United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. HOLLANDER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
self-represented plaintiff, Scotland Williams, an inmate
incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution
(“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, brings this
civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against two
defendants: the Commissioner of Correction and Warden Frank
Bishop. ECF 1. Williams alleges that he was
“wrongly charg[ed] photocopy fees, ” in violation
of his due process rights. Id. He seeks preliminary
and permanent injunctive relief, compensatory damages in the
amount of $30.27, and punitive damages in the amount of $1,
000. Id. at 12-13.
November 29, 2017, defendants moved to dismiss or, in the
alternative, for summary judgment. ECF 11. The motion is
supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 11-1) (collectively,
the “Motion”) and several exhibits. On February
1, 2018, Williams filed an opposition. ECF 16. No. reply
review of the record, exhibits, and applicable law, the court
deems a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6
(D. Md. 2016). Defendants' motion, construed as a motion
for summary judgment, shall be granted.
April 1, 2016, $50.00 was deposited into Williams' inmate
account at NBCI. ECF 1 at 5; ECF 11-2 at 1. On the same date,
NBCI debited $30.27 from Williams' account as
“Payment for PRIOR DEBT on 2014-08-01-08.” ECF
11-2 at 1. On June 1, 2016, when Williams received his trust
activity statement from NBCI, he learned that he had been
charged $30.27. ECF 1 at 5.
undisputed that the debt of $30.27 stemmed from photocopy
fees incurred by Williams between April 15, 2009 and
September 25, 2015, when he was indigent and lacked the
ability to pay for the photocopies. ECF 1 at 5; ECF 1-1 at 3;
ECF 11-1 at 2; ECF 11-2. Cheryl Lindner, the Fiscal Account
Clerk Manager at NBCI, explained on September 22, 2016, ECF
The charges resulted in a negative “reserve”
balance, which is considered debt, due to insufficient funds
in his Active balance to pay the charges. His account was
indigent at the time the charges occurred, however, vouchers
are submitted by Medical for the Medical copies and Case
Management and housing unit staff for the copies and other
charges. The accounts are not checked for indigency by Inmate
Accounts prior to posting the charges.
states that although he “always informed staff that he
was indigent and needed the photocopies for court, he was
still required to sign a voucher in which he agreed that the
[Division of Correction] could charge him for the
copies.” ECF 1 at 6. According to Williams, if he
refused to sign the voucher, he would not have been able to
obtain the photocopies. Id. But, he maintains that
he signed the vouchers after being “advised . . . that
if he had no money in his account he could not be
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
(“DPSCS”) issues Directives that spell out
policies governing photocopy fees. See ECF 11-4.
DPSCS also has a Medical Records Manual that regulates when
an inmate, indigent or otherwise, can be charged for
photocopies of medical records. ECF 11-5. Photocopies are
available to inmates involved in legal or administrative
proceedings. ECF 11-4 at 2. Inmates are charged $0.15 per
copy for all but medical records. ECF 11-4 at 3. Photocopies
of medical records are available to indigent inmates for
court-related activities, at the rate of $0.20 per page. ECF
11-5 at 5. However, such fees are waived for indigent
inmates, so long as “the photocopies are reasonably
necessary” for legal proceedings. ECF 11-4 at 2.
“[A]n inmate who in the previous 30 days . . . has not
had at least $4.00 in his/her active and commissary
accounts” is considered indigent. Id. at 1.
13, 2016, less than two weeks after Williams discovered the
recoupment by DPSCS, he filed a request for an administrative
remedy procedure (“ARP”). ECF 11-6. In his ARP,
Williams claimed that because photocopy fees are waived for
indigent inmates, the amount of $30.27 that was debited from
his account for copies made from 2009 to 2015 was
“unjustified and contrary to [DPSCS policy].”
Id. Thus, he sought reimbursement of the $30.27.
Id. Williams' ARP was dismissed as untimely.
Id. Williams then appealed to the Commissioner of
Correction on June 29, 2016, claiming that he filed the ARP
within the established time frame. ECF 11-7 at 2.
Subsequently, the appeal was dismissed because the
Commissioner deemed his ARP untimely. Id.
on August 8, 2016, Williams filed a grievance with the Inmate
Grievance Office (“IGO”), asserting that his ARP
was timely filed. ECF 11-7 at 1; ECF 1-1 at 1. According to
Russell A. Neverdon, Sr., Executive Director of the IGO,
Williams' grievance was referred to the Maryland Office
of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”). ECF 11-8.
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Robert Levin
conducted a hearing on November 17, 2016, via
videoconference. ECF 1-1 at 2; ECF 11-8 at 1.
Decision and Order dated January 11, 2017, ALJ Levin denied
and dismissed the grievance. ECF 1-1. He concluded
“that the DOC's action of recouping, when
[Williams] accumulated sufficient funds in his account, the
$30.27 it had advanced on behalf of [Williams] for
[Williams'] photocopies, was not arbitrary and
capricious, or inconsistent with the law. COMAR
could have sought judicial review in a Maryland circuit
court. See Md. Code (2017 Repl. Vol.), §
10-210(b) of the Correctional Services Article. But, there is
no indication that he did so. However, he was not required to
seek judicial review in a Maryland court before lodging this
suit. Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th