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Dorsey v. Shearin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

March 30, 2018

TERRY L.S. DORSEY, Plaintiff,
WARDEN BOBBY P. SHEARIN, et al., Defendants.


          George L. Russell, III United States District Judge

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Warden Bobby P. Shearin, Warden Frank Bishop, Jr., [1] and Chaplain Kevin Lamp's Renewed Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36). Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff Terry L.S. Dorsey's Motion to Appoint Counsel. (ECF No. 43). The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons outlined below, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion and deny Dorsey's Motion.


         Dorsey is an inmate at North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. On November 30, 2015, Dorsey sued Defendants, asserting that they violated his right to practice religion and retaliated against him for exercising his rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. (ECF No. 1). Construing Dorsey's Complaint liberally, the Court also identified a possible claim under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc-1(a) (2018). (Mar. 17, 2017 Mem. Op. at 10, ECF No. 31).

         On July 11, 2016, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 17). On March 17, 2017, the Court denied Defendants' Motion Summary Judgment subject to renewal and supplementation within 30 days. (ECF No. 32). The Court requested that Defendants supplement their renewed Motion to address: (1) whether Dorsey exhausted his administrative remedies; (2) the reasons for his reclassification; (3) how restrictions on Maximum II level inmates are reasonably related to legitimate penological interests; and (4) Dorsey's assertions that Defendants violated RLUIPA. (Mar. 17, 2017 Mem. Op. at 7, 9, 10).

         On May 17, 2017, Defendants filed a Renewed Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 36), to which Dorsey filed two Oppositions. (ECF Nos. 40, 41).[3] On February 26, 2018, Dorsey filed a Motion to Appoint Counsel. (ECF No. 43).


         A. Motion to Appoint Counsel

         In his Motion, Dorsey states that he requires counsel because his imprisonment limits his ability to litigate, the issues in this case are complex, he has limited access to a law library, and a trial is likely to involve conflicting testimony. “A pro se prisoner does not have a general right to counsel in a § 1983 action.” Evans v. Kuplinski, 713 F.App'x 167 (4th Cir. 2017). A federal district court judge's power to appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C.§1915(e)(1) (2018) is discretionary, and an indigent claimant must present “exceptional circumstances.” See Kuplinski, 713 F. App'x 167; 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 of counsel).

         Here, Dorsey has adequately articulated his claims and filed Oppositions to Defendants' dispositive Motion. Further, his claims are not unduly complex, and for reasons to follow, a trial is not necessary to resolve this matter. Thus, the Court concludes that exceptional circumstances do not exist in Dorsey's case. Accordingly, the Court will deny Dorsey's Motion.

         B. Defendants' Renewed Motion

         1. Standard of Review

         In considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, read the complaint as a whole, and take the facts asserted therein as true. See Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). But “[w]hen matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [12(b)(6)] motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)). Under Rule 56(a), the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must draw all justifiable inferences in the non-moving party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). “[T]he 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, 477 U.S. at 247-48.

         A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party's case. 248; see JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 F.3d at 265.

         “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. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 525 (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 inferences in [his] favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness' credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (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).

         Defendants rely on exhibits attached to their Motion. Likewise, Dorsey relies on exhibits attached to his Oppositions. Because the Court will consider Defendants' and Dorsey's exhibits, the Court must convert the Motion to a motion for summary judgment.[4]

         2. Analysis

         Defendants assert five arguments as to why that they are entitled to summary judgment: (1) Dorsey has not exhausted his administrative remedies; (2) Dorsey's security reclassification was not a retaliatory action; (3) there was no violation of the Free Exercise Clause to the First Amendment; (4) there was no violation of RLUIPA; and (5) they are entitled to qualified immunity. The Court agrees with Defendants that Dorsey failed to exhaust his administrative remedies as to his retaliation claim and that Dorsey has not established a First Amendment or RLUIPA violation.

         a. Exhaustion of ...

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