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Greene v. Kamenetz

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 18, 2018

PARREN E. GREENE Plaintiff,
v.
KEVIN KAMENETZ, Baltimore County Executive[1] DEBORAH RICHARDSON, Director of Baltimore County Dept. of Corrections, CORRECTIONAL OFFICER SHAKIARA BLACK,[2] CORRECTIONAL OFFICER SOTERIA LOMAX, BALTIMORE COUNTY DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          James K. Bredar, Chief Judge.

         Parren E. Greene filed this Complaint during the time he was confined at the Baltimore County Detention Center as a pretrial detainee, [3] alleging that Officers Shakiara Black and Soteria Lomax each violated his Due Process and Equal Protection rights by conducting three separate disciplinary hearings that were not fair or impartial and resulted in sanctions requiring him to spend more than six months in restrictive housing. Compl., ECF No. 1;[4] Amended Compl., ECF No. 5; Suppl. Compl., ECF No. 10.[5] Defendant Baltimore County Department of Corrections ("BCDC"), filed a Motion to Dismiss. ECF 11. Thereafter, BCDC Director Deborah Richardson and Officers Black and Lomax filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF 15.[6]

         The case is briefed and ready for disposition. No. hearing is necessary to resolve the issues. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For reasons to follow, Defendant BCDC shall be dismissed from this case and summary judgment shall be entered in favor of Defendants Richardson, Black, and Lomax.

         FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Greene alleges the BCDC disciplinary procedure is unfair because hearing officers are chosen from among the ranks of line officers and the procedure does not comply with the Code of Maryland (COMAR), because it subjects detainees to disciplinary proceedings in front of a hearing officer who is not a "detached or neutral magistrate," ECF No. 1 at 2. Greene seeks money damages and an immediate return to general population housing. Id. at 3.

         The uncontroverted facts that give rise to this lawsuit follow. In the early morning hours of February 18, 2017, Officer J. Jones observed Greene assaulting detainee Williams. Jones wrote an incident report and charged Greene with assault and for fighting/excessive horseplay. ECF No. 15-5 at 1-2. Greene acknowledged receipt of the charges placed against him by his signature. Id. at 2. On February 22, 2017, Officer Black conducted a disciplinary hearing for Greene regarding the incident. Greene refused to appear for the hearing. Id. Black, who was not involved in the incident, entered a not guilty plea on Greene's behalf. Id.; Black Aff., ECF No. 15-2, ¶¶ 11, 16. Black found Greene guilty of assaulting an inmate and not guilty of fighting/excessive horseplay based on Jones's incident report and imposed sanctions of 30 days of restrictive housing consecutive to restrictive housing sanctions imposed for previous misconduct.

         Undeterred after receiving a disciplinary action for misconduct, Greene chose to interfere with an inmate count taking place on June 2, 2017. When warned by Sergeant Amaefule that Greene would be charged for non-compliance, Greene told Amaefule that "he (Mr. Greene) would fuck him (Sergeant Amaefule) up." Amaefule and Officer Warren wrote an incident report charging Greene with interfering with correctional staff, threatening bodily harm, failing to obey the order of a correctional officer, and failing to cooperate with the count or lock-in. ECF No. 15-7 at 1. Greene refused to acknowledge receiving the charges. Id. at 1. On June 5, 2017, Lomax commenced a disciplinary hearing, which Greene refused to attend. Id. at 2. Lomax, who was not involved in the incident, entered a not guilty plea for Mr. Greene and proceeded with the hearing. ECF No. 15-3, Lomax Aff., ¶¶ 11, 16. Officer Lomax reviewed the statements and observations recorded by Officer Warren and Sergeant Amaefule in Incident Log No. 346014 and found them to be credible. Lomax Aff. ¶ 17. Based on statements of the officers and Greene's prior admission that he refused to obey because he had not received toenail clippers the day before, Lomax found Greene guilty of all charges and imposed 25 days of restrictive housing to run consecutive to prior restrictive housing imposed on Greene. Id., ¶¶ 18-20.

