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Szekely v. D.P.S.C.S.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 14, 2018

STEVEN SZEKELY, Plaintiff
v.
D.P.S.C.S., et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Ellen L. Hollander United States District Judge

         Steven Szekely, a self-represented Maryland inmate, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against multiple defendants, concerning problems with the treatment of inmates addicted to drugs and alcohol. ECF 1. In particular, he claims violations of Titles II and IV of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et seq.; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 et seq.; and the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. Id. at 1. The Court also granted plaintiff's first motion to amend (ECF 7), adding two defendants. ECF 15.

         Defendants are the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”); the Maryland Division of Correction (“DOC”); Roxbury Correctional Institution (“RCI”); Secretary Steven Moyer; Dayena Corcoran, Commissioner of DOC; former RCI Warden Richard Miller; WCI/NBI; Warden Richard Graham; and the State of Maryland. They filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Summary Judgment. ECF 19. It is supported by a memorandum (ECF 19-1) (collectively, the “Motion”) and numerous exhibits. Although notified of his right to do so, ECF 20, plaintiff has not responded to defendants' Motion, and his time for doing so has expired.

         The matter is now ripe for review. The Court finds a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion, construed as a motion for summary judgment, shall be GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Szekely claims to be an incarcerated drug addict and purports to bring this action on behalf of all current and former incarcerated drug addicts in Maryland state prisons.[1] ECF 1 at 1-2, 5 He alleges that the DOC has failed to keep DOC facilities free from illegal drugs, and that incarcerated drug addicts who are unable to resist the temptation of the available drugs suffer numerous consequences. Id. at 2-3. Specifically, Szekely asserts that drug-addicted inmates are prevented from effective rehabilitation and that they face loss of privileges, reduced ability to accrue good time credit, increased security classification, denial of parole, and other disciplinary sanctions if they are found to have used illegal substances while incarcerated. Id. at 2-5, 11-12. He also asserts that, when the drugs are ingested by the incarcerated drug addicts who are apparently unable to resist, the available drugs cause detrimental physical effects and impair mental functioning which, in turn, hinder such prisoners from being able to pursue their legal rights. Id. at 10-11.

         Szekely's Complaint largely takes the form of a policy argument rather than presenting allegations of specific legal injuries that he has suffered. See, e.g., id. at 4 (arguing that it is counterproductive to punish institutional drug users with the denial of privileges like participation in “Family Day” because “a drug addict should be encouraged to strengthen family ties through visits and Family Day participation, not sanctioned with loss, ” but failing to allege that he has personally been barred from participating in Family Day). Although Szekely presents a parade of possible consequences, the only specific harms that he comes close to alleging that he has personally suffered are: “Plaintiff's life is threatened through drug abuse, possible overdose, and the gang activity that follows a drug culture, ” id. at 4, and Plaintiff is “being punished and forced to serve lengthened sentences” by being unable to earn good time credit and might have parole denied if found guilty of using drugs in prison. Id. at 11-12. Notably absent from Szekely's Complaint is any reference to a specific date or details surrounding either of these general allegations.

         Szekely claims defendants' actions and inactions violate his constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Id. at 2. He also claims that the exclusion of drug-addicted inmates from various institutional programs and privileges violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131 et seq., and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 794 et seq.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Defendants' 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. ECF 19. 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 (4th Cir. 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, ” but “[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); see Adams Housing, LLC v. The City of Salisbury, Maryland, 672 Fed.Appx. 220, 222-23 (4th Cir. Nov. 29, 2016) (per curiam). But, when 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).

