entitlement to relief.
Bell Atl., Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
survive a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must
contain facts sufficient to “state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570; see Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
684 (2009) (“Our decision in Twombly expounded
the pleading standard for ‘all civil actions' . . .
.”) (citation omitted); see also Willner v.
Dimon, 849 F.3d 93, 112 (4th Cir. 2017). But, a
plaintiff need not include “detailed factual
allegations” in order to satisfy Rule 8(a)(2).
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Moreover, federal pleading
rules “do not countenance dismissal of a complaint for
imperfect statement of the legal theory supporting the claim
asserted.” Johnson v. City of Shelby,
__U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 346, 346 (2014) (per curiam).
determining whether a complaint fails to comply with Rule
8(a), ‘courts have looked to various factors, including
the length and complexity of the complaint, whether the
complaint was clear enough to enable the defendant to know
how to defend himself, and whether the plaintiff was
represented by counsel.'” Rush v. Am. Home
Mortg., Inc., WMN-07-854, 2009 WL 4728971, at
*4 (D. Md. Dec. 3, 2009) (emphasis added) (internal citations
omitted) (quoting North Carolina v. McGuirt, 114 F.
App'x 555, 558 (4th Cir. 2004) (per curiam)). A court may
properly dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure
to comport with Rule 8(a) if the complaint “does not
permit the defendants to figure out what legally sufficient
claim the plaintiffs are making and against whom they are
making it.” McGuirt, 114 F. App'x at 559.
complaint requires more than bald accusations or mere
speculation. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see
Painter's Mill Grille, LLC v. Brown, 716 F.3d 342,
350 (4th Cir. 2013). If a complaint provides no more than
“labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic
recitation of the elements of a cause of action, ” it
is insufficient. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Rather,
to satisfy the minimal requirements of Rule 8(a)(2), the
complaint must set forth “enough factual matter (taken
as true) to suggest” a cognizable cause of action,
“even if . . . [the] actual proof of those facts is
improbable and . . . recovery is very remote and
unlikely.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 (internal
reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a court “‘must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in
the complaint'” and must “‘draw all
reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the
plaintiff.'” E.I. du Pont de Nemours &
Co., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2012) (citations
omitted); see Semenova v. Md. Transit Admin., 845
F.3d 564, 567 (4th Cir. 2017); Houck v. Substitute Tr.
Servs., Inc., 791 F.3d 473, 484 (4th Cir. 2015);
Kendall v. Balcerzak, 650 F.3d 515, 522 (4th Cir.
2011), cert. denied, 565 U.S. 943 (2011). But, a
court is not required to accept legal conclusions drawn from
the facts. See Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286
(1986). “A court decides whether [the pleading]
standard is met by separating the legal conclusions from the
factual allegations, assuming the truth of only the factual
allegations, and then determining whether those allegations
allow the court to reasonably infer” that plaintiff is
entitled to the legal remedy sought. A Society Without a
Name v. Virginia, 655 F.3d 342, 346 (4th. Cir. 2011),
cert. denied, 566 U.S. 937 (2012).
general, courts do not “resolve contests surrounding
the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of
defenses” through a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.
Edwards, 178 F.3d at 243. But, “in the
relatively rare circumstances where facts sufficient to rule
on an affirmative defense are alleged in the complaint, the
defense may be reached by a motion to dismiss filed under
Rule 12(b)(6).” Goodman v. Praxair, Inc., 494
F.3d 458, 464 (4th Cir. 2007) (en banc); accord Pressley
v. Tupperware Long Term Disability Plan, 533 F.3d 334,
336 (4th Cir. 2009); see also Meridian Investments, Inc.
v. Fed. Home Loan Mortg. Corp., 855 F.3d 573, 577 (4th
Cir. 2017) (quoting Leichling v. Honeywell Int'l,
Inc., 842 F.3d 848, 850-51 (4th Cir. 2016)) (“A
defendant's claim that an action is time-barred is an
affirmative defense that it can raise in a motion to dismiss
when the ‘face of the complaint includes all necessary
facts for the defense to prevail.'”). However,
because Rule 12(b)(6) “is intended [only] to test the
legal adequacy of the complaint, ” Richmond,
Fredericksburg & Potomac R.R. ...