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Butler v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

June 26, 2018

STATE OF MARYLAND, et al. Defendants


          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Montaque Butler filed this suit on July 18, 2016, alleging improper conditions at the facility at which he was detained. Defendants, Governor Larry Hogan, the State of Maryland, Secretary-Stephen Moyer, former Commissioner Wayne Webb, Attorney General of Maryland Brian E. Frosh, and Warden Kathy Landerkin[1] filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment in response to the above-entitled civil rights complaint. (ECF 16.) Although plaintiff Montaque Butler was advised of his right to file an opposition response and of the consequences of failing to do so, he has not opposed the motion. (See ECF 17.) For the reasons that follow, the unopposed motion shall be granted. The claims as to the unserved defendants, the State Fire Marshal, the Maryland State Public Works and Members, the Maryland State Treasury, BGE Constellation Energy and Exelon, shall be dismissed without requiring service.


         Butler was an inmate at the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit (BPRU) when this complaint was filed.[2] (Compl. at 1, ECF No. 1.) Butler referenced the cases in this court with numbers 16- 1985, 16-1986, and 16-1988 as "class actions" in which he requested intervention.[3] (Id. at 3.) He incorporates by reference the claims asserted in those cases and avers that he suffered physical injury by virtue of his exposure to "nicotine, asbestos, lead, mold, mildew and other dangerous environmental substances." (Id.) Although Butler states this exposure made him sick, he does not describe the illness. (Id.)

         Under Butler's caption "Count I" he appears to adopt claims asserted by Gomes and Cofield, both of whom are African American inmates, that defendants Hogan, Moyer, and Landerkin knowingly and purposely hired more African American correctional officers than Caucasian officers at all Baltimore city regional correctional institutions. (Id. at 4.) This hiring practice, Butler avers, differs from other facilities in the State where the percentage of Caucasian officers is higher. (Id. at 4-5.) Butler claims this practice is discriminatory and results in African American inmates being treated more harshly and unfairly in facilities where there are more African American correctional officers, as compared to facilities where there are a higher percentage of Caucasian officers. (Id. at 5.) Butler seeks an order requiring defendants to "hire more whites at (all) DPSCS institutions in Baltimore (City) region, immediate[ly]. to cure the deficiencies and dysfunctionality that is systematic throughout Baltimore (City), MD just like its City government ran by Blacks." (Id. (emphasis and parentheticals in original).) Butler concludes he is "being adversely affected and severely impacted by the reverse racial divide with 'too' many blacks representing too many blacks in staff and inmate ratios" in violation of the Equal Protection clause as well as other enumerated federal laws. (Id. (emphasis and quotation marks in original).)

         In "Count II" Butler claims that from July 12, 2012 to the date of his complaint, defendants, with the exception of Governor Hogan, exposed him and other inmates to dangerous conditions and toxic substances due to "inadequate ventilation [in] some DPSCS facilities." (Id. at 5-6.) The complaint alleges that non-smoking inmates were exposed to environmental tobacco smoke "and other drug/toxic substances that are smoked daily ... in living and housing areas in MD prisons." (Id. at 6.) The complaint specifically mentions Cofield, Gomes, and Bouldin, as suffering from chronic asthma. (Id. at 6-9.) The complaint continues to state that the plaintiff has sought "medical attention for a physical injury, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, eye irritation, dizziness, runny nose, and having to use his inhaler excessively for relief due to excessive exposure to tobacco smoke and other toxis substances smoked by other inmates throughout MD DOC institutions." (Id. at 6.) He asserts that defendants have failed to control contraband tobacco products from coming into BPRU and his exposure to second-hand smoke violates "contemporary standards of decency." (Id. at 6-9.)

         Butler further contends the environment at BPRU and other unspecified correctional facilities is unhealthy, unsafe, and dangerous as there are no working fire detectors, sprinklers or emergency lights; the floor and walls are laden with asbestos; and there is no fire-fighting equipment. (Compl. at 9.) He alleges that the roof at BPRU leaks when it rains; the sinks require fixing; toilets and showers are stopped up; there are insufficient washers and dryers; and the facility has mold and mildew, is overrun by pests and vermin, and has broken windows and exit signs. (Id. at 10.) He notes that "[t]he rats have taken over like they have been allowed [without] control in the City of Baltimore." (Id.)

         Butler also complains there are no welfare packages for indigent inmates, food portions are inadequate in size and are not provided consistent with schedules at other prisons, there are no outside recreation areas for BPRU inmates, officers sleep on their job posts, and there is inadequate housing space for inmates. (Id. at 10-11.) He claims defendants have failed or refused to "fix the issues [of] unconstitutional conduct described above for years." (Id. at 10.)

         He further alleges that defendants "for decades" have refused to correct violations of Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817 (1977). (Id. at 11.) He claims that the correctional facilities located in Baltimore City have no law library, notary services, access to the LASI system, "legal supplies," and stamps to mail pleadings to courts. Id. Butler[4] claims that he has over 20 pending legal actions in state and other federal courts and he is unable to comply with court orders or prepare legal responses. (Id. at 12.)

         Defendants state that Butler did not file a complaint under the administrative remedy procedure regarding any of the claims raised in this complaint, but filed one while incarcerated at the Metropolitan Transition Center (MTC) regarding the calculation of his diminution of confinement credits and release date. (Memo. Supp. Mot. Dismiss, 3, ECF No. 16-1.) Butler was released from custody on July 27, 2016. (Id.)

         Defendant Landerkin denies hindering or preventing Butler's legal research, court filings, or access to the grievance procedure. (Landerkin Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 16-3.) She further denies knowingly permitting the existence of dangerous environmental conditions and states that she has complied with the Maryland Commission of Correctional Standards and accompanying audits. (Landerkin Decl. ¶ 4-6.)

         Standard of Review

         When ruling on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept the well-pled allegations of the complaint as true," and "construe the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). "Even though the requirements for pleading a proper complaint are substantially aimed at assuring that the defendant be given adequate notice of the nature of a claim being made against him, they also provide criteria for defining issues for trial and for early disposition of inappropriate complaints." Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 192 (4th Cir. 2009). "The mere recital of elements of a cause of action, supported only by conclusory statements, is not sufficient to survive a motion made pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)." Walters v. McMahen, 684 F.3d 435, 439 (4th Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). To survive a motion to dismiss, the factual allegations of a complaint "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the. speculative level on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). "To satisfy this standard, a plaintiff need not 'forecast' evidence sufficient to prove the elements of the claim. However, the complaint must allege sufficient facts to establish those elements." Walters, 684 F.3d at 439 (citation omitted). "Thus, while a plaintiff does not need to demonstrate in a complaint that the right to relief is 'probable,' the complaint must advance the plaintiffs claim 'across the line from conceivable to plausible.'" Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment should be granted "if 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) (emphases added). "A dispute is genuine if 'a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.'" Libertarian Party of Va. v. Judd,718 F.3d 308, 313 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Dulaney v. Packaging Corp. of Am., 673 F.3d 323, 330 (4th Cir. 2012)). "A fact is material if it 'might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.'" Id. (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). Accordingly, "the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment[.]" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 247-48. The court must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Tolan v. Cotton,134 S.Ct. 1861, 1866 (2014) (per curiam), and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor, Scott v. Harris,550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007) (citations omitted); see also Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts,780 F.3d 562, 568-69 (4th ...

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