         Greene incurred a third disciplinary notice based on an incident report when on June 11, 2017, Officer Harrell observed Greene and fellow inmate Fisher fighting and wrote an incident report charging Greene with assault on another inmate, failure to obey the order of a correctional officer, and fighting/excessive horseplay. ECF No. 15-8 at 1. Greene acknowledged receiving the charges by his signature on June 11, 2017 (id. at 2), and on June 13, 2017 requested a postponement of his disciplinary hearing to identify and summon an inmate witness whose name he could not remember. Id. The request was granted and on June 14, 2017, Lomax commenced a hearing. Greene was present and pleaded guilty to fighting or excessive horseplay and not guilty to the other charges. ECF No. 15-3, Lomax Aff., ¶ 25. Greene defended his actions by stating that "[t]o assault someone is when they don't fight back. As far as failure to obey, no lights were flickered that we could see in the cell. I can't assault anyone who was fighting back. All she [Harrell] saw was him running out the cell." ECF No. 15-8 at 2. Greene submitted written questions for the witness, later identified as inmate Dargan, whom he had requested to testify as a witness at the hearing. ECF No. 15-9. Out of Greene's presence, Lomax asked Dargan written questions proposed by Greene. Dargan stated that the fight between Greene and Fisher began in a cell out of Harrell's view and that Harrell did not flick the lights. ECF No. 15-9. Lomax then reviewed the incident log, determined Harrell's statements credible, reviewed Greene's admission and Dargan's testimony, and found Green not guilty of assaulting an inmate, but guilty of failing to obey an order and fighting/excessive horseplay. ECF No. 15-9; ECF No. 15-3, Lomax Aff., ¶¶ 28, 30. Lomax imposed 30 days of restrictive housing to run consecutive with prior disciplinary actions imposed on Greene. ECF No. 15-8 at 2.

         Defendants note that the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) for State detention facilities does not require that a hearing officer be detached or neutral from the facility.[7]Defendants further state that BCDC's disciplinary procedure does not forbid a hearing officer employed by the facility to conduct a disciplinary hearing.[8]

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         In reviewing the Complaint subject to a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court accepts all well-pleaded allegations of the Complaint as true and construes the facts and reasonable inferences derived therefrom in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Venkatraman v. REI Sys., Inc., 417 F.3d 418, 420 (4th Cir. 2005) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkaril 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)); Ibarra v. United States, 120F.3d472, 473 (4th Cir. 1997). Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires only a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Migdal v. Rowe Price-Fleming Int'l Inc., 248 F.3d 321, 325-26 (4th Cir. 2001); see also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 513 (2002) (stating that a complaint need only satisfy the "simplified pleading standard" of Rule 8(a)).

         The Supreme Court of the United States has explained that a "plaintiffs obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Nonetheless, the complaint does not need "detailed factual allegations" to survive a motion to dismiss. Id. at 555. Instead, "once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Id. at 563. To survive a motion to dismiss, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         The Court is mindful that Greene is self-represented and the submissions of a pro se litigant must be construed liberally. See Carter v. Fleming, 879 F.3d, 32, 137 (4th Cir. 2018); Smith v. Smith, 589 F.3d 736, 738 (4th Cir. 2009). Nevertheless, "where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged -but it has not 'show[n]' -'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563, citing Sanjuan v. Am. Bd. of Psychiatry and Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d, 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994) (once a claim for relief has been stated, a plaintiff "receives the benefit of imagination, so long as the hypotheses are consistent with the complaint").

         BCDC's motion is styled as a motion to dismiss and will be examined solely within this context. The Motion submitted by Defendants Richardson, Black, and Lomax is styled as a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 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 Cty., 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, Inc., 510 F.3d 442, 450 (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). 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, the 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 ...


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