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Kelly v. State, State House

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 14, 2018




         Plaintiff, a Maryland inmate housed at North Branch Correctional Institution, filed this civil rights action alleging that prison officials have violated his First and Eighth Amendment rights. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 21. Although notified of his right to do so, ECF No. 22, Plaintiff has not responded to Defendants' dispositive Motion, and his time for doing so has expired.[1]The matter is now ripe for review. The Court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow. Defendants' dispositive Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is GRANTED.


         In his Complaint, Plaintiff states that, despite submitting a request slip, he was not given his monthly -welfare commissary bag" on February 27, 2018. ECF No. 1 at 3. Welfare commissary bags contain paper, writing utensils, and basic hygiene items like soap and toothpaste, and are provided to indigent inmates who request them. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants intentionally denied Plaintiff his welfare commissary bag as retaliation for Plaintiff filing lawsuits against correctional staff. Id. at 5. Further, Plaintiff asserts that the denial of the welfare commissary bag effectively prevents him from being able to access the courts because he is deprived of paper, pens, and related items. Id. at 3. Aside from the various claims arising out of Plaintiff not receiving a welfare commissary bag, Plaintiff also asserts that he has not showered or shaved in the month preceding his filing of the instant Complaint. Id. Plaintiffs claims of retaliation and lack of access to the court appear to arise under the First Amendment, while his claims of not showering and being denied a welfare commissary bag are Eighth Amendment claims.

         Plaintiff acknowledges in his Complaint that he did not exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this action. Id. at 4. Indeed, Plaintiff mailed the Complaint on March 5, 2018, or one week after he did not receive the expected commissary bag. However, he asserts that exhaustion is not jurisdictional and "[t]hat means if you didn't exhaust and you think you have a good enough reason, the court at least has the power to consider your argument:' Id.

         Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 21. They assert, among other arguments, that this action must be dismissed due to Plaintiffs failure to exhaust administrative remedies. ECF No. 21-1 at 5-7.


         Defendants' dispositive Motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56, and Defendants submitted exhibits in support of their position. Ordinarily, a court "is not to consider matters outside the pleadings or resolve factual disputes when ruling on a motion to dismiss." Bosiger v. U.S. Airways. 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007). However, a court, in its discretion, may consider matters outside of the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(d). If the court does so, "the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56," and "[a]ll parties must be given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). When the movant expressly captions its motion "in the alternative" as one for summary judgment and submits matters outside the pleadings for the court's consideration, the parties are deemed to be on notice that conversion under Rule 12(d) may occur; the court "does not have an obligation to notify parties of the obvious." Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 261 (4th Cir. 1998). Because Defendants have filed and relied on exhibits and an affidavit attached to their dispositive Motion, the Motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment.

         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 Baldwin v. City of Greensboro. 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). In analyzing a summary judgment motion, the court should "view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witnesses' credibility." Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45 (4th Cir. 2002).

         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 US. 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.

         Additionally, while this Court is required to liberally construe pro se documents and hold them to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89.94 (2007); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 US. 97, 106 (1976), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set cognizable claim, see Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387. 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must also abide by the "affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial." Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club. Inc., 346 F.3d 514. 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).


         Defendants raise the affirmative defense that Plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies. If Plaintiffs claim has not been properly presented through the administrative remedy procedure it must be dismissed pursuant to the Prisoner Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. §1997e. The PLRA provides in pertinent part that:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such ...

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