United States District Court, D. Maryland
DEBORAH K. CHASANOW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
response to this verified civil rights complaint, Defendants
State of Maryland, Maryland Division of Correction, North
Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), Governor Larry Hogan,
Secretary Stephen Moyer, and Bruce Liller, MHPM, filed a
motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment.
ECF No. 9. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the
motion. ECF No. 18. The court finds no need for a
hearing. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the
reasons that follow, Defendants' motion, construed as a
motion for summary judgment, will be GRANTED.
Albert Curtis Mills, an inmate committed to the custody of
the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional
Services (DPSCS) and currently confined in NBCI (ECF No. 1 at
p. 1), complains that while he was incarcerated at NBCI,
Defendants denied him access to religious services in
violation of his First Amendment Free Exercise right; and
invokes without elaboration the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Person's Act (RLUIPA), the Americans
with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act as
bases for his claim. ECF No. 1 at p. 12. He seeks injunctive
relief directing Defendants to permit his attendance at
church services as well as compensatory and punitive damages.
Id. at p. 15.
Plaintiff states that he suffers from mental illness. ECF No.
1 at p. 14. In his sworn complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on
August 24, 2014, Chief Psychologist Bruce Liller placed
Plaintiff on “Level 1” where he remained until
December 6, 2015. ECF No. 1 at p. 7. Plaintiff indicates that
his placement on Level 1 prevented him from attending
“church services” which as a Christian, he is
required to attend. Id. at p. 8.
alleges that Governor Hogan is responsible for Stephen Moyer
who is responsible for Bruce Liller. ECF No. 1 at ¶ 8.
He claims that Governor Hogan and Stephen Moyer knew or
should have known about the policy which has existed since
2009. ECF No. 1 at pp. 8-9. Plaintiff also claims that Moyer
is responsible for the policy that denies church services to
all inmates housed on the special needs unit. Id. at
claims that he was not required to file an administrative
grievance regarding this claim as “medical staff are
not Maryland Division of Correction Staff so the Maryland
Court of Appeals has ruled that the grievance by the
prison's administrative remedy procedure is not
required.” ECF No. 1 at p. 6.
provide verified business records, which include
Plaintiff's case management notes, along with their
declarations under oath in support of their motion. Bruce
Liller, Mental Health Program Manager at NBCI and an employee
of the DPSCS, avers that staff members of the psychology
department assess inmates and provide mental health care. ECF
No. 9-3, ¶¶ 1, 3 (Liller Decl.). He denies
prohibiting Plaintiff from attending church services or from
practicing his religion. ECF No. 9-3 at ¶ 9. Liller
oversees the Special Needs Unit (“SNU”)
(id. at ¶ 3) which he describes as “a
tier developed to house the validly mentally ill who have a
qualifying diagnosis and who demonstrate behavioral stability
to where they may function within the structure of the
program.” Id. at ¶ 4.
was placed on the SNU in 2009 due to the difficulty he
experienced being housed in general population and in light
of Plaintiff's unspecified mental health diagnosis and
his level of functioning. ECF No. 9-3 at ¶¶ 5-6.
After placement on the SNU, Plaintiff's mental health
symptoms worsened which resulted in his being designated
“as a level two status; a one level reduction as
precaution. Id. Although rare for inmate Mills
(reduction in level), he returned to level 3 after his
symptoms remitted.” Id. at ¶ 5. Liller
avers that from August 11, 2014, through August 11, 2017,
Plaintiff maintained a level three status. Id. at
¶ 6; see also ECF No. 9-2 (Case Management
Notes). Presumably because Liller denies
Plaintiff's assertion that he was assigned to Level 1
during this timeframe, Plaintiff's claim that SNU inmates
assigned to Level 1 are categorically denied the opportunity
to attend congregate religious services is not directly
Special Needs Unit Program Manual (DOC.124.0451) describes
the program levels:
Level 1: An inmate on level one will meet the criteria for an
SMI diagnosis. This inmate's functioning is impaired to
the point of being dangerous or severely disruptive to the
functioning of the housing area. Inmates on this level shall
be fed in their cells. Their recreation shall be done
Level 2: An inmate on this level will meet the criteria for
an SMI diagnosis. The inmate's functioning is impaired in
some area of his life. However, the inmate can function well
enough to interact socially with other inmates without posing
a danger to others. Inmates on this level may eat either in
their cells or the recreation hall as determined by the
Special Needs Treatment Team.
Level 3: An inmate on this level is experiencing only mild
functional impairment due to mental illness. The inmate will
be able to function with minimal staff support in all areas
of daily living. Inmates on this level shall eat in the
dining room. They will be capable of holding an institutional
job and they will be able to maintain their personal hygiene
with minimal cues.
ECF No. 9-2 at p. 10.
explains that inmates on Level 3 status enjoy the same
movement as inmates in general population; they may request
passes for religious worship, access the main library, and
receive the same amount of recreation as the general
population. ECF No. 9-3 at ¶ 7. Kevin Lamp, Chaplain at
NBCI, confirms that inmates housed on the SNU are permitted
to practice their religion, but does not specifically address
whether Level 1 inmates are permitted to attend congregate
religious services. ECF No. 9-4 at ¶ 3 (Lamp Decl.).
describes Plaintiff as “frequently participat[ing in]
and coordinat[ing] bible study on the SNU.” ECF No. 9-3
at ¶ 8; see also ECF No. 9-2 at p. 3 (case
management note dated 6/10/15- Plaintiff reports studying the
bible); ECF No. 9-2 at pp. 4-5 (case management notes dated
9/2/15 and 11/25/15, Plaintiff reports running a bible study
group in the dayroom). On three occasions during his monthly
meetings with his therapist (April 2014, July 2014, and
August 2014) he indicated his desire to attend church
services. ECF No. 9-3 at ¶ 8. Plaintiff was advised that
he should contact the Chaplain to request a pass.
Id. Plaintiff advised his therapist on August 26,
2014, that the issue regarding church services was
case management notes reflect that he was provided
administrative remedy procedure forms. ECF No. 9-2 at pp. 6-7
(case management notes dated 7/12/16 and 8/10/16). Russell
Neverdon, Executive Director of the Inmate Grievance Office
(IGO) avers that Plaintiff filed one grievance with the IGO
concerning the policy limiting the number of books he could
bring into the yard. ECF No. 9-5 at ¶ 3a.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion is styled as a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates
the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. See Kensington Vol. Fire Dept.,
Inc. v. Montgomery County, 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37
(D.Md. 2011). 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 (4thCir.
2007). However, under Rule 12(b)(6), 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).
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 matters outside the ...