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Jones v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 28, 2018

MICHAEL JONES, #420-162 a/k/a Sincere Allah


          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Michael Jones, a/k/a Sincere Allah[1] is incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. He raises in this verified complaint claims of excessive force, unconditional conditions of confinement, inadequate mental and medical care, retaliation, and unequal treatment pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Compl., ECF No. 4. He is requesting injunctive relief and monetary damages. Id.

         In response, Defendants April Shipley, LPN, William Bilak, R.N., and Vicki Ward, LPN (collectively, “Medical Defendants”) filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 34. Defendants Warden Frank Bishop, Chief of Security William S. Bohrer, Major Ronald Stotler, Lieutenant Michael Oates, Lieutenant Bradley Wilt, Lieutenant Patrick Speir, Lieutenant Robert Werner, Lieutenant Thomas Sawyers, Sergeant Charles Bielanski, Sergeant Adam Schroyer, Correctional Officer Timothy Marchinke, Correctional Officer Shawn Murray, Correctional Officer Brandon Self, Correctional Officer Warren Mallow, Correctional Officer Cody Gilpin, Correctional Officer H. Michael, Correctional Officer Justin Weimer, Correctional Officer Justin Sellers, Mental Health Professional Counselor Laura Wilson, and Psychology Associate I Lauren Beitzel (collectively, the “State Defendants”) filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 38. Defendants Vincent Siracusano, M.D., and Jeanette Simmons filed separate motions to dismiss. ECF Nos. 36, 47.[2]

         The Clerk sent notice to the plaintiff informing him that he may respond to the motions and submit affidavits and exhibits in support and granted his motions for extension of time to file oppositions. ECF Nos. 35, 37, 39, 40, 48. The plaintiff filed a response in opposition. ECF No. 49. The plaintiff also filed a notice for voluntary dismissal on March 27, 2018. ECF No. 53.


         A Maryland inmate, who asked not to be publicly identified for fear of retaliation, sent correspondence to the court alleging that Sincere Allah was subjected to retaliation by officers and medical staff for throwing feces at a correctional officer, was off his medication and suffering psychotic episodes and suicidal ideations, and was not receiving medical and mental health care. ECF No. 1. The court directed the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) to file a report on the plaintiff's physical and mental condition within twenty-one days. ECF No. 2. The court directed the Clerk to send a civil rights complaint form and instructions packet to Sincere Allah should he wish to pursue these or other claims. Id.

         On September 9, 2016, the Attorney General's Office filed the court-ordered report on the plaintiff's physical and mental condition, which included the declaration of Monica A. Wilson, a DPSCS social worker, and 22 pages of the plaintiff's medical records. ECF Nos. 6, 6-1, 6-2. Wilson's declaration stated that over the course of the past six months, Wilson had met with the plaintiff for seven individual sessions. Psychology staff met with him five times in the same time period. ECF No. 6-1 ¶ 3. The plaintiff was seen several times for suicidal ideations and self-harm, including cutting himself with his fingernails and paint chips. The plaintiff, however, denied feeling suicidal, indicated his desire to return to his cell, and told medical providers he had wanted attention and to “get back at staff.” Id. His cuts were treated with band aids. Id.


         On September 8, 2016, the plaintiff filed a 31-page handwritten complaint titled “Supplement to the Complaint” which he submitted in the form of an affidavit. ECF No. 4. The court treats this filing as the plaintiff's complaint. The plaintiff also filed twenty-four pages of exhibits and a declaration. Pl.'s Attachments, ECF Nos. 4-1, 4-2.

         The gravamen of the complaint is that correctional officers and medical staff deprived the plaintiff of mental health and medical care, including prescription medication, and subjected him to unconstitutional conditions of confinement in retaliation for his assault on a correctional officer on August 5, 2016. Compl.; see also Serious Incident Report, State Def. Ex. 18, ECF No. 38-20. The plaintiff admits that he had flooded his tier on August 3, 2016 and assaulted an officer by spraying urine on him. Compl. ¶¶ 46, 49. He blames these actions, however, on lack of adequate medical and mental health care, including the discontinuation of his psychotropic medications. Id. ¶ 42.[3] He states that he was taken off “all his medication, because they stated that he was caught on tape passing his medication to another inmate which was a mendacious statement and a form of retaliation.” Id. ¶ 43. Further, he alleges: 1) correctional staff tamper with his mail; 2) correctional officers refuse to accept his Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”) forms for mailing; 3) he is not receiving treatment for severe pain in his neck, back, stomach, and headaches and spitting up blood and “green stuff”; 4) he is receiving inadequate medical treatment; 5) mental health provider Lauren A. Beitzel “lies for the correctional officers” and refuses his requests to see a psychologist; and 6) Officer Murray refused him an emergency pass to see the dentist on August 1, 2016, which caused him to suffer extreme pain, lose “control, ” and flood the tier on August 3, 2016. Compl. ¶¶ 39-42, 45-47, 67-68.

