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Blanchard v. McDonough

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 30, 2018




         On February 29, 2016, the Court received for filing an “Affidavit” submitted by detainee Ray Blanchard. ECF No. 1. Blanchard raised a laundry list of claims regarding his detention at the Prince George's County Detention Center (“PGCDC”).[1] He alleged that he was denied access to the PGCDC grievance system; PGCDC staff used excessive force against him on July 14, 2015; detainees are provided inadequate medical treatment; the PGCDC commissary is overpriced; PGCDC staff hinder, obstruct and prevent the forwarding of personal, legal and special mail; detainees are denied due process in the taking of telephone, commissary, and other privileges prior to a disciplinary hearing; and detainees are denied “leisure and law library” public information.[2] Id.

         In his Supplemental Complaint, Blanchard alleges that on July 14, 2015, excessive force was applied against him when Officer Reid pushed Blanchard's arms against the wall and grabbed him around the collar and forced him “into the direction of the multipurpose room.” ECF No. 14. He also claims that Reid defamed him by stating very loudly “you mother fuckers aint nothing [but a] bunch of crackheads and dope fiends” and continued to use obscene language. Id.

         Blanchard further states that his medical needs were seemingly neglected as to his rheumatism, eyeglasses, medically restricted housing, pain medication, and ace wrap bandages. Id.

         He next claims that he and other detainees were denied meaningful access to the courts as they were denied copies of information related to civil litigation, the attorney grievance process, habeas corpus, and “misrepresentation.” Id.

         Blanchard additionally claims that his grievance was not responded to, and he was subject to officer “harassment.” Id.

         On January 25, 2017, Blanchard's Motion for Appointment of Counsel, Motion Requesting Amendment and Consolidation with Ali v. Prince George's County Dep't of Corr., et al., Civil Action No. PWG-16-186 (D. Md.), [3] Motion to Amend the Civil Rights Complaint, and Motion for Default Judgment were denied. Further, Defendants McTernan, McDonough, and Reid's[4] Motion to Dismiss and Alternatively, for Summary Judgment was dismissed without prejudice. Blanchard was instructed to file a Supplemental Complaint. ECF Nos. 21 & 22.

         Blanchard's court-ordered Supplemental Complaint names PGCDC Director McDonough and Correctional Officer Reid as Defendants.[5] He states that on July 14, 201[5], Correctional Officer Reid used excessive force against him and another PGCDC detainee. He claims that Reid “forcibly pushed [Blanchard's] arms higher on the wall for no legitimate purposes, additionally using obscenities.” Blanchard additionally claims that Reid later grabbed him around the collar and forcibly pulled him in the direction of the multipurpose room. ECF No. 27, p. 4. He additionally names “Zone Commanders” Waddy and Kamara and Correctional Officer Kwaitan as Defendants, claiming that Waddy and Kamara failed to respond to his request for a grievance form to raise a claim about Reid's alleged action and Kwaitan informed him it was “not a grievable issue” and refused to retrieve him a grievance form on other occasions, thus violating PGCDC policy. He maintains that these “tactics are used to prevent and discourage …detainees to access the courts.” Id., pp. 5-7. The Supplemental Complaint also discusses the non-response of Major Cedrick Gamble to a State court writ of mandamus which was seemingly filed regarding the distribution of grievance forms. He raises an equal protection claim, claiming that he was treated differently from other detainees who requested and received forms. Finally, Blanchard alleges that Director McDonough is liable due to her responsibility for the overall operation of PGCDC and she is “very familiar with the numerous facts and allegation[s] of ‘official misconduct' and ‘excessive force'” leveled in the Supplemental Complaint and has failed to correct the illegal conduct.6 Id., pp. 9-11. He seeks declaratory, injunctive, and other miscellaneous relief, as well as monetary damages. ECF No. 27, pp. 9-12.

         Defendants' Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants McTernan, McDonough, and Reid have filed a “Second” Motion to Dismiss, arguing that Blanchard's supplemental filing fails to set out a federal claim. ECF No. 30. Blanchard has filed an Opposition. ECF No. 34. As previously noted, the purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the Complaint. See Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A Plaintiff's Complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a ‘showing, ' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).

         At this stage, the Court must consider all well-pleaded allegations in a Complaint as true, Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and must construe all factual allegations in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776, 6 In an accompanying Affidavit Blanchard raises multiple claims regarding detainees at PGCDC involving access to courts, excessive force, medical treatment, cleaning supplies and toiletries, mail obstruction, and property and “nutritious' food deprivations. ECF No. 27-2. He asks that his claims against Defendants Meskaram, Abu, Remero, McTernan, and Prince George's County Corrections be dismissed without prejudice. Id. 783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)). Because Blanchard is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating the Complaint, the Court need not accept unsupported legal allegations, Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), nor must it agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, or conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir. 2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not ‘show[n] ... that the pleader is entitled to relief.' “ Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. A Complaint needs to give the parties sufficient notice as to the type of claim being alleged. See Chacko v. Patuxent Inst., 429 F.3d 505, 509 (4th Cir. 2005).

         Blanchard asks that his Complaint against Defendants Meskaram, Abu, Remero, and McTernan be dismissed without prejudice. His request shall be granted. This leaves Blanchard's claims of “excessive force” against Reid, his supplemental claims regarding the PGCDC grievance process against Correctional Officers Kwaitan, “Zone Commanders” Waddy and Kamara, and Major Gamble, and his supervisory liability claim against Director McDonough for the Court's examination.

         Blanchard alleges that Reid used excessive force against him when on July 14, 2015, during a cell “shake down, ” Reid forcibly pushed Blanchard's arms higher on the wall, grabbed Blanchard around the collar, and forcibly pulled him in the direction of a multi-purpose room. As interpreted under the Constitution, pretrial detainees such as Blanchard cannot be punished at all, much less “maliciously and sadistically.Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 671-672, n. 40 (1977); Graham v. Connor, 490 U.S. 386, 395, n. 10 (1989). A plaintiff must prove “ ‘that Defendants inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering' upon the detainee.” Carr v. Deeds, 453 F.3d 593, 605 (4th Cir. 2006). (quoting Taylor v. McDuffie, 155 F.3d 479, 483 (4th Cir.1998)). “The proper inquiry is whether the force applied was in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.” Id. (quoting Taylor v. McDuffie, 155 F.3d 479, 483 (4th Cir. 1998)). A plaintiff is no longer required to demonstrate that his injuries are not de minimis. Wilkins v. Gaddy, 559 U.S. 34, 38-39 (2010).

         The Supreme Court held that “the appropriate standard for a pretrial detainee's excessive force claim is solely an objective one.” Kingsley v. Hendrickson, __ U.S. __, 135 S.Ct. 2466, 2473 (2015). It is enough that a pretrial detainee show that the “force purposely or knowingly used against him was objectively unreasonable, ” id., regardless of an officer's state of mind, id. at 2472 (cited in Dilwworth v. Adams,841 F.3d 246, 255 (4th Cir. 2016). Pursuant to Kingsley, this Court must consider whether under the “facts and circumstances” of this particular ...

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