         In contrast, a court may not convert a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment sua sponte, unless it gives notice to the parties that it will do so. See Laughlin, 149 F.3d at 261 (stating that a district court “clearly has an obligation to notify parties regarding any court-instituted changes” in the posture of a motion, including conversion under Rule 12(d)); Finley Lines Joint Protective Bd. Unit 200 v. Norfolk So. Corp., 109 F.3d 993, 997 (4th Cir. 1997) (“[A] Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss supported by extraneous materials cannot be regarded as one for summary judgment until the district court acts to convert the motion by indicating that it will not exclude from its consideration of the motion the supporting extraneous materials.”); see also Adams Housing, LLC, 672 Fed.Appx. at 622 (“The court must give notice to ensure that the party is aware that it must ‘come forward with all of [its] evidence.'”) (citation omitted).

         A district judge has “complete discretion to determine whether or not to accept the submission of any material beyond the pleadings that is offered in conjunction with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion and rely on it, thereby converting the motion, or to reject it or simply not consider it.” 5 C. Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2011 Supp.). This discretion “should be exercised with great caution and attention to the parties' procedural rights.” Id. at 149. In general, courts are guided by whether consideration of extraneous material “is likely to facilitate the disposition of the action, ” and “whether discovery prior to the utilization of the summary judgment procedure” is necessary. Id. at 165, 167.

         Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate “where the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.” E.I. du Pont De Nemours and Co. v. Kolon Industries, Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448-49 (4th Cir. 2012); see Putney v. Likin, 656 Fed.Appx. 632, 638-39 (4th Cir. July 14, 2016) (per curiam); McCray v. Maryland Dep't of Transportation, 741 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2015). However, “the 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)). To raise adequately the issue that discovery is needed, the nonmovant typically must file an affidavit or declaration pursuant to Rule 56(d) (formerly Rule 56(f)), explaining why, “for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, ” without needed discovery. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d); see Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (discussing affidavit requirement of former Rule 56(f)).

         “[T]o justify a denial of summary judgment on the grounds that additional discovery is necessary, the facts identified in a Rule 56 affidavit must be ‘essential to [the] opposition.'” Scott v. Nuvell Fin. Servs., LLC, 789 F.Supp.2d 637, 641 (D. Md. 2011) (alteration in original) (citation omitted). A nonmoving party's Rule 56(d) request for additional discovery is properly denied “where the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 954 (4th Cir. 1995); see Amirmokri v. Abraham, 437 F.Supp.2d 414, 420 (D. Md. 2006), aff'd, 266 Fed.Appx. 274 (4th Cir.), cert. denied, 555 U.S. 885 (2008).

         If a nonmoving party believes that further discovery is necessary before consideration of summary judgment, the party fails to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit at his peril, because “‘the failure to file an affidavit . . . is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (citations omitted). But, the nonmoving party's failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit cannot obligate a court to issue a summary judgment ruling that is obviously premature. Although the Fourth Circuit has placed “‘great weight'” on the Rule 56(d) affidavit, and has said that a mere “‘reference to Rule 56(f) [now Rule 56(d)] and the need for additional discovery in a memorandum of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is not an adequate substitute for [an] affidavit, '” the appellate court has “not always insisted” on a Rule 56(d) affidavit. Id. (internal citations omitted).

         According to the Fourth Circuit, failure to file an affidavit may be excused “if the nonmoving party has adequately informed the district court that the motion is premature and that more discovery is necessary” and the “nonmoving party's objections before the district court ‘served as the functional equivalent of an affidavit.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244-45 (internal citations omitted); see also Putney, 656 Fed.Appx. at 638; Nader v. Blair, 549 F.3d 953, 961 (4th Cir. 2008). Moreover, “[t]his is especially true where, as here, the non-moving party is proceeding pro se.” Putney, 656 Fed.Appx. at 638.

         Szekely has not filed a Rule 56(d) affidavit or a functional equivalent. Moreover, I am satisfied that it is appropriate to address the defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment, because consideration of the defendants' evidentiary submissions will facilitate resolution of this case.

         Summary judgment is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), which provides, in part: “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The Supreme Court has clarified that this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion. “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.'” 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)), cert. denied, 541 U.S. 1042 (2004). The court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the ...


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