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Townsend v. Graham

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 29, 2019

DEVON TOWNSEND, Plaintiff,
v.
RICHARD J. GRAHAM, JR., WCI Warden, and JAMES SMITH, Lieutenant at WCI, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Devon Townsend, an inmate at Western Correctional Institution ("WCI") in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. S 1983 alleging that his rights under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution were violated because he received insufficient outdoor recreation time. Pending before the Court is Defendants Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART.

         BACKGROUND

         In his verified Complaint, Townsend alleges that he has been improperly denied 84 days of outdoor recreation. According to Townsend, the general population at WCI is allowed outside of their cells seven days per week. However, on March 13, 2017, he was moved into WCFs Housing Unit 4, a disciplinary segregation unit. Pursuant to WCI Directive No. 110.00006.1, inmates in Housing Unit 4 are to be provided outdoor exercise five days per week for one hour per day. An of Defendant Lt. James Smith has further specified that there is no outdoor exercise permitted on Saturdays and Sundays.

         Townsend also asserts that because of "reduced activity days," inmates in Housing Unit 4 are denied an additional day of recreation each week, such that Townsend has received only four days of recreation per week. Compl. at 3, ECF No. 1. In an administrative remedy procedure grievance form ("ARP") submitted on March 15, 2017, attached to the Complaint, Townsend also alleged that he did not receive any recreation time from February 16, 2017 to March 13 or 15, 2017.

         According to Defendants, in 2017, WCI was placed on lockdown between March 10 and March 15 due to a flu outbreak, and inmates were not permitted out of their cells on those days. Beginning on June 5, 2017 and continuing to March 14, 2018, WCI began a period during which there were certain reduced activity days, the result of which was that inmates in Housing Unit 4 received only four days of recreation per week. Defendants do not provide any information on whether Townsend was denied recreation from February 16, 2017 to March 10, 2017, other than to state that Townsend receives a wake-up call and is "encouraged to stand for formal stand up count if he wished to attend regular out of cell activities" pursuant to WCI policy. Defs.' Mem. Mot. Summ. J. at 2, ECF No. 11-1. They do not identify any reason that Townsend would have been denied recreation between March 15, 2017 and June 5, 2017.

         Townsend does not explain how he arrived at the figure of 84 missed days of recreation. Based on the claim in his ARP that Townsend did not receive outdoor recreation between February 16, 2017 and March 15, 2017, he appears to have missed 28 days during that time period. As a result of the reduced activity days policy, between June 5, 2017 and the filing of the Complaint on November 2, 2017, Townsend appears to have missed 14 days of recreation on weekdays that he ordinarily would not have missed. See Compl. Ex. 1 at 12, ECF No. 1-1 (identifying reduced activity days on 14 weekdays during this time period); see also Id. at 9 (suggesting that Townsend's recreation occurred during the 4-12 p.m. shift). In a second ARP attached to the Complaint, Townsend also alleges that he was denied recreation on another day, September 25, 2017. Thus, Townsend's allegations and attached exhibits suggest that he was denied outdoor recreation on 43 days between February 16, 2017 and November 2, 2017. It is not clear whether he is including the lack of recreation on weekend days in his calculation.

         Townsend also alleges in the Complaint that when he "is given the opportunity to exercise outside he is place[d] in a kennel" and that "prisons must provide adequate space and equipment for exercise." Compl. at 3. Townsend does not provide any details on the nature of this "kennel" or any description of what equipment, if any, he is provided on the days that he has outdoor recreation.

         DISCUSSION

         In their Motion, Defendants seek dismissal or summary judgment on the grounds that the short lockdown in March 2017, during which no recreation was permitted, and the reduced activity days beginning in June 2017, during which recreation time was reduced from five hours per week to four, did not impose cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment based on inadequate recreation time. In response, Townsend notes that Defendants have provided no explanation for the lack of recreation from February 16, 2017 to mid-March 2017; asserts, based on entries in WCI Daily Significant Events Forms, that Housing Unit 4 was not on lockdown due to the flu between March 10 and March 15; and alleges that the four hours per week of recreation during the reduced activity days period was inadequate under the Eighth Amendment. Townsend also asserts that due to his experience on disciplinary segregation, he now suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and takes medication for these conditions.

         I. Legal Standards

         Defendants' Motion seeks dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, summary judgment under Rule 56 and attach exhibits in support of the Motion. To the extent that grounds for dismissal are based solely on the contents of the Complaint, the Court may dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) if the complaint does not allege enough facts to state a plausible claim for relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). A claim is plausible when the facts pleaded allow "the Court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. Although courts should construe pleadings of self-represented litigants liberally, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007), legal conclusions or conclusory statements do not suffice, Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. The Court must examine the complaint as a whole, consider the factual allegations in the complaint as true, and construe the factual allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994); Lambeth v. Bd. of Comm 'rs of Davidson Cty., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir. 2005).

         Rule 12(d) requires courts to treat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment where matters outside the pleadings are considered and not excluded. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Before converting a motion to dismiss to one for summary judgment, courts must give the nonmoving party "a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Id. "Reasonable opportunity" has two requirements: (1) the nonmoving party must have some indication that the court is treating the Rule 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment, and (2) the nonmoving party "must be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery" to obtain information essential to oppose the motion. Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir.1985) (citation omitted). Here, the notice requirement has been satisfied by the title of the Motion. To show that a reasonable opportunity for discovery has not been afforded, the nonmoving party must file an affidavit or declaration under Rule 56(d) explaining why "for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition," Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d), or otherwise put the district court on notice of the reasons why summary judgment is premature. See Harrods, Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244-45 (4th Cir. 2002). Here, Townsend has not filed a Rule 56(d) affidavit or otherwise requested discovery in this matter and has instead submitted his own exhibits with his memorandum in opposition to the Motion. Under these circumstances, the Court will construe the Motion as a Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court grants summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). In assessing the Motion, the Court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, with all justifiable inferences drawn in its favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The Court may rely only on facts supported in the record, not simply assertions in the pleadings. Bouchat v. Bait. Ravens Football Club, Inc.,346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003). A fact is "material" if it "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson, 477 U.S. at ...


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