Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hall v. Stouffer

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 25, 2018

J. MICHAEL STOUFFER, et al., Defendants.



         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants J. Michael Stouffer and Dayena M. Corcoran's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 33). Also pending before the Court is Plaintiff David Wayne Hall's Motion for Leave to File Surreply in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 42). In this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2018) action, Hall, a Maryland inmate housed in Virginia, alleges that he has been deprived of access to Maryland courts because he cannot obtain Maryland legal materials or legal assistance. The Motions are ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny in part and deny without prejudice in part Defendants' Motion and grant in part and deny in part Hall's Motion for Leave to File Surreply.

         I. BACKGROUND[1]

         A. Factual Background

         1. Hall's Criminal Case

         In March 1992, the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland sentenced Hall to a term of life imprisonment plus fifteen years for committing several felonies. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 9, ECF No. 25). In August 1996, Hall agreed to be a cooperating witness in two state-court first-degree murder cases. (Id. ¶ 10). In exchange for his testimony, the State agreed to several conditions, including receiving a letter from an Anne Arundel County State's Attorney regarding Hall's cooperation, which was to be placed in his parole file. (Id.). The State's Attorney wrote the letter. (Id. ¶ 11).

         In June 2006, Hall had his first parole hearing. (Id. ¶ 15). The Parole Board did not consider that he was a cooperating witness. (Id.). The Parole Board did not recommend Hall for parole. (Id. ¶ 16). The Parole Board again did not recommend Hall for parole in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016. (Id.).

         2. Attempts to Obtain Maryland Legal Materials

         On October 22, 1999, pursuant to the Interstate Corrections Compact (“ICC”), the State of Maryland involuntarily transferred Hall to the Virginia state prison system. (Id. ¶ 12). Hall is currently incarcerated at Augusta Correctional Center in Craigsville, Virginia. (Id. ¶ 6). The ICC requires the State to ensure that inmates like Hall receive the same access to legal materials that inmates housed in Maryland receive. (Hall Decl. ¶ 12, ECF No. 36-1).[2] The Maryland Division of Correction (“DOC”) publishes a handbook for inmates that contains information regarding requests for legal materials: the “Handbook for Maryland Inmates Housed Out of State Under Interstate Corrections Compact and Intergovernmental Agreements” (the “Handbook”). (Mem. Supp. Mot. Dismiss Summ. J. [“Stouffer's Mot.”] Ex. 1 at 15-20 [“Handbook”], ECF No. 4-2). The Handbook also contains a Library Assistance to State Institutions (“LASI”) form, which inmates use to request legal materials. (Id. at 20; May 18, 2015 Henson-Smith Decl. ¶ 3, Stouffer's Mot. Ex. 1 at 5-8, ECF No. 4-2). Hall did not receive the Handbook or the LASI request form.[3] (Hall Decl. ¶ 2).

         In January 2008, Hall filed an Informal Complaint with the Virginia Department of Corrections (“VDOC”), requesting access to Maryland legal materials. (Hall Decl. ¶ 6; Pl.'s Resp. Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Summ. J. [“Pl.'s Opp'n”] Ex. A1 [“Jan. 22, 2008 Inf. Compl.”], ECF No. 36-2). In response, VDOC told Hall to contact the Maryland ICC Coordinator, Yuvonka Jenkins. (Hall Decl. ¶ 7; Jan. 22, 2008 Inf. Compl.). On February 8, 2008, Hall wrote to Jenkins and requested Maryland legal materials, including the Maryland Constitution, Maryland Code Annotated, and Maryland Rules, as well as the ICC contract between Maryland and Virginia.[4] (Hall Decl. ¶¶ 7, 8; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A2 at 2 [“Feb. 8, 2008 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-3).[5] Eight months later, on October 22, 2008, Jenkins responded to Hall, stating that he needed to send a check for $1.20 to obtain a copy of Maryland and Virginia's ICC Contract; Jenkins did not address Hall's other requests for Maryland legal materials. (Hall Decl. ¶ 9; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A3, ECF No. 36-4).

