United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Hollander United States District Judge.
self-represented plaintiff, Scotland Williams, an inmate
incarcerated at North Branch Correctional Institution
(“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, brings this
civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against a host
of defendants: Stephen Moyer, Secretary of the Maryland
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
(“DPSCS”); Dayena Corcoran, Commissioner of the
Division of Correction (“DOC”); Warden Frank
Bishop; Correctional Officer Robert Kruise Jr.; Mailroom Staff
Doe 1-10; Mailroom Supervisor; M. Rose; and R. Hammons, the
librarian. ECF 1. Williams alleges that defendants
have violated his First Amendment and due process rights by
improperly handling his mail at NBCI. Id. He seeks
injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive
damages. Id. at 29-30.
4, 2018, defendants Moyer, Corcoran, Bishop, and Kruise moved
to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment. ECF
12. The motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 12-1)
(collectively, the “Motion”) and several
exhibits. The Court granted plaintiff's requests for an
extension of time in which to respond. ECF 15; ECF 16; ECF
19; ECF 21. In January 2019, Williams filed several responses
in opposition. ECF 24-26; ECF 25; ECF 26. No. reply was
review of the record, exhibits, and applicable law, the court
deems a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6
(D. Md. 2018). Defendants' Motion, construed as a motion
for summary judgment, shall be granted.
complains that while housed at NBCI, defendants have
interfered with his legal and personal mail, in violation of
his constitutional rights; the NBCI librarian has been
negligent in managing her staff; and prison officials have
failed to respond to his administrative remedy grievances
regarding these issues. ECF 1. Williams lists over 30 separate
instances alleged to have taken place between 2010 and 2015
where mail he received from at least 13 different
jurisdictions was “opened and inspected outside [his]
presence.” Id. at 6-14. Williams'
Complaint cites six instances that occurred within three
years of the date of filing of this lawsuit, where he claims
his legal mail was opened and inspected outside of his
presence, in violation of prison directives and State
regulations regarding inmate mail. Id. at 5-6, 13.
2013, Williams filed two complaints in this court, pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at 17. But, he claims
that both were dismissed because the court did not receive
his responses in a timely manner. Id. With regard to
the first case, Civil Action No. ELH-13-2561, Williams
asserts that defendant Kruise confiscated his response to the
opposing party's dispositive motion because Williams had
written another inmate's name on the envelope instead of
his own name. Id. at 17-18. And, according to
Williams, this court dismissed the complaint on February 2,
2015, because it did not receive his response. Id.
at 18. With regard to the second case, Civil Action No.
ELH-13-2931, Williams maintains that defendant Rose returned
Williams' response because he had exceeded the
seven-letter limit. Id. Williams avers that this
court dismissed that complaint because it did not receive his
response in a timely manner. Id. at 19.
to Williams, since June 19, 2013, NBCI has banned all
greeting cards and has returned them to senders, unopened.
Id. at 21-22. In addition, he alleges that since the
Spring of 2016, defendants have confiscated as contraband any
envelopes that contain confidential legal correspondence.
Id. at 16. According to Williams, mailroom staff
make a photocopy of the envelope, a correctional officer
opens the legal mail in the inmate's presence, and the
correctional officer delivers the contents and the photocopy
but not the original envelope. Id. Williams
complains that the photocopy does not show the date the mail
was received. Id. at 16-17.
addition, Williams alleges that defendant Hammons, the
librarian at NBCI, is unable to manage or motivate her staff
to respond to inmates' requests for legal information.
Id. at 21. Williams claims that the library staff
responds to requests sporadically or not at all, and they
provide cases with incorrect citations. Id. Williams
avers that, as a result, the library staff has severely
prejudiced his access to the courts. Id.
Williams claims that he has informed defendants Moyer,
Corcoran, and Bishop about these issues by using the
Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”).