         August 3, 2016

         The plaintiff explains that on August 3, 2016, he asked Officer Murray if he had an institutional pass. Murray replied in the negative, and stated “even if you did you won't be go [sic], now you can write me up for that to[o].” Compl. ¶¶ 44-45. The plaintiff flooded the tier, claiming his loss of “complete control” resulted because Officer Murray denied him a pass to see the dentist, and Officer Marchinke refused to speak to him about Murray's refusal. Id. ¶ 46.

         August 5, 2016 Incident [4]

         The plaintiff alleges Officer Self gave him a bag lunch instead of a hot lunch and threatened to “spray” him and called him a “dead niggar.” Id. ¶ 48. About twenty minutes later, the plaintiff admits that he “sprayed [Officer Self] down with piss.” Id. ¶ 49. An hour later, Lieutenant Spiers ordered plaintiff to cuff-up and exit the cell. The plaintiff initially refused, then agreed before the cell extraction team arrived. Officer Spiers told the plaintiff that it was “to[o] late for that” and walked away. Id. ¶ 50.

         About thirty minutes later, Lieutenant Bradley Wilt, accompanied by Officer Marchinke, Sergeant Werner, and approximately six other officers, ordered the plaintiff to the cell door slot to be handcuffed. Once the plaintiff was handcuffed, the cell door opened, and Wilt grabbed the plaintiff by the neck and “for no reason” forcefully pushed his head toward the floor. Id. ¶ 51-52. Officer Marchinke and one other officer bent plaintiff's arms until his shoulders popped and started to pull him down the hall. Wilt ordered the officers to pull him so as to dislocate his shoulders. Id. Plaintiff was put in a strip cage and searched. Id. ¶ 53.[5]

         “Nurse Amy” then evaluated plaintiff for his complaints of excruciating neck, back, and shoulder pain. Plaintiff told her that he could not breathe, and asked for his inhaler. “Nurse Amy” replied “to [sic] bad nigger, you should have not assaulted an officer, ” and turned to the camera to state that the plaintiff was fine. Id. ¶ 53. Wilt placed a spit mask on the plaintiff, even though the plaintiff claims that he could not breathe, and directed Officer Murray to store his property. At Wilt's direction Marchinke and another officer dragged the plaintiff to his cell with his hands above his head. He was placed back in a cell without running water, toilet paper, a mattress, or his personal property. Id. ¶¶ 54-56.

         The plaintiff asserts that he declared a hunger strike on August 5, 2016, because he was given a “meal loaf.” He claims meal loaf is unconstitutional. He posits that he was the only inmate on the segregation tier provided meal loaf, and that two white inmates who threw urine on an officer did not face the same repercussions. The plaintiff asserts that one of the white inmates was not placed on meal loaf or denied running water in their cell, and that the other was placed on staff alert, [6] but not deprived of his property. Id. ¶ 60. According to Defendants, the plaintiff was placed on a special management meal (also called meal loaf) for seven days and a container restriction. Status Report Ex. 2, Pertinent Med. Records at 7; State Def. Ex. 21, Daily Events Log, Aug. 5, 2016 at 1, ECF No. 38-23. Defendants also claim that the plaintiff refused a mattress. State Def. Ex. 21, Daily Events Log, Aug. 5, 2016 at 1.

         The plaintiff remained on staff alert from August 5, 2016 to August 18, 2016. Ex. 23, Record of Segregation Confinement at 6, ECF No. 38-25; State Def. Ex. 19, Staff Alert Designation, ECF No. 38-21 (noting the plaintiff's continuing disruptive behaviors toward staff); State Def. Ex. 21, Daily Events Log, Aug. 5, 2016. On the evening of August 5, 2016, Nurse Kelly Fincham examined the plaintiff for a one-inch laceration on his right wrist. State Def. Ex. 5, Relevant Med. Records at 6, ECF No. 38-5. There was no bleeding or swelling, and the laceration appeared to be healing. Fincham cleaned the cut, applied an antibiotic ointment and covered it with a bandage. Id. The plaintiff refused to explain how he received the laceration. Id.

