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Cofield v. State

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 21, 2018



          Catherine C. Blake, United States District Judge.

         Pending is an unopposed[1]motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, filed by defendants State of Maryland, Hogan, Frosh, Moyer, Webb, and Landerkin.[2] ECF No. 20. The motion is supported by a memorandum (ECF No. 20-1) (collectively, the "Motion") and exhibits in the form of medical records and declarations. ECF Nos. 20-2 to 20-4. [3] The court finds a hearing in this matter unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For reasons to follow, defendants' motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, will be granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Cofield's Complaint

         Keenan K. Cofield, a former state inmate, filed the instant 42 U.S.C. § 1983 "emergency" complaint on June 9, 2016 while housed at the Baltimore Pre-Release Unit (BPRU), alleging that defendants purposely hire more Black officers than White officers at all Baltimore City regional institutions, as compared to the other parts of the state of Maryland.[4] He argues that the "tilt" to hire more Black hires as staff at BPRU and all Baltimore City region prisons and jails represents hiring practices and employment placement policies that are clearly discriminatory. Cofield claims that Black inmates in Baltimore City are treated more harshly and unfairly in "all areas" compared to Whites in other Division of Correction ("DOC") facilities run by Whites with a "larger number of White staff to officials in vital positions within the Maryland DOC agency." He claims he is being adversely affected" by the "reverse racial divide with too many Blacks are representing too many Blacks in staff and inmate ratios." ECF No. 1, pp. 3-4.

         Next, in "Count II" of the complaint Cofield alleges that BPRU inmates are exposed to levels of dangerous conditions or toxic substances due to inadequate ventilation and exposure to environmental tobacco smoke ("ETS") as well as other contraband drugs that are smoked constantly in living and housing areas in Maryland prisons. He claims that he has chronic asthma and the conditions necessitated use of his inhaler and forced him to seek medical attention for a "physical injury," including severe headaches, difficulty breathing, eye irritation, dizziness, and a runny nose. Cofield claims that defendants have failed to control contraband tobacco products from coming into the facility and that his exposure to second-hand smoke violates "contemporary standards of decency." Id., pp. 4-7.

         Cofield further contends the environment at BPRU and other unspecified Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("DPSCS") 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. He alleges that the roof at BPRU leaks when it rains, the sinks require fixing, the toilets and showers are stopped up, there are insufficient washers and dryers, and the facility is overrun by pests and vermin. Cofield 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, and there is inadequate space for inmates. He further alleges that his right of access to the courts is being violated as there are no law libraries, no legal aides or paralegals, no copier system, no legal research computers or access to any CD-ROM system. Cofield 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., pp. 8-11. He seeks compensatory and punitive damages, asks that defendants be ordered to hire more Whites at all DPSCS institutions in Baltimore, and requests various declaratory and injunctive relief. Id., pp. 3&12-17.[5]

B. Cofield's amended/supplemental complaints

         In an amended complaint filed June 23, 2016, Cofield adds utility corporations as defendants because they previously owned the BPRU property site.[6] ECF No. 5. He later sought to supplement his allegations to include claims that there is lead in tiles, which when lit by inmates, causes toxic fumes to emanate. Cofield also complains that legal mail is being opened outside his presence. ECF No. 7. He next seeks to supplement his complaint to include claims that defendants have violated their own "mission statement" and policies in light of the previously alleged violations. ECF No. 8.

         C. Correctional defendants' response

         The Defendants explain that Cofield was housed at BPRU from about May 10, 2016 through October 10, 2016. ECF No. 20-2 and ECF No. 20-3, p. 191. He was previously housed at the Metropolitan Transition Center ("MTC") where he filed a number of sick-call requests complaining that he was suffering from asthma, as well as sore and scratchy throat, due to exposure to second-hand smoke and other toxins. ECF No. 20-2, pp. 5-20, 32-35. Moreover, he filed multiple Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") grievances, which included complaints concerning exposure to second-hand smoke and asbestos, violations of his access-to-courts rights, and the hiring practices of the DPSCS. ECF No. 20-3, Boykins Decl., pp. 3, 16, 18, 20, 22, 24-28, 36, 39-40, 42, 44, 80-101, 146, 148-149, 203. On June 21, 2016, he asked for a protective mask to protect him from the mold, mildew, and other substances in the air. ECF No. 20-2, pp. 2-4. He further informed medical staff that he was excessively using his inhaler. He was given a mask and several medications were prescribed or continued. Id. When Cofield presented himself at sick call on June 27, 2016, complaining of a lower extremity edema, his respiration was found to be normal. Aside from the finding of a lower extremity edema, his examination was unremarkable. He was given a TED anti-embolism stocking. Id., pp. 5-6.

         Defendants assert that they provide inmates legal materials and a library clerk and that Cofield failed to file an ARP raising this issue at the institutional level. ECF 20-3, pp. 220-225. They argue that the institution followed directives and policies regarding the prohibition of tobacco products and all buildings were certified asbestos free. Id., pp. 226-235. They deny that Cofield was subject to unconstitutional conditions.


         Motion to Dismiss

         The purpose of a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the Complaint. See Presley v. City of Charlottesville,464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A Plaintiffs Complaint need only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). "Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a 'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,550 U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" or ...

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