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Miller v. Jones

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 3, 2018

GREGORY D. MILLER, #442194, Plaintiff,
v.
CO. II DUVAL JONES, CO II KELLEN KRANICH, CAPTAIN CRYSTAL HARRISON, and WARDEN PHILLIP MORGAN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Gregory D. Miller is incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution (“RCI”) in Hagerstown, Maryland. Notice, ECF No. 8.[1] He filed this litigation against C.O.II Duval Jones, C.O.II Kellen Kranich, Captain Krystal Harrison, and Acting Warden Phillip Morgan pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment violations. In his unverified Complaint, Miller alleges that while housed at Maryland Correctional Institution - Jessup (“MCI-J”), Correctional Officers Jones and Kranich used excessive force against him when he refused to submit to a strip search. Compl. 3, ECF No. 1. Miller claims that after this March 21, 2017 incident, he was falsely charged with rule violations. Id. at 3-4. He further claims that Captain Harrison and Acting Warden Morgan, the Correctional Officers' supervisors, knew that the Officers wrote false charges of rule violations and issued multiple “tickets” stemming from the same incident, which was impermissible, yet did nothing to remedy the situation. Id. at 3-5. Miller states “Lt. Jackson and Capt. Ross” denied him an opportunity to pursuant criminal charges against Defendant Jones.[2] Id. He claims he was “bribed” by Officer Whitaker and the hearing officer to accept a plea agreement admitting to adjustment charges even though he did nothing wrong.[3] Id. at 4. He seeks money damages, an apology, and Jones's termination from employment. Id. at. 6.

         On October 4, 2017, Miller filed a document titled “Plaintiff's Motion to Supplement.” Mot. Supp. 1, ECF No. 14. Miller alleges that Defendant Morgan attempted to cover up the March 21, 2017 incident by dismissing Miller's Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) complaint on procedural grounds. Id. Miller also claims that, in retaliation for this lawsuit, he was identified as a security threat and transferred to a prison further away from his family. Id. at 3. Miller claims Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) policy was violated when Harrison and Jones were permitted to submit an additional notice of rule violation concerning the incident, and asks for additional compensatory damages based on mental and psychological injury. Id. These allegations will be considered in the context of this Memorandum Opinion.[4]

         Pending is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.[5] Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 15. On October 18, 2017, in conformity with Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975), the Clerk of the Court informed Miller that these Defendants filed a dispositive motion; that he had seventeen days in which to file a written opposition to the motion; and that if he failed to respond, summary judgment could be entered against him without further notice. ECF No. 18. Miller has responded. ECF No. 20.

         Although he has presented his allegations in a cogent manner and filed a responsive, written opposition to Defendants' dispositive motion, Miller has requested appointment of counsel to assist him with this case. Pl.'s Mot. for Appt. of Counsel 1-2, ECF No. 19. As his pleadings and opposition demonstrate, Miller is a capable, self-represented litigant. His request for appointment of counsel is denied, in accordance with Miller v. Simmons, 814 F.2d 962, 966 (4th Cir. 1987) and 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). Further, a hearing is unnecessary to resolve the issues presented in this case. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). Similarly, Miller's assertion within his unverified opposition that “there is a genuine dispute of the facts, warranting discovery and denial of summary judgement [sic] at this time, ” Pl.'s Opp'n 7, is not sufficient to defeat review of the dispositive motion. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(d) (“If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may: (1) defer considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or (3) issue any other appropriate order.”). Defendants' motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, will be granted, for reasons noted herein.

         Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through “particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations . . ., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials, ” 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), (c)(1)(A); see also Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986). The existence of only a “scintilla of evidence” is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id.

         A “genuine” dispute of material fact is one where the conflicting evidence creates “fair doubt”; wholly speculative assertions do not create “fair doubt.” Cox v. Cty. of Prince William, 249 F.3d 295, 299 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Miskin v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 107 F.Supp.2d 669, 671 (D. Md. 1999). The substantive law governing the case determines what is material. See Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001). A fact that is not of consequence to the case, or is not relevant in light of the governing law, is not material. Id.; see also Fed. R. Evid. 401 (defining relevance). “In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, this Court reviews the facts and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.” Downing v. Balt. City Bd. of Sch. Comm'rs, Civil Action No. RDB 12-1047, 2015 WL 1186430, at *1 (D. Md. Mar. 13, 2015) (citing Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 378 (2007)).

         There is no genuine dispute of material fact if the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case as to which he would have the burden of proof. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Therefore, on those issues for which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, it is his responsibility to confront the summary judgment motion with an affidavit that “set[s] out facts that would be admissible in evidence” or other similar facts that could be “presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence” showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2), (4); see also Ridgell, 2012 WL 707008, at *7; Laughlin, 149 F.2d at 260-61.

         Defendants have attached to their motion Declarations and verified medical and correctional records. ECF Nos. 15-3 through ECF No. 15-8, ECF No. 21-1. In contrast, Miller has not filed an affidavit and his allegations are contained in an unverified Complaint. Miller does, however, cite to three pages of the records Defendants produced, and I have considered that evidence. See Pl.'s Opp'n 5-6 (citing DPSCS Recs. 34, 73, 82, ECF No. 15-3). But, because the Complaint is not verified, its factual assertions may not be considered in opposition to Defendants' motion. See Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir. 1991); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A); see also Abdelnaby v. Durham D & M, LLC, No. GLR-14-3905, 2017 WL 3725500, at *4 (D. Md. Aug. 29, 2017) (awarding summary judgment for the defendants, because the plaintiff could not “create a genuine dispute of material fact ‘through mere speculation, '” and “[t]hus, the Court [wa]s left with a record that [wa]s bereft of evidence supporting any of Abdelnaby's arguments”) (quoting Beale v. Hardy, 769, F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1985)).

         Background

         Defendants provide the following factual background, which is supported by the exhibits they attached to their motion:

Miller was housed in Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, Maryland (hereinafter “MCI-J”) at the time of the incident. On March 21, at approximately 7:30 p.m., Defendants, Correctional Officers Duval Jones and Kellen Kranich, were conducting a “random security round” in Housing unit G, where Gregory Miller was housed. Exhibit 1, Declaration of Nichole Daugherty, at p. 45. The officers ordered Miller to submit to a random strip search and was escorted out of his cell to a sanitation closet in order to conduct the search. Id., at p. 79. He was ordered to turn over his clothing items during the search, and Miller refused to comply. Id. According to MCI-J's Serious Incident Report, Miller reached into his long johns pants groin area and attempted to pull an item out of his pants. Id. The officers gave Miller an order to stop, which Miller refused to comply. Id. Kranich and Jones held his arms while trying to gain compliance, and Miller pushed both officers into the closet wall and ended up on the floor. Id.
Once on the floor, Jones and Kranich applied handcuffs and asked for leg irons to be brought from Hotel. Id. C.O.II Jones sustained a cut on his left hand from bumping into a nearby table during the struggle in the closet. Id. Miller suffered a cut above his right eye. Id. He was taken to the medical unit and both Officer Jones and Miller had their injuries photographed and treated by medical staff. Id., at 80. Miller had the cut above his eye cleaned and treated. Exhibit 2, Wexford Records Declaration, at p. 2. C.O.II Jones received five stitches for the cut sustained on his hand. Exhibit 1, Nichole Daugherty ...

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