         On September 5, 2008, before he received a response from Jenkins, Hall wrote Sandy Cole at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”). (Hall Decl. ¶ 13; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A7 [“Sept. 5, 2008 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-8). Hall stated that he sent Jenkins a letter requesting a copy of the ICC Contract and had not received a response. (Sept. 5, 2008 Hall Ltr. at 1). Hall also informed Cole that he sent the Maryland Attorney General a request for a copy of the ICC Contract, and that an Assistant Attorney General responded, letting him know that she had forwarded his letter to Cole. (Id.). Hall indicated that he had not yet received a response from Cole and requested a copy of the ICC Contract. (Id. at 1-2).

         On February 11, 2009, Hall wrote Stouffer to inform him that he did not have access to Maryland legal materials and to request that Stouffer provide them for Hall. (Hall Decl. ¶ 14; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A8 [“Feb, 11, 2009 Hall Ltr.”] at 1-2, ECF No. 36-9; Miller Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 41-8). Hall detailed his attempts to obtain Maryland legal materials, including contacting LexisNexis and Virginia's Institutional Attorney. (Feb. 11, 2009 Hall Ltr. at 2). Hall complained that he had “no access to the [f]ederal and [s]tate [c]ourts because I have NO Maryland legal books, NO Maryland law on disk, NO Maryland Institutional Attorney, or Maryland law library.” (Id.). Hall further complained that he had “NO Maryland law at all” and that he was “being totally deprived” of his access to the courts. (Id.).

         On March 17, 2009, Kendall Gifford, DOC Director of Case Management, responded to Hall's letter on Stouffer's behalf. (Hall Decl. ¶ 15; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A9 [“Mar. 17, 2009 Gifford Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-10; Miller Decl. ¶ 2). Gifford instructed Hall to send his requests for Maryland legal materials to LASI. (Mar. 17, 2009 Gifford Ltr.). She also told Hall to contact Becky Johnson at DOC Headquarters, Case Management Unit, for further assistance. (Id.).[6]

         On an unspecified date, Hall requested from LASI Maryland Rules 2-231 through 2-241, 2-501 through 2-551, 2-601 through 2-652, and 3-401 through 3-431.[7] (See Hall Decl. ¶ 17; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A11 [“Nov. 9, 2010 LASI Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-12). On November 9, 2010, LASI provided an unsigned, one-sentence reply to Hall's request, stating “we cannot violate copyright laws by photocopying the entire book for you.” (Nov. 9, 2010 LASI Ltr.). The November 9, 2010 letter is on Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation (“DLLR”) letterhead, but it indicates that it is “From: LASI.”[8](Id.). In response, on December 24, 2010, Hall wrote the DLLR and reiterated his request for the Maryland Rules listed above. (Hall Decl. ¶ 18; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A12 [“Dec. 24, 2010 Hall Ltr.”] at 1, ECF No. 36-13). He also suggested that LASI send books or computer disks containing the requested legal materials to avoid violating copyright laws. (Decl. 24, 2010 Hall Ltr. at 1). Hall copied Stouffer, among others, on this letter. (Id. at 2). Hall never received a response. (Hall Decl. ¶ 18).

         On April 4, 2011, Hall wrote the Maryland Attorney General, informing him that LASI would not provide him with copies of Maryland legal materials because his requests would violate copyright laws. (Hall Decl. ¶ 19; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A13 [“Apr. 4, 2011 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-14). Hall also requested certain Maryland Rules. (Apr. 4, 2011 Hall Ltr.). On April 15, 2011, the Office of the Attorney General responded, stating that although it could not provide copies of the Maryland Rules Hall requested, Hall could access them on the internet. (Hall Decl. ¶ 20; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A14, ECF No. 36-15). Hall does not, however, have access to the internet. (Hall Decl. ¶ 20).

