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Footes v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 12, 2018

AARON DEVON FOOTES, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN FRANK B. BISHOP, JR., et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paula Xinis United States District Judge.

         State inmate Aaron Devon Footes filed the above-captioned civil rights complaint stemming from his protracted placement in administrative and disciplinary segregation while incarcerated at the North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI). Also pending is Footes' Motion to Appoint Counsel (ECF No. 21), Motions for Preliminary Injunction arising from the institution's actions taken in January 2018 in response to Footes' inmate assault (ECF No. 27), and for a medical examination. ECF No. 20. For reasons more fully discussed below, the Court denies Footes' Motions for Injunctive Relief. The Court also denies Footes' Motion to Appoint Counsel as he has demonstrated the ability to present his claims sufficiently. Finally, the Court denies Defendants' Motion without prejudice to refile once the Court ascertains Footes' current incarceration status.

         I. Background

         In March of 2016, Footes was an inmate housed at NBCI. NBCI reassigned Footes from general population to administrative segregation after he had been badly beaten by another inmate. NBCI served Footes rule-violation notices and relocated him to disciplinary segregation pending adjustment. ECF No. 1-2. Footes was eventually acquitted of the rule violations and transferred from disciplinary to administrative segregation pending investigation. Id. For over a year, Footes remained on administrative segregation, which prompted his filing this Complaint. Id.

         Footes thereafter supplemented his Complaint wherein he clarified that NBCI had not provided any explanation for his continued placement in administrative segregation; that NBCI performed an inadequate investigation as to why he was in segregation; and that both the placement and continued confinement on administrative segregation violated his constitutional rights as well as Division of Corrections' policies. ECF No. 14. Footes asserts that he has suffered adverse health effects and denial of programming or opportunities to earn diminution of confinement credits. Id. As relief, Footes seeks compensatory damages and a regional transfer. ECF No. 1-3.

         On October 18, 2017, Defendants moved to dismiss Footes' claims, or in the alternative, for summary judgment granted in its favor. ECF No. 17. In support, Defendants contend that even though Footes was found not guilty of assault in 2016, he was placed in administrative segregation because his assailants were suspected of membership in Murder, Inc., a Security Threat Group (STG). ECF No. 17-7, ¶ 5 (Lt. Barnhart Decl.). More particularly, NBCI's Intelligence Unit requested Footes' placement on administrative segregation to address concerns for his personal safety and the likelihood that Footes would be in danger if returned to general population. Id., ¶¶ 6-7. Defendants further note that the institution has since conducted periodic case-management reviews concerning this placement, and that as of June of 2016, Footes requested transfer to another institution based on the stated concerns for his safety at NBCI. ECF No. 17-10, ¶¶6, 7 (McMahan Decl.); ECF No. 17-9, at pp. 4, 6 (Confidential Case Management Notes).

         As a result of the investigation, NBCI correctional staff believed that Footes was a member of Murder, Inc. and that the March 2016 fight arose because Footes had fallen out of favor with the Group.[1] ECF No. 17-8, pp. 5, 8. The investigation further revealed that Footes intended to seek revenge on certain group members. Id. The Intelligence Unit recommended Footes' transfer to another institution, namely Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI). Id. JCI was contacted in January of 2017, regarding a transfer. Id., pp. 8, 10-13. In a supplemental pleading, Defendants informed the Court that although Footes had been approved for placement onto the JCI transfer list, transfer was rescinded because a verified enemy of Footes was also housed at JCI. ECF No. 25-3, ¶ 7, 25-4. The Western Correctional Institution (WCI) was also ruled out as a viable placement because that institution also housed a number of Murder Inc. members and another of Footes' verified enemies. ECF No. 25-3, ¶ 8. Footes, therefore, remained at NBCI.

         In December of 2017, NBCI case management considered reducing Plaintiff's classification status from Maximum to Medium Security, which would have allowed Footes to be transferred to other available state institutions. ECF No. 25-5; ECF No. 25-3, ¶¶ 14, 90. This reclassification process was halted after Footes' case manager learned that Footes had assaulted another inmate on January 8, 2018.[2] ECF No. 25-3, ¶ 11. On February 1, 2018, Footes was reassigned to disciplinary segregation because of the assault, and he remained at Maximum Security classification. Id., ¶¶ 13-15. Nonetheless, NBCI continued to look for a safe, alternative institution to which Footes could be transferred. Id., ¶ 16.

         B. Footes' Current Housing Status

         Footes has notified the Court that around March 20, 2018, he was transferred to the Prince George's County Detention Center for a hearing. ECF No. 29. Footes was also supposed to be transported to JCI pending a court hearing which did not occur, and then was returned to NBCI. ECF No. 30. On April 9, 2018, Footes wrote the Court, again stating that he is housed at the Prince George's County Detention Center pending a hearing, and because he expects to remain at the Detention Center for months, he asked that Court mail be sent to the Detention Center. ECF No. 31.

         C. The Pending Motions

         Defendants' dispositive motion will be denied without prejudice subject to renewal once the Court determines Footes' current housing status. Defendants shall advise the Court within thirty days from the issuance of this Opinion whether Footes is currently housed in the Division of Corrections, and if so, where and whether he is in disciplinary or administrative segregation. If Footes is not currently housed in the Division of Corrections, Defendants shall advise what his housing status will be upon his return from the Detention Center. Defendants shall also respond to Footes' allegation that upon the expiration of his disciplinary segregation term, he will be returned to general population. If Footes is to be returned to general population as alleged, Defendants shall explain the basis for the change in his ability to be housed safely in the general population at NBCI. Defendants shall also address what, if any, steps have been undertaken to locate general population housing for Footes either in another state facility or via an Interstate Corrections Compact transfer. Defendants are further directed to respond to Footes' claim that his prolonged stay on administrative segregation has adversely impacted his health. Within thirty days, Footes shall also update the court as to his housing status.

         Footes' motions will be denied. Regarding Footes' request for injunctive relief to compel his transfer from NBCI (ECF No. 27), the Court denies the motion as moot in light of Footes' recent supplemental correspondence stating that he is not housed at NBCI currently. To the extent Footes' placement in the future gives rise to similar requests for injunctive relief, Footes may refile his motion.

         As grounds for requesting that this Court order Defendants to medically examine him, Footes argued that segregation was negatively impacting his health. Id. Defendants were directed to show cause why Footes' motion should not be granted. ECF No. 22. Defendants responded that correctional staff have no personal involvement in providing or directing the health care of inmates and that inmates may seek medical evaluation by completing a sick call slip. ECF No. 24-1, ¶¶ 2 & 3. (Bohrer Decl). Defendants also noted Footes' familiarity with the process for requesting medical care, as Footes had requested medical care for pain in his left big toe and left leg (ECF No. 24-2 at pp. 2-3), a sore throat (id., at pp. 6-7), and abdominal pain and constipation (id., at pp. 12-13), all within a three-month span. Footes also declined medical evaluation after he was involved in an altercation with another inmate. Id. at p. 10. Footes replied that he had submitted several sick calls slips complaining ...


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