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Johnston v. Foxwell

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 23, 2018

RALPH JOHNSTON, #402-674, Plaintiff,
WARDEN RICKY FOXWELL, Department of Corrections for Maryland, ATT. GEN. BRIAN E. FROSH, CO D. MOORSE, and LIEUTENANT BURGESS, Defendants.



         Self-represented Plaintiff Ralph Johnston, an inmate presently incarcerated at the Dorsey Run Correctional Facility in Jessup, Maryland, brings this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Ricky Foxwell, Warden of Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”); the Department of Corrections for Maryland (“DOC”); Brian Frosh, the Attorney General for the State of Maryland; Correctional Officer D. Moorse; and Lieutenant Burgess. See ECF Nos. 1 & 6. Johnston claims that his previous confinement administrative segregation violated his due process rights. ECF No. 1 at p. 3. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief[1] and monetary damages totaling $151, 500. Id. at pp. 16, 27.

         On February 7, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF Nos. 15, 18.[2] Johnston responded on February 23, 2018, and supplemented his response on March 1, 2018.[3] ECF Nos. 23, 25. After 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.

         I. Background

         According to Defendants, Johnston was assigned to Southern Maryland Pre-Release Unit (“SMPRU”) from October 7, 2016 until January 4, 2017, when he was transferred to Brockbridge Correctional Facility (“BCF”) and placed on administrative segregation. ECF No. 18-2.[4] As this Court previously summarized:

[Johnston] asserts that he did not receive a disciplinary report, an administrative hearing charging him with any infractions, or written notice of the reason for his placement on administrative custody prior to his transfer. Plaintiff submits that this assignment occurred based on the “vague and amorphous” fabricated statements of an informant. ECF No. 1.
Plaintiff complains that his segregation amounted [to] isolation or placement in a special housing unit (SHU). Plaintiff maintains that he is or was allowed out of his cell for only 30 minutes daily from Monday through Friday, has no outdoor recreation and is not permitted to visit the library, gym, medical clinic, clothing and bedding exchange, or “culinary unit.” He contends that his legal papers were confiscated and he was denied access to representation. Plaintiff further complains that he was placed with “members and groups of gang organizations.” He alleges that the cell had insufficient ventilation and the conditions of his cell caused him physical and psychological injury. ECF No. 1 at 18-20.

ECF No. 6, pp. 2-3 (footnote omitted).

         Administrative segregation is a special status used to, among other things, house inmates who require close supervision or segregation from the general population. ECF No. 18-5, p. 10. It is used to ensure the safety and security of the facility, staff, inmate, or general population. Id.

         According to Defendants, Johnston was placed on administrative segregation at BCF because “the intel report indicate[d] Johnston's possible involvement in the assault of another inmate while housed at SMPRU.” ECF No. 18-3, p. 10. Specifically, inmate Ravelle Gray stated that an unidentified inmate entered his assigned dorm and threw hot liquid on him as he slept, burning his face, hands, and chest. Id. at p. 8. Gray believed that that Johnston was a member of the Murder Inc. gang and had ordered the other inmate to assault him. Id. Gray related that he and Johnston previously had been involved in a verbal dispute about a football game. Id. A confidential source confirmed that Johnston ordered the assault on Gray. Id.

         Johnston's medical records from January 4, 2017 to February 2, 2017 did not document any history of physical complaints. See ECF No. 13. On January 10, 2017, Johnston asked to be seen by medical for depression. Id. at pp. 4-6. Johnston remained at BCF on administrative segregation until February 2, 2017, at which time he was transferred to ECI. ECF No. 18-2. While at ECI, Johnston was housed in general population. See ECF No. 9. Johnston remained at ECI until about March 1, 2018, when he was transferred to Dorsey Run Correctional Facility. See ECF No. 24.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendants seek dismissal or, in the alternative, summary judgment in its favor. When reviewing a motion to dismiss brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court confines its analysis to the four corners of the Complaint, accepting all well-pleaded allegations as true and drawing all inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005); Ibarra v. United States, 120 F.3d 472, 474 (4th Cir. 1997). A complaint must include “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), unsupported legal conclusions, Revene v. Charles Cty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), and conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, do not suffice, United Black Firefighters of Norfolk v. Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).

         Where, as here, a party seeks summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the movant must show that “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all reasonable inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witnesses' credibility.” Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 645 (4th Cir. 2002). Importantly, “the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). Rather, a reviewing court has an “affirmative obligation . . . to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993), and citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986)). “A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of his pleadings,' but rather must ‘set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Id. (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). A dispute ...

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