United States District Court, D. Maryland
W. Grimm United States District Judge
is Carla Buck's renewed for Motion for Summary Judgment.
ECF No. 40. Plaintiff Azaniah Blankumsee did not file an
opposition. A hearing is not necessary to resolve the
pending motion. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016).
Because there is no genuine dispute that Buck did not violate
Blankumsee's constitutional rights in performing a
medical examination only, and not a mental health assessment,
Buck's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
initially filed this case against Buck and six other
defendants, alleging that on August 2, 2015, he was subjected
to an unwarranted strip search for contraband at Western
Correctional Institution (WCI),  and then placed naked in an
isolation cell, where he remained for two days. Compl., ECF
No. 1. An x-ray later revealed there was no contraband hidden
in his body. Blankumsee alleged that the strip search and
placement in the isolation cell violated Eighth Amendment
proscriptions against cruel and unusual punishment.
faults Buck, a medical provider, for approving his placement
in the isolation cell without medical justification and at
the request of correctional officers. Id. at 3. He
alleges that he suffered panic attacks while in the isolation
cell. Id. at 4. It is undisputed
that Blankumsee suffers from multiple mental disorders, which
could qualify as objectively serious medical conditions. At
the time Buck evaluated and approved Blankumsee for placement
in an isolation cell, she did not have access to his mental
health records, which were within the custody of the
Psychology Department, and was not required to do a mental
health assessment of Blankumsee. Nor did the medical records
to which she did have access reflect any mental health issues
that might caution against placing Blankumsee in an isolation
cell. Aug. 2, 2015 Med. Rec., ECF No. 14-4.
March 15, 2017, I granted the six other Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 27).
Order, ECF No. 38. In the same Order, I denied Buck's
original summary judgment motion, filed separately from the
other Defendants' motion. I reasoned that, on the record
then before me, I could not determine whether Buck had
inquired about Blankumsee's mental health, had access to
his mental health records, or was supposed to consider his
mental health in her medication evaluation. The denial was
without prejudice to refiling with additional evidence about
the scope of Buck's role in approving Blankumsee's
placement in the isolation cell. Id. The facts
outlined in the Memorandum Opinion (ECF No. 37) that
accompanied the March 15, 2017 Order, as well as the standard
of review for a motion for summary judgment, are incorporated
here by reference and are repeated only where necessary to
resolve Buck's pending Motion.
the renewed Motion for Summary Judgment, Buck has refiled the
affidavit she included with her first dispositive motion.
Buck Aff., ECF Nos. 14-5, 40-4. In it, she explains that when
prison custody officers suspect “an inmate . . . of
having contraband inside of his or her body, the inmate is
placed in SOH [Special Observation Housing] where the inmate
can be observed twenty-four hours per day to prevent the
inmate from destroying or discarding the contraband.”
Buck Aff. ¶ 6. Before an inmate is placed in SOH, a
member of the medical staff evaluates the inmate “to
ensure that the inmate is medically cleared to be housed in
SOH.” Id. ¶ 7. Buck states that medical
staff members “do not determine when to place an inmate
in SOH or the length of time the inmate stays in SOH.”
Id. ¶ 7. Rather, “[t]hose decisions are
made solely by prison correctional staff.”
Id. As a member of the prison medical staff,
Buck's “sole responsibility” was “to
ensure that the inmate was medically cleared to be housed in
states that on August 2, 2015, she saw Blankumsee “for
a wellness check to determine whether Plaintiff was medically
cleared to be housed in SOH due to possible contraband in his
rectum.” Id. ¶ 8; see also Aug.
2, 2015 Med. Rec. Buck “did not see or treat Blankumsee
at any other point during the timeframe relevant to
Plaintiff's Complaint.” Buck Aff. ¶ 10. On the
August 2, 2015 evaluation, Buck “noted that Plaintiff
was alert and oriented, ” his “vital signs . . .
were all within normal limits, ” and he “appeared
. . . to be in no distress.” Id. ¶ 8. She
also noted that Blankumsee's medications included
vitamins, allergy medication, and topical medications. Aug.
2, 2015 Med. Rec. Of note, the Medical Record did not reflect
that Blankumsee had any mental health issues, and it did not
list any psychotropic medications. See Id. Buck
determined, “based on her professional nursing
experience, training and clinical judgment, ” that
“Plaintiff was medically fit to be housed in SOH on
August 2, 2015.” Buck Aff. ¶¶ 9-10.
support of her renewed dispositive motion, Buck also has
filed an affidavit executed by Brenda Reese, R.N., who is
employed by Wexford Health Sources, Inc., as Regional
Director of Nursing for Western Maryland. Reese Aff., ECF No.
40-5. Reese explains that the Psychology
Department at WCI maintains the SOH area at WCI. Admission to
the SOH and its operation are governed by WCI.124.0450.1.
Id. ¶ 3; see also Directive
WCI.124.0450.1, ECF No. 40-6. Medical staff, including nurses
and physicians, “are not allowed to admit inmates to
SOH.” Reese Aff. ¶ 5. Rather, “[m]edical
staff are required to assess inmates for medical clearance
for admission to SOH”; they are not responsible for
providing, and do not provide, a “mental health
assessment.” Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Indeed,
medical nurses typically are “not trained to conduct
mental health assessments.” Id.
¶ 8. It is the Psychology Department that maintains
inmate mental health records and “conduct[s] mental
health assessment of inmates for admission to . . .
SOH.” Id. ¶¶ 9, 10. As a result, a
medical nurse who is evaluating “an inmate for
clearance to SOH does not have unilateral access to the
inmate's mental health records and is not responsible for
reviewing an inmate's mental health records as part of a
medical assessment.” Id. The Directive itself
appears focused on “identify[ing] inmates who require
special mental health intervention and, when necessary, . . .
provid[ing] a designated housing area where additional
supervision and treatment may be available.” Directive
WCI.124.0450.1. Nonetheless, it does place responsibility for
an inmate's mental health assessment with the Psychology
Department. See Id. ¶ E (At times, inmates will
be placed in the SOH following referral from custody staff
for observation and evaluation due to inappropriate behavior
that is deemed potentially dangerous to self or others in the
general population . . . . Following evaluation as to whether
the behavior is characterological or a result of mental
illness or other disability, a determination will be made by
the Psychology Department Supervisor as to whether such
inmates would benefit from further placement in the SOH. . .
. Designated custody staff will assess the inmate every
fifteen minutes or more . . . .”). Blankumsee does not
refute Reese's assertions.
these facts in the light most favorable to Blankumsee as the
nonmoving party and drawing all justifiable inferences in his
favor, there is no genuine dispute that Carla Buck's
medical assessment of Blankumsee before his admission to the
SOH was not constitutionally deficient because Buck was not
trained, let alone required, to include an evaluation of his
mental health condition in the medical assessment.
Accordingly, Buck is entitled to summary judgment in her
favor as a matter of law.
these reasons, I will grant Buck's Motion for Summary