United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge.
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants CO II Justin Adams,
Sgt. William Thomas, and Lt. Thomas
Sawyers' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint or, in the Alternative, for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 15). The Motion is ripe for
disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local
Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons outlined below, the
Court will grant the Motion.
Mekonnen Mekuria is incarcerated in the Special Needs Unit
(“SNU”) at North Branch Correctional Institution
(“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland. (Compl. at 1,
Early in the morning on August 21, 2015, Defendants Adams,
Thomas, and Sawyers were conducting cell inspections.
(Id. at 3). When Adams entered Mekuria's his
cell, cell 11, his cellmate, Jameel, complained about Mekuria
and asked Adams to move Mekuria to another cell.
(Id.). After consulting with Thomas and Sawyers,
Adams moved Mekuria to cell 3, which Mekuria describes as an
“isolation room” and a “punishment
cell.” (Id.; see also Defs.' Mot.
Dismiss Summ. J. [“Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. 1 at
004-005, ECF No. 15-2). The toilet and sink water were
“cut off” and there was “[n]o hot
water” in cell 3. (Compl. Ex. 1 at 1, ECF No. 1-1).
Cell 3's window was “blocked” and it had no
table or chair. (Id.). Mekuria asserts that he
should not have been placed in cell 3 because he had
“not violated any rule” and “no ticket
[was] written” to document a rules violation. (Compl.
at 3). In addition, when Adams moved Mekuria from cell 11 to
cell 3, there were three other cells open-1, 55, and 57.
(Supp. at 1, ECF No. 6). At an unspecified point in time,
when Mekuria left his cell, Sawyers, Thomas, and Adams moved
his property to his old cell, cell 57. (Compl. at
Mekuria remained in cell 3 for nineteen days. (Supp. at 1).
appears to assert that the only reason he was removed from
cell 3 is that he filed an administrative remedy procedure
(“ARP”) complaint. (See id.). After
providing the complaint to Officer Cox, who was the tier
officer, Mekuria went outside. (Id.). When Mekuria
returned, his property had been moved to cell 57.
April 30, 2018, Mekuria sued Defendants. (ECF No.
He alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the
Fourth Amendment and Eighth Amendment to the U.S.
Constitution. (Compl. at 5; Supp. at 1-2). He seeks monetary
damages and injunctive relief. (Compl. at 5).
Conversion of Defendants' Motion
style their Motion 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). See Kensington Vol. Fire
Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431,
436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd, 684 F.3d 462 (4th
Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters
outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by
the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one
for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(d). The Court 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.”
Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No. ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927,
at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Wright & Miller,
Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159
(3d ed. 2004, 2012 Supp.)).
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has
articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule
12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion: notice and a reasonable
opportunity for discovery. See Greater Balt. Ctr. for
Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d
264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013). 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.
See Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md.
2005). 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).
summary judgment is inappropriate when “the parties
have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.”
E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus.,
Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011). Yet, “the
party opposing summary judgment ‘cannot complain that
summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that
party had 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 sufficiently the issue that more discovery
is needed, the non-movant must typically file an affidavit or
declaration under Rule 56(d), explaining the “specified
reasons” why “it cannot present facts essential
to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). A Rule
56(d) affidavit is inadequate if it simply demands
“discovery for the sake of discovery.”
Hamilton v. Mayor of Balt., 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 342
(D.Md. 2011) (citation omitted). A Rule 56(d) request for
discovery is properly denied when “the additional
evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself
created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat
summary judgment.” Ingle ex rel. Estate of Ingle v.
Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 195 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting
Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d
943, 953 (4th Cir. 1995)).
Fourth Circuit has warned that it “‘place[s]
great weight on the Rule 56[d] affidavit' and that
‘a reference to 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 a Rule
56[d] affidavit.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at
244 (quoting Evans, 80 F.3d at 961). Failing to file
a Rule 56(d) affidavit “is itself sufficient grounds to
reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was
inadequate.” Id. (quoting Evans, 80
F.3d at 961). Nevertheless, the Fourth Circuit has indicated
that there are some limited instances in which summary
judgment may be premature notwithstanding the
non-movants' failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit.
See id. A court may excuse the failure to file a
Rule 56(d) affidavit when “fact-intensive issues, such
as intent, are involved” and the nonmovant's
objections to deciding summary judgment without discovery
“serve[ ] as the functional equivalent of an
affidavit.” Id. at 245 (quoting First
Chicago Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375,
1380-81 (D.C.Cir. 1988)).
both requirements for conversion have been satisfied. First,
Defendants captioned their motion in the alternative, putting
Mekuria on notice that the Court may convert the motion into
one for summary judgment. Moret, 381 F.Supp.2d at
464. Second, Mekuria did not file a Rule 56(d) affidavit or
otherwise request discovery. Harrods, 302 F.3d at
244 (quoting Evans, 80 F.3d at 961). Accordingly,
the Court will convert Defendants' Motion into a motion
for summary judgment.