United States District Court, D. Maryland
CATHERINE C. BLAKE UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Bryant-El is an inmate at the North Branch Correctional
Institution (NBCI) in Cumberland, Maryland, who is proceeding
as a self-represented plaintiff in this civil rights action
filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He alleges that
defendants violated his rights under the First Amendment to
the United States Constitution and under unspecified Maryland
state law. Complaint, ECF 1. Defendants Mary Jane Rose and
Donald Bennett,  via their counsel, filed a Motion to
Dismiss or Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF 15. Bryant-El
filed an opposition supported by his declaration. ECF 19,
19-3. Defendants filed a Reply with a declaration. ECF 20,
20-1. The case is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is
necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For
reasons discussed below, defendants' Motion to Dismiss or
for Summary Judgment will be granted.
complaint, Bryant-El alleges that his rights under the First
Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth
Amendment of the United States Constitution were violated
because his mail has been delayed or dented to him on several
occasions. ECF 2 at pp. 2-3. Specifically, he states that he
paid $150.00 to Ms. Carolyn Flores, the owner of ConPals.com,
to create an internet webpage profile for him. Id.
at p. 3. On February 23, 2017 and March 6, 2017, Flores sent
two pictures to him at NBCI through the United States Postal
Service by first class mail. Id. Bryant-El states
that he never received the pictures. Id. Flores then
mailed the pictures a third time, this time posting them by
certified mail, and Bryant-EI received them on April 28,
2017. Id; see also Flores email, ECF 15-2 at p. 3.
also alleges that two photos sent by his cousin Javon Beasley
were being withheld because they contained nudity.
Id. at p. 6. Bryant-El states he received notice
about two explicit photographs from someone who works in the
mailroom who identified him or herself as "KD."
Id. Bryant-El also alleges in the Complaint that
Captain Werner informed him that there were sixteen other
photos and one letter, all from Javon Beasley, that had been
withheld for approximately one month and eighteen days.
Id. Bryant-El states that he received no explanation
for the delay in giving him the letter and sixteen
photographs. Id. Werner denies telling Bryant-El
about the additional sixteen pictures and one letter withheld
from him. ECF 20-1 at 1. ECF 20- 1 at ¶5.
argues there was no penological reason for not forwarding him
the mail with the two pictures sent to him by Flores. On May
13, 2017, he filed an administrative remedy procedure (ARP)
request, asserting that he was not receiving his mail and
that he believed some of his mail was returned without his
knowledge. ARP NBCI-1093-17, ECF 15-2 at p. 1. Captain
Wernerinvestigated the complaint and interviewed
Bryant-El. ECF 15-2 at p. 5. Bryant-El claims that it was
during this interview that Werner told him that Mary Jane
Rose and Donald Bennett were primarily responsible for
handling the mail. ECF 1 at pp. 5-6.
is suing defendants in their individual and official
capacities.: Id. at p. 7. He claims Rose and Bennett
violated his First Amendment rights by not forwarding his
mail to him. Id. at p. 4. He claims that Rose, the
mail room supervisor and Bennett, a mail room employee,
violated his right sunder the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment by failing to follow departmental
regulations. Id. at 4-5, 7. As relief, he seeks
"defendant Bennett. Five Thousand Dollars punitive
damages and Five Thousand Dollars Compensatory damages
against Defendant KD." Id. at p.
Bryant-El's complaint is unverified.
response to Bryant-El's complaint, the defendants filed
their motion to dismiss or for summary judgment. ECF 15. They
attached documents related to Werner's investigation of
Bryant-El's ARP complaint, including documentation of
Werner interviewing Bryant-El, contacting mailroom staff, and
reviewing the ConPals correspondence. ECF 15-2 at pp. 5-6.
After completing the inquiry, Werner recommended dismissing
the ARP. ECF 15-1 at p. 3. Werner concluded that Bryant-El
could provide no tangible evidence to substantiate his claim
beyond correspondence from ConPals. ECF 15-2 at p. 6. Werner
determined that the letter did not provide any "factual
physical evidence beyond the author making the alleged
claim." Id. He noted that the facility had
"two pieces of tangible evidence" in the form of
"Notices to Withhold Mail" that corroborated
mailroom compliance with institutional mail policy.
Id. Werner also contacted the mailroom to confirm
there were no other records of holds for Bryant-El on file.
ECF 15-2 at pp. 6, 7; see also Werner Aff. ECF 20-1
at ¶ 5.
on these findings, the institutional ARP Coordinator
determined that Bryant-El's ARP was without merit, and
dismissed it on June 2, 2017 in accordance with DCD-185-001,
ECF 15-2 at p. 1, and informed him:
[Y]ou claim that your incoming mail was returned or withheld
without your knowledge and/or permission. While you offer a
letter from CONPALS Inmate Connections. com as proof, no
tangible evidence exists beyond that letter of allegation to
substantiate your claim. Mail is handled in accordance with
OPS.250.0'001 and NBCI.250.0001 with the facility having
two (2) pieces of tangible documented evidence, dated 2/3/17
and 5/22/17, to support that existing policy is being
ECF 15-2 at p. 6.
Division of Correction's inmate mail policy is to
"permit an inmate to correspond with family, friends,
officials, and other significant community contacts with a
minimum of interference and consistent with the legitimate
security needs of a correctional or detention
facility.". Executive Directive OPS.250.0001.03(A) ECF
15-3 at p. 1. The record shows Bryant-El received two notices
that his mail had been withheld. The first, dated February 3,
2017, reflects that two sexually explicit photos were
withheld pursuant to OPS.250.0001, 05(C)(3)(b)(vi), ECF 15-2
at p. 8, which states that "[m]ail room staff shall
inspect all incoming inmate mail, regardless of form to
ensure the mail... [d]oes not.'.. [d]epict or contain
sexually explicit material, nudity, or obscenities[, ]"
ECF 15-3 at p. 4. A second notice, dated May 22, 2017, shows
that a page written in magic marker was withheld pursuant to
OPS.250.0001.05(C)(3)(b)(ii), ECF 15-2 at p. 9, which states
that "[m]ail room staff shall inspect all incoming
inmate mail, regardless of form to ensure the mail. .. [d]oes
not. .. [h]ave after market alterations, such as paint,
crayon, marker ink, glitter, cloth, or string[, ]" ECF
15-3 at p. 4.
declaration attached to his opposition, Bryant-El asks for
discovery to obtain testimony from Captain Werner about the
letter and 16 pictures purportedly withheld for one month and
eighteen days, procedural information about mail collection
at NBCI, and similar complaints written by other prisoners to
show a systematic ongoing failure by defendants to comply
with the Constitution. ECF 19-3 at p. 2. In this district,
discovery may not commence unless ordered by the Court, the
parties agree, or a Scheduling Order has been issued.