         On March 28, 2013, Hall sent Stouffer a Maryland Public Information Act (“MPIA”) request. (Hall Decl. ¶ 22; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A16 [“MPIA Req.”], ECF No. 36-17). Hall requested, among other things, “the law, manuals, policies or procedures governing the difference between a ‘Life' Sentence and ‘The Balance of Natural Life' Sentence.”[9] (MPIA Req. at 11). On November 15, 2013, Hall filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland because Stouffer and others had failed to respond to his MPIA request. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss Summ. J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. 7, ECF No. 33-11). Nearly a year and a half after filing his MPIA request, on August 8, 2014, Renata Seergae of DPSCS responded. (Hall Decl. ¶ 23; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A17 [“Aug. 8, 2014 Seergae Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-18). She indicated that DOC did not have a record of receiving Hall's March 28, 2013 MPIA request until July 17, 2014. (Aug. 8, 2014 Seergae Ltr. at 1). DOC documentation reflects, however, that Stouffer's administrative staff processed Hall's MPIA request on November 15, 2013. (Mekiliesky Decl. ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 45-1).[10] Seergae informed Hall that his request “calls for the production of hundreds of documents, ” and that it would cost $655.92 to collect and copy the documents. (Aug. 8, 2014 Seergae Ltr. at 1-2). Seergae further informed Hall that if he paid that amount, she would continue to work on fulfilling his MPIA request. (Id. at 2).[11]

         On June 5, 2014, Hall wrote the Institutional Attorney for Augusta Correctional Center, William Little, Esq. (Hall Decl. ¶ 30; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A20, [“June 5, 2014 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-21). In his letter, Hall states that he is “trying to challenge my Maryland criminal convictions and fight the Maryland Parole Board. But every time I write to Maryland officials, they either give me the runaround or tell me to get the legal material from you, the Institutional Attorney.” (June 5, 2014 Hall Ltr.). Hall indicates that this is his “third request for legal material, ” but Little has not responded. (Id.). Hall also proposes that instead of meeting with him, Little could send him the Maryland Rules for filing state petitions for habeas corpus and “Maryland parole procedures and laws to challenge the procedures.” (Id.). Little never met with Hall or responded to his letter. (Hall Decl. ¶ 30).

         3. Correspondence with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender

         While Hall was attempting to obtain access to Maryland legal materials as described above, he was also corresponding with the Maryland Office of the Public Defender (“OPD”). Hall first wrote Scott Whitney, then-Chief Attorney of OPD's Collateral Review Division. (Hall Decl. ¶ 31; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A21 [“Mar. 18, 2008 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-22). He told Whitney that “[i]t has been some time since I have heard anything from you, or your office.” (Mar. 18, 2008 Hall Ltr. at 1). Hall also detailed his issues with the Parole Board and his attempts to obtain Maryland legal materials. (Id. at 1-2). Whitney responded to Hall on June 6, 2008. (Hall Decl. ¶ 32; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A22 [“June 6, 2008 Whitney Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-23). Whitney acknowledged that it had been “quite some time” since he had contact with Hall. (June 6, 2008 Whitney Ltr. at 1). Whitney told Hall that due to his caseload, he would be “transferring [Hall's] case to another attorney who would be in a better position to review the transcript that has been provided to [him] by [Hall's] parents” and that the new attorney “will contact [Hall] once he or she takes physical possession of [Hall's] file.” (Id.).

         Also on June 6, 2008, Norman Handwerger, Deputy Chief of OPD's Collateral Review Division, sent Hall a letter advising him that Handwerger or another attorney from the Collateral Review Division would visit him “as soon as [they] can” but “it could be awhile before [they] can actually see” Hall. (Hall Decl. ¶ 33; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A23 [“June 6, 2008 Handwerger Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-24). Handwerger advised Hall of the ten-year deadline for filing a petition for post-conviction relief in state court and gave Hall instructions for filing his own petition if he chose to do so. (June 6, 2008 Handwerger Ltr. at 1). Handwerger told Hall that he was “enclosing a copy of Maryland Rule 4-402, which outlines the specific information you must include in your [p]etition.” (Id. at 2). Handwerger did not, however, include a copy of Maryland Rule 4-402. (Hall Decl. ¶ 33).

         On September 11, 2008, Handwerger responded to correspondence from Hall, informing him that he could not give him an estimate as to when he would visit Hall or file a petition for post-conviction relief on Hall's behalf. (Hall Decl. ¶ 34; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A24 [“Sept. 11, 2008 Handwerger Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-25). Handwerger reassured Hall, however, that his case “is very important” to OPD and that OPD was “doing everything [they] can to move it along as quickly as possible.” (Sept. 11, 2008 Handwerger Ltr.). Then, on March 5, 2009, Handwerger responded to a letter Hall wrote to OPD's Administrative Services Division regarding a $50.00 outstanding debt. (Hall Decl. ¶ 36; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A26, [“Mar. 5, 2009 Handwerger Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-27). Handwerger told Hall that “Administrative Fee Agreement money should not come to [his] office directly, ” and that OPD was “still in the process of trying to obtain transcripts of your trial.” (Mar. 5, 2009 Handwerger Ltr.).

