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Ali v. Romero

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 4, 2018

SEIFULLAH A. ALI, #446-853 Plaintiff
v.
CHAPLAIN FILIBERTO ROMERO, [1]CHAPLAIN JAMES PENN, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Seifullah A. Ali was detained prior to trial and sentencing at the Prince George's County Detention Center (“Detention Center”) between December 23, 2014 and April 21, 2016.[2]While there, Mr. Ali alleged that (1) he was unable to attend Friday and daily Islamic prayer services; (2) he was denied inmate grievance forms and legal calls; (3) he was forced to pay for haircuts and sick call visits; (4) he was unable to forward money from his institutional account to his family; (5) he was placed in segregation prior to adjudication of a disciplinary matter; and (6) he could not obtain certain legal information from the library.[3] Compl. ¶¶ 3-6, 8-10. His Complaint sought money damages for alleged violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and injunctive relief. Id. ¶¶ 11-12; Mot. to Amend, ECF No.7.

         On August 7, 2017, I granted in part and denied in part a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendants McTerran, Dixon, McDonough, Bums, Stafford, and Labbe, and dismissed all of Mr. Ali's claims but his religious exercise claim. Aug. 7, 2017 Or. 1, ECF 33. I also ordered service to be effected on Chaplains Romero and Penn regarding his religious exercise claim. Id.

         Once served, Chaplain Romero filed a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, for Summary Judgment, Romero Mot., ECF No. 37, and Chaplain Penn filed a Motion to Dismiss, Penn Mot., ECF No. 44.[4] On September 15, 2017 and October 6, 2017, respectively, the Clerk of the Court informed Mr. Ali that Chaplains Romero and Penn each 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. See ECF Nos. 41, 45; Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309, 310 (4th Cir. 1975). Mr. Ali filed a response only to Mr. Romero's motion. Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 43. A hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). Chaplain Penn's Motion to Dismiss and Chaplain Romero's Motion for Summary Judgment[5] will be granted. Because Mr. Ali's allegations fail to state a These claims were dismissed without prejudice and Ali was informed that these matters could be brought as separate lawsuits. Apr. 13, 2016 Order at 2, ECF 12. claim for which relief may be granted as to Chaplains Romero and Penn, his complaint will be dismissed as to both Chaplains. However, as Plaintiff plausibly has pleaded a cause of action regarding his free exercise of religion claim, but has named the wrong defendants, I will appoint counsel to represent Mr. Ali on this claim only, and will permit counsel (once he or she has accepted his or her appointment) thirty days to amend Mr. Ali's Complaint to identify the correct defendants.

         Standards of Review

         Motion to Dismiss

         Defendants move to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Under this Rule, Mr. Ali's Complaint is subject to dismissal if it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim for relief, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79 (2009). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Rule 12(b)(6)'s purpose “is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)).

         Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and his Complaint is to be construed liberally. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). However, liberal construction does not absolve Plaintiff from pleading plausible claims. See Holsey v. Collins, 90 F.R.D. 122, 128 (D. Md. 1981) (citing Inmates v. Owens, 561 F.2d 560, 562-63 (4th Cir. 1977)).

         Motion for Summary Judgment

         Chaplain Romero alternatively seeks summary judgment. It 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, 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.

         Chaplain Romero attached to his motion an affidavit, Romero Aff., ECF No. 37-1; his contract with the Detention Center, ECF No. 37-2; evidence that Mr. Ali participated in Ramadan in 2015, ECF No. 37-3; and two inmate request forms regarding clarification on available services, ECF Nos. 37-4, 37-5. In contrast, Mr. Ali filed an opposition without any evidence, and filed an unverified complaint. Because Plaintiff's Complaint is not verified, its factual assertions may not be considered in opposition to Chaplain Romero's 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)).

         Discussion

         Claims against ...


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