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Henson v. Speir

United States District Court, D. Maryland

February 27, 2018

JAMES A. HENSON, JR. Plaintiff
P. SPEIR, et al., Defendants


          James K. Bredar Chief Judge.

         Pending is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment filed by defendants Lieutenant Patrick Speir, Sergeant Charles Bielanski, Lauren Beitzel, Melissa Harr and Monica Wilson.[1] ECF 17. Plaintiff has responded. ECF 19.[2] Upon review of the papers filed, the court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, defendants' dispositive motion will be granted.

         I. Background

         The case was instituted upon receipt of a civil rights complaint filed by plaintiff James Henson, an inmate currently confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). ECF 1. Plaintiff named as defendants Lieutenant Patrick Speir, Sergeant Charles Bielanski, “Subordinates in Housing Unit #1”, Jannette Simmons, [3] Lauren Beitzel, Melissa Hart and Monica Wilson. ECF 1, p. 1. He stated that the named defendants ignore that prison gangs still maintain a “hit” on plaintiff in retaliation for his using the prison grievance system. ECF 1 at 4. He claims that from September 5, 2005 through November 14, 2016, unidentified correctional and psychological staff have filed false reports against him in order to prevent him from exercising his rights thought the prison grievance process and in order to keep him in solitary confinement.[4] Id. Henson also claims he was assaulted by another inmate on July 28, 2014, with the assistance of unnamed correctional officers, and remains in constant pain. Id. He seeks access to the courts, protective custody, an independent federal investigation, and medical care. ECF 1 at 3.

         A. Administrative Remedies

         Plaintiff filed an administrative remedy on November 14, 2016 (NBCI-2511-16), raising the same allegations presented in the instant complaint. ECF 17-2, at 13-15. The ARP was dismissed as repetitive to three other ARP filings. Id. The instant civil rights complaint was instituted on November 18, 2016. ECF 1. On November 22, 2016, after already instituting this case, plaintiff took an appeal of the ARP to the Commissioner of Corrections (“Headquarters Appeal”). Id. at 11-12. On November 30, 2016, the appeal was dismissed but plaintiff was allowed to resubmit the appeal with additional documentation on or before December 15, 2016. Id. Plaintiff failed to resubmit the appeal with the requested information but instead, on December 22, 2016, filed a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”), which was ultimately dismissed. Id. at 10, 16.

         B. Factual Response to Claims

         Bielanski and Speir each aver that they did not ignore any known threats to plaintiff and that they are not aware of any documented “hits” or threats against plaintiff. ECF 17-2 at 2-3. Bielanski and Speir deny permitting or encouraging other inmates to assault plaintiff. Id. They further deny falsifying documents or otherwise retaliating against plaintiff for any reason. Id. Lastly, they each deny being aware of any other staff threatening plaintiff, ignoring threats against him, or otherwise retaliating against him. Id.

         For their part Wilson, Harr, and Beitzel, advise that they are mental healthcare providers at NBCI and as such do not participate in the provision of any medical treatment or the prescription of medications for plaintiff. ECF 17-2 at 4-9. Each states that he has never been involved in, interfered with, or delayed the provision of medical care to plaintiff. Id. They aver that they have no authority over plaintiff's cell assignment or segregation time. Id. They declare that they did not conspire with correctional staff to maintain plaintiff on segregation status or willfully ignore any documented threats against him. Id. They also each state that they have never filed a false report against plaintiff. Id.

         Defendants demonstrate that plaintiff has not been prevented from accessing the ARP process and have provided to the court the record of plaintiff's ARP filings, which demonstrate that from August 14, 2009, to April 10, 2017, plaintiff has filed 228 ARPs. ECF 17-2 at 17-27.

         As to plaintiff's allegations regarding his confinement on disciplinary segregation, defendants explain that from April 25, 2013, through April 12, 2016, plaintiff was found to have violated NBCI's rule on 12 occasions. ECF 17-2 at 28. After a hearing, plaintiff received segregation time, as well as other sanctions. Id. Defendants note that, on occasion, plaintiff has declined to participate in the segregation review or disciplinary hearings. Id. at 43, 44, 45. Additionally, they observe that he has also refused to cooperate with medical examination or treatment. See Henson v. Weber, Civil Action No. JKB-17-507 (D. Md.), ECF 9-1 at 13-17. Lastly, defendants indicate that plaintiff previously admitted that he “chose to remain housed in solitary confinement, on disciplinary lock-up, from Monday 27 March 2006 . . . thru present day 2016.” See Henson v. Bishop, Civil Action No. WMN-16-976, ECF 1 at 3.

         II. Standard of Review

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff's complaint. See Edwards v. City of Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231, 243 (4th Cir. 1999). The dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted does not require defendant to establish “beyond doubt” that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim that would entitle him to relief. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561 (2007). Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint. Id. at 563. The court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles County Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusional factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

         B. Motion for Summary Judgment

         Summary judgment is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), which provides in part:

The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual ...

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