         On November 2, 2010, Hall wrote OPD. (Hall Decl. ¶ 37; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A27 [“Nov. 2, 2010 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-28). This time, he requested Maryland legal materials, including copies of the Maryland Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, the affidavit for seeking in forma pauperis status, and Maryland laws governing state petitions for writ of habeas corpus. (Nov. 2, 2010 Hall Ltr.). In response, Brian Saccenti, Deputy Chief Attorney of OPD's Appellate Division, informed Hall that OPD “does not provide legal advice to inmates unless we are currently representing them, and we do not provide forms for inmates to use in representing themselves.” (Hall Decl. ¶ 38; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A28 [“Nov. 6, 2010 Saccenti Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-29). Saccenti told Hall to write Whitney and request representation if he believed that he may “have an issue that could be raised in a post-conviction proceeding.” (Nov. 6, 2010 Saccenti Ltr.). Hall then wrote Whitney requesting the same Maryland legal materials he requested in his November 2, 2010 letter to OPD. (Hall Decl. ¶ 39; Compare Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A29, ECF No. 36-30, with Nov. 2, 2010 Hall Ltr.). On December 14, 2010, Handwerger, the OPD attorney assigned to Hall's post-conviction case, responded, stating that OPD “is not equipped to provide the services” Hall requested. (Hall Decl. ¶ 40; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A30 [“Dec. 14, 2010 Handwerger Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-31). Handwerger then listed the Maryland Code provisions and Maryland Rules that govern habeas corpus petitions and explained the difference between habeas proceedings and post-conviction proceedings, which are governed by the Post Conviction Procedure Act (“PPA”). (Dec. 14, 2010 Handwerger Ltr. at 1). Handwerger stated that he had “enclosed a copy of the current parole eligibility statute.” (Id. at 2). Handwerger did not, however, enclose a copy of that statute or any of the other Maryland laws he cited. (Hall Decl. ¶ 40).

         Hall again wrote Whitney on December 30, 2010. (Hall Decl. ¶ 41; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A31, [“Dec. 30, 2010 Hall Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-32). Hall explained that Handwerger told him that OPD's Collateral Review Division was “not equipped to provide” Hall with copies of Maryland legal materials. (Dec. 30, 2010 Hall Ltr.). Hall also informed Whitney that although OPD had assigned attorneys to work on his case in 2007-2008, he had “not received any communications” from them. (Id.). Hall requested, among other things, copies of the Maryland Rules and statutes governing habeas corpus petitions and the PPA. (Id.). Hall did not receive a response or any other correspondence from OPD until 2017. (Hall Decl. ¶ 42).

         Nearly seven years later, on September 17, 2017, Handwerger wrote Hall informing him that he had “completed his review” of Hall's trial court transcripts.[12] (Hall Decl. ¶ 42; Pl.'s Opp'n Ex. A32 [“Sept. 13, 2017 Handwerger Ltr.”], ECF No. 36-33). Handwerger acknowledged that he was aware Hall had “filed a law suit in federal court claiming that Maryland is depriving [him] of access to the courts, ” and that because Handwerger's name is “mentioned in the pleadings, ” Hall may want to consult with his attorney first to determine “if [Hall] can or should talk to [Handwerger] about [his] post-conviction case.” (Sept. 13, 2017 Handwerger Ltr.). Handwerger emphasized that he did “not intend to talk to [Hall] about any aspect of [Hall's] pending law suit in federal court.” (Id.). Rather, he only wanted “to talk about [Hall's] post conviction case.” (Id.).

         B. Procedural Background

         On April 9, 2015, Hall sued Stouffer, alleging that Stouffer had violated Hall's right of access to Maryland courts by failing to provide him with Maryland legal materials. (ECF No. 1). On February 4, 2016, the Court entered an Order denying without prejudice Defendant Stouffer's first Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 8). The Court requested that Stouffer supplement his Motion with information regarding, in relevant part: (1) whether Hall actually received the Handbook; (2) any documentation indicating that Hall received the Handbook; and (3) all records pertaining to Hall's LASI requests and any responses.[13](Feb. 4, 2016 Order at 3, ECF No. 8).

