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Mitchell v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 21, 2018

SHAKIR A. MITCHELL, # 450-764, Plaintiff


          Paula Xinis United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Shakir A. Mitchell brings this civil rights action against the Warden and two Corrections Officers at North Branch Correctional Institution in Cumberland, Maryland (“NBCI”) stemming from an incident occurring on April 21, 2017. Mitchell alleges that his pre-existing shoulder injury was exacerbated when corrections officers took him to the ground and handcuffed him. Mitchell also complains that his cane had been improperly confiscated, and that officers “threatened [him] and called [him] racist names.” ECF No. 1 at 2-3. As damages, Mitchell demands $2, 000, 000.00 and asks this Court to order Defendant Whiteman's termination and Correctional Officer Ward's demotion. ECF No. 1 at 4.

         Presently pending before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment in their favor. 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 motion is GRANTED.

         I. Factual Background

         The following facts are not disputed. On April 21, 2017, an incident arose involving Mitchell's cellmate, James Young, causing corrections officers to order both men to lock into their cells. Young and Mitchell refused to comply. ECF No. 13-2 at 6. According to one corrections officer, Young struck the officer above his left eye while the officer attempted to handcuff Young. Id. At the same time, Mitchell continued to talk to another corrections and not lock in to his cell. The officer then took Mitchell to the ground.[2] Mitchell was then handcuffed and escorted from the area. ECF No. 13-2 at 6, 8, 24. Mitchell was placed in the “bullpen” without his cane, causing him to fall to the floor where he remained in pain from the takedown. ECF No. 15-2. Mitchell was taken to the medical unit where he initially refused evaluation or treatment but then later accepted medical care for his back pain. ECF No. 13-2 at 5-22. ECF No. 13-2 at 22; ECF 13-6 at 12. Mitchell was placed on the segregation unit pending an adjustment proceeding and was denied his cane except when permitted to leave his cell. ECF No. 13-2 at 24-25. See also ECF 13-5, ¶¶ 5-6 (Ward Decl.).[3]

         Mitchell was charged with violating Rule 312 (interfering with or resisting the performance of staff duties to include a search of a person, item, area, or location) and Rule 401 (refusing to work, carry out an assignment, or accept a housing assignment). Id. Mitchell pleaded guilty to violating Rule 401 and was sentenced to 30 days of segregation. Id. at 17-19. A medical order for using the cane was cancelled by Nurse Christa Belack effective May 1, 2017. ECF No. 13-2 at 25; ECF No. 13-6 at 15.

         Defendants principally argue that Mitchell's claims cannot proceed because the officers used the minimum force necessary to maintain order and discipline, and any threatening and abusive language uttered during the incident is insufficient to state a claim. Additionally, Defendants argue that they are immune from suit in their official capacities. Warden Bishop asserts that he played no role in the incident. ECF No. 13.

         II. Analysis

         A. Standard of Review

         The parties have submitted evidence that goes beyond the four corners of the Complaint. Accordingly, the Court treats this motion as one for summary judgment. 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 shows that no genuine dispute exists as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. “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 nonmovant 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 are not to proceed to trial. Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526.

         B. Claims against Warden Bishop

         Mitchell's theory of liability as to Warden Bishop is based on his supervisory status as Warden. However, where a Plaintiff seeks relief for constitutional violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the doctrine of respondeat superior does not apply. See Love-Lane v. Martin, 355 F.3d 766, 782 (4th Cir. 2004) (no respondeat superior liability under' 1983). Accordingly, a supervisory official cannot be held liable for the acts of his subordinates; rather, liability must be based on “supervisory indifference or tacit authorization of subordinates' misconduct” as a “causative factor in the constitutional injuries they inflict on those committed to their care.” Baynard v. Malone, 268 F.3d 228, 235 (4th Cir. 2001), citing Slakan v. Porter, 737 F.2d 368, 372 (4th Cir. 1984). More particularly, to survive summary judgment, the Plaintiff must demonstrate that: (1) the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate was engaged in conduct that posed a pervasive and unreasonable risk of constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) the supervisor's response was so inadequate as to show deliberate indifference to or tacit authorization of the alleged offensive practices; and (3) an affirmative causal link exists between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional injury suffered by the plaintiff. See Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F.3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994).

         Viewing the facts most favorably to Mitchell, the claims against Bishop must fail. No. record evidence shows that Bishop was involved in the April 21, 2017 incident. Nor does Mitchell demonstrate that Bishop knew that officers engaged constitutionally deficient conduct for which Bishop took no affirmative remedial action. Summary judgment in favor Bishop, therefore, is granted.

         C. Claims against ...

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