         Based on the August 5, 2016, incident, the plaintiff was charged with and later found guilty of violating prison rules 101 (assault or battery on staff), 105 (possession, use, or manufacture of a weapon), 312 (interfering with or resisting performance of staff duties including search of a person, or area), and 405 (demonstrating disrespect or use of vulgar language). Sanctions, including disciplinary segregation, were imposed. State Def. Ex. 20, Inmate Hearing Record at 2, 14, 16, ECF No. 38-22.

         August 8, 2016 Incident

         On August 8, 2016, Officer Murray ordered the plaintiff to leave his cell for a “bar check.”[7] Compl. ¶ 61. The plaintiff refused unless staff alert protocol was followed to include recording his exit in the presence of another officer and a sergeant. Id. After Officer Durst, Sergeant Werner, Lieutenant Wilt, Officer Beechy[8] and five other unnamed officers arrived, the plaintiff agreed to leave his cell. After the plaintiff was handcuffed, Lt. Wilt allegedly grabbed him by his neck and forced his head down to the floor. Wilt stated “mother fuck your [sic] not going to spit on me.” Id. ¶ 62. The plaintiff alleges Wilt accused him of spitting to justify the assault. Wilt told officers that the plaintiff has asthma and to put him in a cell where the windows were locked so that the heat will kill him. Id. The plaintiff was escorted to another cell, where Wilt, knowing that the plaintiff suffered jaw problems, stuck his thumb and finger into the plaintiff's jaw three or four times, causing him extreme pain. Id. ¶ 63. An unidentified correctional officer put his knee on the plaintiff's throat and started closing the cell door, while pulling the tether attached to his handcuffs. The plaintiff alleges they tried to pull him up by his hands and shoulders for no reason. Officers pulled his arms out of the food slot in the cell door and pushed down on his wrists and pulled his handcuffs, which was painful and cut the plaintiff's wrists. The plaintiff claims he was then denied medical treatment. Id.

         After the plaintiff left his cell, officers searched it and found a hidden milk carton, which was contraband because he was on a container restriction for his earlier assault on Officer Self. State Def. Ex. 20, Inmate Hearing Record at 11. He was charged with and, after a formal hearing, found guilty of violating institutional rules 312 (interference or resistance to staff duties), 400 (disobeying an order) and 406 (possession of contraband). Id. Ultimately, the plaintiff was found guilty of violating Rule 101, 105, 312, and 405 based on the August 5 and August 8th incidents. Id. at 9, 16-17, and a hearing officer sentenced him to a total of 180 days of disciplinary segregation. Id. at 2.

         Mental and Medical Health

         The plaintiff claims that he suffers posttraumatic stress disorder, episodic mood disorder, and anti-social personality disorder, and was prescribed psychotropic medication. He states that at one time he was prescribed 50mg sertraline, 2 mg. prazosin, and 300 mg of lithium carb, and then his medications were changed to .5 mg. risperidone, 2 mg. prazosin, and diphenhydramine 25 mg, and then his medications were changed again to 37.5 mg of Effexor, 2 mg. of Erhenazine, and 25 mg of diphenhydramine. Compl. ¶ 42. Notably, he does not indicate when these changes occurred. The plaintiff claims that he cut his wrist on August 5, 2016, due to psychological and physical pain. Id. ¶57.

         The plaintiff claims he attempted suicide again on August 8, 2016. Id. ¶ 64; Status Report Ex. 2, Pertinent Med. Records at 4 (record completed by Lauren Beitzel, LCPC). Lt. Oates escorted him to the medical unit where he was examined by Nurse Dawn Hawk. Compl. ¶ 64; Status Report Ex. 2, Pertinent Med. Records at 5. The plaintiff informed Hawk that he cut his arm because he was not getting transgender treatment. Status Report Ex. 2, Pertinent Med. Records at 5. The laceration, approximately three inches, showed no signs of infection, and was cleaned. Id. Hawk applied Bacitracin and a sterile dressing. Id. That evening correctional staff contacted the psychology department. Id.

         Lt. Oates informed the plaintiff that Laura Wilson said he was faking suicide to seek attention, and escorted him back to his cell. The plaintiff asked to see Lauren Bietzel and requested his stomach medication and inhalers. Compl. ¶¶ 64-66. Oates replied he would contact Bietzel, but the plaintiff was not permitted anything, including water or a mattress, while on staff alert, per the directions of Chief of Security Bohrer, Warden Bishop, Thomas Sawyers, Major Stotler, and Lieutenant Wilt. Id. ¶ 65.

