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Moore v. McHogoff

United States District Court, D. Maryland

April 25, 2018

ROBERT GARY MOORE Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICER MCHOGOFF OFFICER ANDERSON OFFICER MILLER OFFICER DICE Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          James K. Bredar, Chief Judge

         Pending before the court is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment filed by defendant Anderson[1] (ECF No. 19) and Robert Gary Moore's opposition. ECF No. 21. Upon review of the pleadings, the court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons stated below, defendant's dispositive motion IS GRANTED.

         I. Complaint Allegations

         On April 13, 2017, the court received for filing the above-captioned 42 U.S.C. § 1983 verified complaint filed by Robert Gary Moore, a prisoner housed at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). Moore seeks compensatory damages and the firing of four NBCI officers. He complains that from July 26, 2016, to August 21, 2016 (26 days), he was held in segregation without his legal or writing materials, which rendered it impossible for him to work on his Baltimore City Circuit Court post-conviction petition or to contact his family and friends. ECF No. 1. Moore claims that his due process and access-to-courts rights were violated. Id.

         In a supplemental complaint, Moore states that he asked to be placed in a single cell on segregation due to gang violence. He complains that the request was denied and he was placed in a holding cell “with no further incident.” He alleges there was no physical altercation and thus no rational basis for denying him his property under the Equal Protection Clause, as other segregation inmates were allowed the same property. ECF No. 10.

         II. Dispositive Response

         Anderson states that on July 26, 2016, Moore received a rule infraction for refusing to return to his cell. ECF No. 19-1, p. 16. He was informed that he would receive an adjustment for refusing housing and would be removed to a different NBCI housing unit. Anderson claims that as Moore “persisted, ” he was placed in a strip cage, and his property was removed from his cell. He was charged with violating Rule 401 for refusing housing, waived his right to appear before a hearing officer, and was found guilty in absentia. Id., p. 20.

         Anderson affirms there is no evidence that Moore was denied “pens, writing paper, stamps, envelopes, transcripts, legal motion and material, ” as noted in his administrative remedy procedure grievance. He notes that Moore was housed in segregation earlier from April 12, 2016, to June 10, 2016. Upon his release from segregation, his personal property inventory sheet reflected that he had 1.5 cubic feet of books and papers (including legal materials), and five pens/pencils. Id., p. 14.

         On July 26, 2016, when Moore was re-assigned to segregation, the prepared notice of confiscation provided that only two items were being confiscated: a pair of sweatpants and gym shorts. Id., p. 12. On that same day, Moore signed the list of authorized items for segregation inmates. Id., p. 11. The list reflected that he had 1.5 cubic feet of books and papers (including legal materials), but made no reference to pens or pencils. Id. Upon Moore's release from segregation on August 24, 2016, he signed a list for authorized items for segregation inmates indicating that he had 1.5 cubic feet of books and papers (including legal materials) and two pens/pencils. Id., p. 10.

         In his declaration, Defendant Anderson affirms that he has no recollection of Moore complaining about his lack of access to legal or writing materials. He further maintains that segregation inmates may only have flex pens and pencils and may submit a commissary request every Sunday. He denies intentionally taking any action to deny Moore access to his legal and writing materials. ECF No. 19-2, Anderson Decl. He argues that the complaint should be dismissed because Moore (1) makes no particularized allegations against him, (2) has failed to establish the elements of an access-to-courts claim, and (3) has not demonstrated a violation of his equal protection rights.

         In his opposition, Moore accuses defendant of forging a copy of his property inventory sheet because of print variations on the Xeroxed document. He maintains that he did not see a reference to “1.5” cubic feet written on the document. ECF No. 21. He seemingly alleges that his lack of access to his legal documents caused him injury as during the 26-day period he was precluded from “studying case law for those cases” and working on his law cases as other prisoners were allowed to do. Id.

         III. Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

         Because defendant has filed and relied on declarations and exhibits attached to his dispositive motion, his motion shall be construed as one for summary judgment, which is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a). The rule provides:

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 ...

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