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Huffman v. Shovel

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 24, 2018




         Defendants MCO Schevel, Lieutenant Byrd, Mrs. Williams, COS Gonzalez, and the Superintendent of the Wicomico County Detention Center (“WCDC”), by their counsel, move to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, ECF No. 21, in response to self-represented Plaintiff Joshua A. Huffman's Amended Complaint, ECF No. 18. Although advised of his right to file an opposition with affidavits and exhibits, ECF No. 22, Huffman has not responded, and the time for doing so has expired. The Court finds that a hearing is unnecessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. (D. Md. 2016). For reasons to follow, Defendants' Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Huffman is a Maryland state prisoner presently incarcerated at Western Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland. Huffman was initially tried in July 2012 and convicted of sexual abuse of a minor, two counts of second-degree sex offense, third-degree sexual offense, second-degree assault, and causing the ingestion of bodily fluids. The Court of Special Appeals of Maryland reversed and remanded the convictions on appeal. Huffman v. State, No. 1847, Sept. Term 2012 (filed December 9, 2014)). On April 6, 2015, Huffman was transferred from North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI) in Cumberland, Maryland to WCDC. ECF No. 12-6; ECF No. 12-6 at 11 Because Huffman was an alleged child molester at the time of his detention, he was placed in protective custody at WCDC. ECF No. 12-6 at 50, 64, 70, 73; ECF No. 12-1 at 21.

         At Huffman's second trial, a jury convicted him of sexual abuse of a minor, second degree sex offense, second degree assault, and causing ingestion of bodily fluids. On August 13, 2015, Huffman was sentenced in the Circuit Court for Wicomico County to a life sentence for the second-degree sexual offense conviction. ECF No. 12-7. The remaining convictions were merged at sentencing. ECF No. 12-6 at 8. The judgment was affirmed on appeal. Huffman v. State, No. 1602. Sept. Term 2015 (filed October 5, 2016). Of the 136 days Huffman was held at WCDC, he served only the last five days as a convicted prisoner. ECF No. 6 at 21-25.

         On February 19, 2016, Huffman filed a Complaint against WCDC, MCO Schevel, Lt Byrd, Mrs. Williams, Sgt. Gonzalez, and others which he supplemented at the direction of the Court, alleging that between April and June 2015, while confined at WCDC, he was improperly placed in protective custody on lock down status, subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement, denied use of his inhaler, and denied adequate access to the law library. ECF Nos. 1, 2, 4. As relief, Huffman asked this Court to award him $1 million in damages. ECF No. 1. Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative for Summary Judgment ECF No. 12. Huffman filed an opposition to Defendants' first dispositive motion. ECF Nos. 14.

         On July 24, 2017, the Court granted Defendants' first dispositive Motion, ECF No. 12, dismissing Huffman's claims against WCDC with prejudice and dismissing the claims against the remaining Defendants without prejudice for failure to state a claim pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). ECF Nos. 16, 17. The Court dismissed the claims against the individual Defendants without prejudice to Huffman filing a supplement to the Complaint to allege the specific action that each named Defendant took to deprive him of a constitutional right. ECF Nos. 16, 17.

         On August 14, 2017, Huffman filed an eleven page Amended Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against MCO II Schevel, Lt. Byrd, Mrs. Williams, COS Gonzalez, and also named the Superintendent of WCDC as a defendant. ECF No. 18. The Complaint alleges Defendants acted with deliberate indifference to Huffman's medical needs, subjected him to unsafe conditions of confinement, denied him access to the courts, and violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments and the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA). As redress, he seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, $50, 000 in punitive damages, and $50, 000 in compensatory damages. ECF No. 18 at 9-10. Defendants have filed the pending Motion seeking dismissal of the Amended Complaint and Plaintiff has not responded. ECF No. 21-1.


         This Court is mindful of its obligation to liberally construe the pleadings of pro se litigants. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Nonetheless, liberal construction does not mean that this Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts which set forth a cognizable claim, Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387 (4th Cir. 1990), or “conjure up questions never squarely presented.” Beaudett v. City of Hampton, 775 F.2d 1274, 1278 (4th Cir. 1985). In making this determination, “[t]he district court ... must hold the pro se complaint to less stringent standards than pleadings drafted by attorneys and must read the complaint liberally.” White v. White, 886 F.2d 721, 722-723 (4th Cir. 1989).

         When defendants seek dismissal or, in the alternative, summary judgment, a court may use its discretion, under Rule 12(d), to determine whether to consider matters outside the pleadings. See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D. Md. 2011), aff'd sub nom., Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). Pursuant to Rule 12(d), “[w]hen matters outside the pleading are presented to and not excluded by the court, the 12(b)(6) motion shall be treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d)).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has outlined two requirements for when a motion to dismiss may be converted to a motion for summary judgment: (1) the “parties [must] be given some indication by the court that it is treating the 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment” and (2) “the parties ‘first [must] be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery.' ” Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)). In circumstances such as presented here, when the motion is expressly captioned as a motion to dismiss or in the alternative a motion for summary judgment and matters outside of the pleadings are submitted, the parties are deemed to have sufficient notice that conversion may be granted. See Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D. Md. 2005). “[T]he party opposing summary judgment ‘cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party has made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.' ” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). Further, Huffman was provided an opportunity to file an opposition with affidavits and exhibits, but has not done so. Under the circumstances presented here, the Court is satisfied that it is appropriate to address Defendants' dispositive Motion as one for summary judgment, because matters outside of the pleadings will be considered. See Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d 442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007).

         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court must draw all justifiable inferences in favor of the non-movant. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001).

         III. ...

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