         On February 16, 2017, the Court denied Stouffer's Motion to Renew Motion for Summary Judgment and appointed counsel for Hall. (ECF No. 17). The Court concluded that Stouffer's supplemented Motion was “still insufficient” to support the entry of summary judgment because there remained significant disputes of material fact. (Feb. 16, 2017 Mem. Op. at 3, ECF No. 17). The Court noted that Stouffer “acknowledges that no documentation has been located” to show that Hall received the Handbook, and “[d]espite that acknowledgement, Defendant continues to point to the [H]andbook to support the argument that [Hall] was aware of and understood the process for obtaining access to Maryland legal materials.” (Id.) (citation omitted). In addition, Stouffer was “unable to locate any LASI requests submitted by Hall or any response thereto.” (Id.) (citation omitted). The Court further noted that “[w]hile Hall contacted the Office of the Public Defender and received assurances that it would provide him assistance, the record does not demonstrate that any actual assistance was given.” (Id. at 4). The Court ultimately found that the “[r]esponses to Hall's requests for legal materials that are in the record demonstrate a lack of any real assistance.” (Id.). Because Hall “is hampered in articulating the underlying challenges he would mount because of his lack of access to Maryland legal materials, ” the Court appointed counsel for Hall. (Id. at 5).

         On August 14, 2017, Hall filed a First Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial (“First Amended Complaint”). (ECF No. 25). In his First Amended Complaint, Hall added Corcoran as a Defendant. (1st Am. Compl. ¶ 8). Hall brings a single Count against Stouffer and Corcoran under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his First and Fourteenth Amendment Right of Access to the Courts. (Id. ¶¶ 78-85). Hall sues Stouffer in his individual capacity and Corcoran in her official capacity. (Id. ¶¶ 79-80).[14] He seeks declaratory relief as to both Defendants, monetary damages from Stouffer, and injunctive relief from Corcoran. (Id. a-f).

         On September 18, 2017, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 33). Hall filed an Opposition on October 12, 2017. (ECF No. 36). On November 9, 2017, Defendants filed a Reply. (ECF No. 41). Hall filed a Motion for Leave to File Surreply in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on November 29, 2017. (ECF No. 42). On December 13, 2017, Defendants filed an Opposition. (ECF No. 44). To date, the Court has no record that Hall filed a Reply.


         A. Motion for Leave to File Surreply

         Hall seeks leave of the Court to file a Surreply that addresses the facts presented in the Stouffer Declaration, which is attached to Defendants' Reply. Hall also moves to strike the Declaration because it is procedurally improper. Defendants do not oppose Hall filing a surreply. They do, however, oppose Hall's request to strike the Stouffer Declaration. The Court, therefore, only addresses the request to strike.

         Hall asserts that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(c)(2) requires that “[a]ny affidavit supporting a motion must be served with the motion.”[15] As a result, the Court should disregard the Stouffer Declaration. The Court disagrees.

         Although the plain language of Rule 6(c)(2) appears to support Hall's argument, courts applying this Rule have adopted a more lenient interpretation. As this Court has noted, nothing in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure precludes a movant from submitting affidavits and other evidence that support a reply brief in response to arguments raised in an opposition. See, e.g., Allen v. Enabling Techs. Corp., No. WMN-14-4033, 2016 WL 4240074, at *4 (D.Md. Aug. 11, 2016); Robinson v. Empire Equity Grp., Inc., No. WDQ-09-1603, 2009 WL 4018560, at *2 (D.Md. Nov. 18, 2009). Here, the Stouffer Declaration details the procedures Stouffer's administrative staff followed for processing his mail. The information in the Stouffer Declaration responds to at least two of Hall's Opposition arguments: that there are disputes of material fact regarding whether Stouffer's conduct violated Hall's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights; and whether Stouffer's deliberate indifference allowed Hall's constitutional rights to be violated. Admittedly, however, the Stouffer Declaration provides new evidence to which Hall should be permitted to respond-and he does so in his proposed Surreply.

         The Court will, therefore, deny Hall's request to strike the Stouffer Declaration and grant his Motion for Leave to File Surreply.

         B. Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative for Summary

         1. Conversion of ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.