United States District Court, D. Maryland
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Chris Murray, an inmate at Western Correctional Institution
in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a civil action against
Defendants Ricky Foxwell, Warden of the Eastern Correctional
Institution ("ECI") in Westover, Maryland; Lt. Evan
Ward, the Institutional Remedy Coordinator at ECI; and ECI
correctional officers Sgt. Jason Wallace and Correctional
Officer II Keith Schaffer. Murray alleges that Defendants
violated his constitutional rights to access the courts, to
freedom of speech and expression, and to due process of law
by suppressing complaints he filed through the prisonss
administraiive remedy procedure ("ARPs".. He seeks
an order directing Defendants to comply with prison policies
governing the handling of ARPs.
before the Court are Defendants' Motions to Dismiss or,
in the Alternative, Motions for Summary Judgment. Upon review
of the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing
is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motions are GRANTED.
was transferred from the Roxbury Correctional Institution to
ECI on October 19, 2016. According to Murray, ECI
correctional staff improperly handled his ARPs, refused to
issue forms for filing ARPs, and told him that they may only
issue one ARP form per week. In addition,
Murray alleges that correctional staff have obstructed
inmates' access to the ARP process through different
forms of retaliation, including verbal and physical
harassmen,, denial of recreation and programs, and transfer
from one unit, compound, or institution to another. He claims
that staff at ECI "negligenlly or deliberately misplaced
or stole 100 postage stamps along with approximately $45.00
worth of commissary food items" from his personal
property and that his television had been broken, "as if
someone tried to pr[y] it open deliberately and
maliciously." Mot. Am. Pet'n 9, ECF No.33.
Murray claims that on October 22, 2016, he gave Officer
Schaffer three completed ARP forms and asked him to sign them
and to issue him the carbon copies, but Officer Schaffer
refused to do so. On October 23, 2016, Murray again saw
Officer Schaffer and repeated his request for copies but was
told that the ARPs had been forwarded to Sgt. Wallace for
processing. Murray then approached another correctional
officer, who told Murray that carbon copies are not issued
until it has been determined whether the matter can be
resolved informally. According to Murray, the officer
explained that at ECI, the inmate would receive a carbon copy
of a submitted ARP only if the matter remained unresolved
October 25, 2016, having not yet received the carbon copies,
Murray submitted another ARP, complaining about "the
'arbitrary' action of the ECI staff and how the staff
had infringed on his rights. CompI. 3, ECF NO.3. Between
October 27, 2016 and December 15, 2016, Murray sent
correspondence to several correctional and government
officials, as well as non-proftt organization,, requesting
intervention and an investigation of ECI's handling of
ARPs. On November 22, 2016, Murray submitted two ARPs to Sgt.
Wallace/who stated that he would forward them to a
lieutenant. Murray states that he never received carbon
copies or responses to any of the ARPs he submitted.
December 21, 2016, Murray was summoned to meet with ECI's
ARP Coordinator Lt. Ward and another lieutenant, who
explained to him the process by which ECl handles ARPs. At
that time, Murray told Lt. Ward that ECl correctional
officers, including Officer Schaffer and Sgt. Wallace, had
accepted his ARPs but refused to provide the requested carbon
copies. The lieutenants informed Murray that ECl staff were
required to attempt to resolve any ARP issues prior to the
ARP being submitted. They also advised him to directly submit
any other issues with the ARP process to Lt. Ward by using a
mailbox in the Housing Unit.
August 21, 207,, Murray had filed 24 ARPs at ECl. ARP No.
ECl-067017,, filed by Murray on October 31, 2016, complained
about ECI's failure to provide him with carbon copies of
his grievances. ARP No. ECl-0670-17 was stamped as received
on March 16, 2017, approximately one month after Murray filed
the Complaint in this case. An assigned ARP investigator
interviewed Murray on March 24, 2017 and concluded that
Murray was unable to provide any details to support his
claim. The investigator noted that Murray could not provide
the time of day when he filed his initial complaint or what
the complaint was about. Murray acknowledged that he did not
follow up regarding his "missing" ARP forms and
that nobody witnessed the incidents. Defs.' First Mot.
Dismiss Ex. 1 at 5, ECF No. 17-3. Because Murray was unable
to provide sufficient evidence or any witnesses to
substantiate his claims, the investigator found ARP No.
ECl-0670117 to be without merit and subject to dismissal.
investigative report for ARP No. ECI-0670-17, dated April 28,
2017, included signed statements from each of the four
officers listed in the ARP, including Sgt. Wallace and
Officer Schaffer. Three of the officers either denied or
could not recall receiving ARPs from Murray on the day in
question, while one acknowledged that he received an ARP from
Murray but returned it to him because it contained multiple
issues and thus needed to be revised to raise only a single
issue. On May 4, 2017, Warden Foxwell dismissed ARP No.
ECI-0670-17 with the following statement:
Your request for Administrative Remedy has been investigated
and is hereby Dismissed: upon review of reports from staff
and supporting documentaiion it has been determined that
there is no evidence to substantiate your claim that your
access to the courts ha[s] been hampered. Documentaiion shows
that your ARP forms were handled properly in accordance with
IB 09-10 "the inmate population will turn in all
completed ARP forms to the dayshift OIC [Officer in Charge]
for signature. The OIC will issue the inmate the signed copy
of the complaint form. The housing unit manager will collect
the completed ARP forms from the control center daily. The
unit manager will review the ARP complaint and conduct an
interview to determine if he/she can resolve the complaint.
If it is determined that the complaint cannot be resolved,
the unit manager shall forward the complaint to the ARP dept.
prepared other ARPs dated October 31, 2016 which were not
stamped as received by ECI staff. In one of those un-numbered
ARPs, Murray complained that Officer Schaffer had denied him
ARP forms upon request. Murray later appealed that ARP to the
Commissioner of Corrections and then to the Inmate Grievance
Office ("IGO"), alleging that the Warden had failed
to address his grievance. By letter dated June 30, 2017, an
IGO Administrative Officer informed Murray that his grievance
was being dismissed. The Administraiive Officer concluded
that Murray had failed to state a claim meriting
administraiive relief because ARP forms can be obtained
through means other than requesting them from correctional
officers, such as obtaining them from the prison library.
another un-numbered ARP dated October 31, 2016, Murray
alleged that he was being subjected to retaliation for filing
ARPs earlier that week. According to Murray, a correctional
officer, Correctional Officer II Johnson, conducted a search
of Murrayss cell and stated, "This is just a prelude to
what lies ahead for people who like to file ARPs."
Defs.' First Mot. Dismiss Ex. 3 at 26, ECF No. 17-5.
Murray requested an investigation into the matter and asked
that Officer Johnson, Sgt. Wallace, and two other
correctional officers be held accountable. Murray appealed
that un-numbered ARP up to the IGO. By letter dated June 30,
2017, an IGO Administrative Officer dismissed Murrayss
grievance for failure to state a claim upon which
administrative relief could be granted. According to the
Administraiive Officer, Murray failed to provide any ...