Id. at 19. Williams alleges that Corcoran and Bishop
have failed to intervene and have refused to adequately
address his grievances. Id. at 23-26.
the exception of legal mail, all incoming inmate mail is
opened and inspected for prohibited contraband in the prison
mail room prior to delivery to inmates. Executive Directive
OPS.250.0001.05(C)(1) and (3); ECF 12-2 at 4-5. Except for
legal mail, postage stamps, postage meter labels, address
labels, or other items affixed to mail are removed before the
mail is delivered to inmates. OPS.250.0001.05(C)(7)(1).
Id. at 7. Williams was considered
“indigent” in March of 2015 and subject to a
seven-letter per week limit unless he specifically requested
additional postage and legal mail related materials, as
required by OPS.250.0001.05(E)(1)-(5). Id. at 8-9;
see also ECF 5-1 at 17.
incoming legal mail, a photocopy of the envelope is made,
which is provided to the inmate, along with the contents,
once the legal mail has been properly inspected and
processed. OPS.250.0001.05(C)(6)(a)-(d); ECF 12-2 at 6-7. The
Code of Maryland Regulations (“COMAR”) provides,
in relevant part, at 12.02.20.01B. (4):
“Legal mail” means mail either addressed by an
inmate to, or received on official stationery from, any of
the following individuals or agencies:
(a) A court;
(b) A judge;
(c) A clerk of court;
(d) An attorney;
(e) The American Civil Liberties Union;
(f) The Legal Aid Bureau;
(g) The Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services;
(h) The Commissioner of Correction;
(i) Director, Patuxent Institution; and
(j) Elected or appointed public officials.
incoming legal mail is recorded in the Legal Mail Logbook
kept in the prison mailroom. NBCI.250.0001.05(C)(4);
see ECF 12-2 at 35. From February to April and
October of 2015, the months relevant to Williams'
lawsuit, Williams had a total of 33 pieces of incoming legal
mail that was recorded in the NBCI Legal Mail Logbook, and
for which he signed. Id. at 48-73; see ECF
12-1 at 5-6.
any legal mail and the photocopy of its envelope are
delivered to an inmate, the original envelope is destroyed.
OPS.250.0001.05(C)(6)(d); ECF 12-2 at 7. Defendants maintain
that because legal mail is opened and inspected in the
presence of the inmate and, as a result, is not subject to
the same rigorous inspection process as regular mail, there
is a greater potential for illegal contraband to enter the
institution through legal mail. ECF 12-1 at 6.
Kruise declares that he has no recollection of receiving an
envelope of legal documents from Williams in September of
2014 to be placed in the mailbox. See ECF 12-3,
¶ 3. When Kruise was assigned to the segregation tier
where Williams was housed at that time, Kruise would pick up
any outgoing mail from inmates at their cells; his duty
assignment did not require him to inspect any inmate mail.
Id. Therefore, Kruise denies that he confiscated
Williams' mail and also denies that he told Williams he
was confiscating the mail because Williams used another
inmate's name on the envelope. Id.
Bishop expects the NBCI staff to comply with the Executive
Directives and NBCI Facility Directives regarding inmate mail
and inmate grievances. See ECF 12-5, ¶ 3. When
responding to an inmate's grievance, Warden Bishop relies
on staff to review and prepare a response for his signature.
Id. at ¶ 4.
at NBCI from 2008 to 2018, Williams filed a total of 106 ARP
complaints, which were all reviewed and responded to by NBCI
staff. ECF 12-2 at 75-79. A search of the available records
did not produce any record of the Inmate Grievance Office
(“IGO”) having received any relevant ARP appeal
from Williams during the relevant time period. See
ECF 12-4, ¶ 3.
Standard of Review
Motion (ECF 12) 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. 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).
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 (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, ” 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); see Adams Hous., LLC v. The City of
Salisbury, Maryland, 672 Fed.Appx. 220, 222 (4th Cir.
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).
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.” 5C
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 ...