         The plaintiff claims he was left on staff alert for 16 days without his personal property, a mattress, water, toilet paper, or his asthma and stomach medication. Id. ¶¶ 67-68. The record shows, however, that he was on staff alert on August 5, to August 18, 2016, a total of 13 days. State Def. Ex. 23, Record of Segregation Confinement at 6; State Def. Ex. 19, Staff Alert Designation Notice, ECF No. 38-21. The plaintiff claims that when he asked Nurses Ciara, Kelly, William Bilak, Shawna, April, Jane Shipley, and Vicki Ward for his inhalers and for pain medication during this time, they smiled and walked away. Compl. ¶ 68. He also asked correctional staff members Werner, Bielanski, Wilt, Spears, Marchinke, Murry, Self, Warren, Gilpin, Michael, Weismer, Crowe, and Sellers for his medication, but they refused him because he had assaulted an officer. Id. at 21 ¶ 68.

         The plaintiff seeks preliminary and permanent injunction to stop correctional officers from denying him showers, recreation, haircuts, welfare hygiene bags, institutional passes, and the opportunity to wash his clothing. Compl. ¶ 108. He asks for injunctive relief to stop Laura Wilson, Lauren Beitzel, and Vincent Siracusano from denying him treatment and medication for his mental conditions. Id. He asks for Nurses Ciara, Amy, and Kelly; William Bilak; April Shipley; and Vicky Ward to reorder his pain medication when it is running low and to stop denying him sick passes. Id. The plaintiff also seeks $200, 000 against each defendant, jointly and severally, and punitive damages of $350, 000 against each defendant. Id. ¶¶109-110. In a separate declaration, he alleges that he faces a constant threat of serious mental and physical harm because he suffers severe gastritis, experiences pain with defecation, and has blood in his feces. He also claims Defendants deny him his blood pressure medication and tamper with his mail. See generally ECF 4-2.

         The plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint which was granted. ECF Nos. 17, 18. The plaintiff did not subsequently file an Amended Complaint. However, his Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint demonstrates his intent to name Bruce Liller, Krista Bilak, RPN, and Dr. Ashraf Mahboob as additional defendants. Mot. Leave to File at 1. The plaintiff claims Krista Bilak and Dr. Mahboob refused to order treatment and denied him medication. Id. ¶ 33-34. He claims Bruce Liller as a program manager failed to provide him with “appropriate and adequate mental health programming” and has denied him the “right to be evaluated for the SMI (severely mentally ill) or SNU (special needs unit).” Id. ¶ 17. The plaintiff seems to attribute his assault on Officer Self to cessation of his medication, unconstitutional meals, lack of medical care, and special cell placement. Id. ¶ 6. The motion to amend, if intended by the plaintiff to be an amended complaint, is unverified. See generally, Mot. Leave to File. Because the plaintiff's medical claim will proceed, he may seek leave to file an amendment to his complaint to add these individuals as defendants, setting forth his reasons why they have violated his constitutional rights.


         In reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, 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. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011); see Hall v. DirectTV, LLC, 846 F.3d 757, 765 (4th Cir. 2017). Where, as here, the plaintiff is self-represented, pro se pleadings are “to be liberally construed” and are “held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). However, even a pro se litigant's complaint must be dismissed if it does not allege a “plausible claim for relief.” See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).

         The Supreme Court of the United States explained a “plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quotation marks and brackets omitted). Nonetheless, the complaint does not need “detailed factual allegations” to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. Instead, “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. To survive a motion to dismiss, “a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677-78 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         Summary judgment is granted when 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. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).

         The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean any factual dispute will defeat the motion:

By its very terms, this standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.

Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986).

         “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings, ' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.' ” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to ... the nonmovant, and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witnesses' credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002). The court must, however, also abide by the “affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)). Against this standard, the court recognizes that pro se litigants' pleadings should be construed to allow them to fully develop a potentially meritorious case. See Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94. However, a court cannot assume the existence of a genuine issue of material fact where none exists. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).


         To proceed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must allege a violation of a federal constitutional right or a right secured by federal law. Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140 (1979). The plaintiff's claims of inadequate medical care, unconstitutional conditions of confinement, and excessive force are examined in light of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits “cruel and unusual punishments, ” such as those involving the “unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain, ” Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976).

         A. Eighth Amendment Claims

         1. Medical and Mental Health Claims

         In Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that “deliberate indifference to serious medical needs of prisoners constitutes the wanton infliction of pain, ” regardless whether the indifference is “manifested by prison doctors in their response to the prisoner's needs or by prison guards in intentionally denying or delaying access to medical care or intentionally interfering with the treatment once prescribed.” Estelle, 429 U.S. 97, 104-05 (1976). The Court cautioned that not every allegation of inadequate medical treatment states a claim under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at 105. Neither an “inadvertent ...

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