United States District Court, D. Maryland
SHAKIR A. MITCHELL, # 450-764, Plaintiff
TINA STUMP, Warden, MRDCC, OFC. BOLA AYENI, Corrections Officer, OFC. TAMIKA CARTER, Corrections Officer, Defendants
Xinis United States District Judge.
24, 2017, Plaintiff Shakir A. Mitchell filed a civil rights
action against the Warden and two Corrections Officers at
Maryland Reception Diagnostic Classification Center in
Baltimore (“MRDCC”). Broadly construed, Mitchell
challenges Defendants' failure to observe and supervise
his walking to a shower in restraints, during which time he
fell and was injured. Mitchell seeks money damages of $800,
000.00 and an order compelling Defendants to provide
“proper medical care” for his injuries, including
an MRI. ECF No. 1 at 3. Mitchell has since been transferred
to another institution; accordingly is request for injunctive
relief as to Defendants is denied as moot.
pending before the Court are Defendants' motions to
dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment in their
favor. Defendants contend that dismissal is warranted because
Mitchell failed to exhaust administrative remedies prior to
initiating this suit and that Defendants are immune from suit
in their official capacities. Additionally, Defendants Ayeni
and Carter assert that dismissal is proper because the court
lacks subject matter jurisdiction and, alternatively, summary
judgment should be granted in their favor on the merits of
Mitchell's claim. Warden Stump moves for dismissal or
summary judgment, asserting she played no role in the
incident. ECF No. 14. Mitchell opposes the dispositive
motions and requests appointment of counsel. ECF Nos. 16, 17,
18. The Court has reviewed the pleadings and finds no hearing
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For
the following reasons, Defendants' dispositive motions
are GRANTED and Mitchell's motion for appointment of
counsel is DENIED.
parties do not dispute the following material facts. On
December 19, 2016, Mitchell was one of six prisoners released
from a cell for recreation and showers. Defendant Correction
Officers Ayeni and Carter, together with Officer I.
Nwachukwu,  placed three-piece restraints on these
individuals including Plaintiff, in compliance with
institutional policy. ECF No. 14-2, Ayeni Decl., ¶ 2.
Neither Ayeni nor Carter remember specifically who placed
Mitchell in restraints, and Mitchell's complaint is
silent on this fact. See ECF No. 14-2, Ayeni Decl.,
¶ 2; ECF No. 14-3. Carter Decl. ¶ 2. Mitchell was
not under escort when he walked to the stairway and fell. ECF
No. 14-2. Ayeni Decl., ¶ 3. Medical personnel were
called at 5:08 p.m. Mitchell was taken to the medical unit
and then returned to his cell at 5:44 p.m. ECF No. 14-2,
Ayeni Decl., ¶ 3. MRDCC Post Orders state that once an
inmate is placed in full restraints, “a CO
[correctional officer] may escort the inmate within the
institution, ” but escorting is not required. ECF No.
17-4, Post Order 110-1-31b, pp. 4-5.
pursued an administrative remedy procedure
(“ARP”) grievance, contending that the injuries
he sustained were the fault of DOC personnel. The grievance
procedure culminated in proceedings before an administrative
law judge (“ALJ”). Following a hearing, the ALJ
found that Mitchell's fall was an accident which occurred
through no negligence or fault of the Department of
Corrections (“DOC”) personnel. See Mitchell
v. Maryland DOC, OAH No. DPSC-IGO-002V-17-28485, ECF No.
14-4. The decision was issued on December 12, 2017, several
months after Mitchell had filed this federal suit.
Mitchell's Motion for Appointment of Counsel
moves for appointment of counsel to represent him because he
is incarcerated and lacks legal training or other comparable
education. ECF Nos. 16 and 18. The Court's power to
appoint counsel under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) is
discretionary and appropriate only where an indigent claimant
presents “exceptional circumstances” justifying
the need for counsel. Id. at 170; Miller v.
Simmons, 814 F.2d 962, 966 (4th Cir. 1987). Such
circumstances exist where a “pro se litigant has a
colorable claim but lacks the capacity to present it.”
See Whisenant v. Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir.
1984), abrogated on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S.
Dist. Ct., 490 U.S. 296, 298 (1989) (holding that 28
U.S.C. § 1915 does not authorize compulsory appointment
of counsel). A pro se prisoner is not automatically entitled
to counsel by virtue of bringing a civil rights claim.
See Evans v. Kuplinski, 713 Fed.Appx. 167, 170 (4th
careful consideration of the motions and documents filed by
Mitchell, the Court finds that he has demonstrated the
wherewithal to either articulate the legal and factual basis
of his claims himself or secure meaningful assistance in
doing so. Moreover, the issues pending before the Court are
not unduly complicated, and no exceptional circumstances
exist to warrant the appointment of an attorney.
Mitchell's motion is therefore denied.
Standard of Review
the parties have submitted evidence outside the four corners
of the Complaint and have been given reasonable opportunity
to present all pertinent material, the Court will treat the
motion as one for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 12(d). Pursuant to Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, summary judgment shall be granted if the
movant demonstrates that no genuine issue of disputed
material fact exists, rendering the movant entitled to
judgment as a matter of law. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d).
“By its very terms, this standard provides that 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). “The
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.”
See Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc.,
346 F.3d 514, 525 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original)
(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)). The Court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant, and
draw all inferences in his favor without weighing the
evidence or assessing witness credibility. See Dennis v.
Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644-45
(4th Cir. 2002). Factually unsupported claims and defenses
from proceeding to trial. Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526.
contends that the acts or omissions of the Defendant
correction officers contributed to his fall and the injuries
sustained as a result. The Court views this claim as alleging
a violation of Mitchell' right to be free from cruel and
unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment of the United
States Constitution. Where inmates are subjected to
sufficiently harsh conditions of confinement, an Eighth
Amendment violation may lie. See Rhodes v. Chapman,
452 U.S. 337, 347 (1981) (conditions which “deprive
inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities” may amount to cruel and unusual
punishment.) However, the defendants must do more than
exhibit an ordinary lack of care toward the prisoner to be
held liable for an Eighth Amendment violation. Arnold v.
South Carolina Dep't of Corr.,843 F.Supp. 110, 113
(D. S.C. 1994), citing Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S.
312, 319 (1986). The prisoner must show that the
defendants' conduct against the prisoner was
“sufficiently serious, ” and that defendants
acted with a “culpable state of mind” when
failing to take steps to ensure the prisoner's safety.
Wilson v. Seiter,501 U.S. 294, 297-98 (1991);
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976)
(deliberate indifference requires state of mind more
blameworthy than negligence). ...