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Germain v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 19, 2018

JEAN B. GERMAIN, Plaintiff,
v.
FRANK B. BISHOP, JR. and LIEUTENANT T. SIRES, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Jean B. Germain, an inmate at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI") in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a Complaint alleging that prison officials failed to secure his personal property while he was in disciplinary segregation, in violation of his federal and state constitutional rights. Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the Complaint and the submitted materials, the Court finds no hearing necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         Germain names as Defendants Frank Bishop, Jr., the Warden of NBCI ("the Warden"); and Lt. Sires, the supervisor of the Property Room at NBCI. Germain alleges that on February 20, 2015, his personal property was confiscated because he had been placed in disciplinary segregation. When he was released from disciplinary segregation on April 26, 2017, his property was not returned to him. On May 5, 2017, Officer Gibbner, a correctional officer on Germain's housing tier, told Germain that Lt. Sires had destroyed his property. According to Germain, that same day, he submitted a complaint pursuant to the Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") to Officer Gibbner about the destruction of his property. Germain asserts that the Unit Manager did not sign the ARP, and that he did not receive a copy of it as required by policy. He further claims that he was "intimidated" by correctional officers to not submit another ARP about this issue. Compl.¶16, ECF No. 1.

         On May 11, 2017, six days after hearing that his property had been destroyed, Germain filed the Complaint in this case. Germain asserts that Warden Bishop and Lt. Sires have violated his rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, as well as rights under the Maryland Constitution.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants seek either dismissal of the Complaint or summary judgment in their favor, on the grounds that Germain did not exhaust administrative remedies and that he has failed to state a plausible constitutional claim.

         I. Legal Standard

         To defeat a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the complaint must allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice. Id. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm 'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         Here, Defendants have submitted exhibits with their Motion. When a court considers matters outside the pleadings, it must construe the motion as a motion for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Before converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, courts must give the nonmoving party "a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Id. "Reasonable opportunity" has two requirements: (1) the nonmoving party must have some indication that the court is treating the Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment, and (2) the nonmoving party "must be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery" to obtain information essential to oppose the motion. Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted). To show that a reasonable opportunity for discovery has not been afforded, the nonmoving party must file an affidavit or declaration under Rule 56(d) explaining why "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). See Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 245 (4th Cir. 2002); Hamilton v. Mayor & City Council of Bait., 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 341 (D.Md.2011).

         In opposing the Motion, Germain has submitted a Rule 56(d) affidavit in which he asserts that discovery is necessary on the issue of whether he filed an ARP relating to the destruction of his property. He seeks evidence to establish that he submitted such an ARP to Officer Gibbner on May 5, 2017, that Officer Gibbner did not provide a copy of the ARP to him and threatened to return him to segregation if he challenged the destruction of his property, and that as result of such "game-playing"" such administrative remedies were not available to him. PL's Rule 56(d) Aff. at 2, ECF No. 14. Complaining that his appeals to the Inmate Grievance Office ("IGO") are always dismissed, he also seeks records of the history of his other ARP filings to show that the ARP process is a "sham." Id. at 4. Defendants have, in fact, provided the history of his ARP filings by attaching Germain's ARP Index to the Motion. As for the other requested information, the Court concludes that discovery is not necessary to allow Germain to oppose the Motion because, as discussed in greater detail below, even assuming that the facts Germain seeks to establish through discovery are true, he has failed to state a valid federal claim. The Court will therefore construe the motion as seeking summary judgment for purposes of the exhaustion of administrative remedies argument, but as a motion to dismiss for all other purposes.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a), the Court grants summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In assessing the Motion, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, with all justifiable inferences drawn in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court may rely only on facts supported in the record, not simply assertions in the pleadings. Bouchat v. Balt. Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). The nonmoving party has the burden to show a genuine dispute on a material fact. Matsushtta Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Mat 248-49.

         II. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

         Defendants argue that Germain's Complaint necessarily fails because he did not exhaust administrative remedies. Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134 § 803, 110 Stat. 1321 ...


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