United States District Court, D. Maryland
L. Russell, III United States District Judge
MATTER is before the Court on Defendants J. Michael
Zeigler, Frank B. Bishop, Jr., Jeffrey A. Nines, Joseph
Cutter, Jr., Michael O'Haver,  Dayena Corcoran, William S.
Bohrer, and Joshua Vanskiver's Motion to Dismiss or, in
the Alternative, for Summary Judgment (“Defendants'
Motion”) (ECF No. 29),  and Plaintiff Steven
Tarpley's Motion for Preliminary Injunction (ECF No. 15),
Motion for Joinder of Parties (ECF No. 32),  and Motion for
Leave to Supplement Complaint and Joinder of Additional
Parties (“Motion to Supplement”) (ECF No.
This action arises from a series of incidents during
Tarpley's sentence at the North Branch Correctional
Institution (“NBCI”) and the punishments he
received related to them. The Motions are ripe for
disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local
Rule 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, the
Court will grant the Defendants' Motion. The Court will
deny as moot Tarpley's Motion for Preliminary Injunction
and his Motion for Joinder, and grant his Motion to
February 6, 2016 Incident and Subsequent
February 6, 2016, an NBCI prison officer, later identified as
Defendant William L. Thomas, found a document in a dayroom of
NBCI's Housing Unit 2 that celebrated the January 29,
2016 assaults on several NBCI correctional officers and
encouraged continued assaults on officers. (Am. Compl. ¶
15, ECF No. 5; id. Ex. 1 at 1, ECF No. 5-1; Suppl.
At 3, ECF 35-1). The document also advised inmates that, if
they needed help writing complaints about staff, they should
see “Steve” in Cell 10. (Defs.' Mot. Dismiss
Alter. Summ. J. [Defs.' Mot.”] Ex. 2 [“Feb.
6, 2016 Incident Case File”] at 34-35, ECF No. 29-6). A
subsequent search of Tarpley's property produced a
drawing of multiple tombstones with “R.I.P.” and
staff members' job title numbers on them. (Am. Compl.
¶ 15). The drawing also depicted a mushroom cloud with
the words, “How do you spell relief?” and
“The North Branch Redemption Project” written
inside the cloud. (Feb. 6, 2016 Incident Case File at 14).
Tarpley was charged with violating Rule 100 (prohibiting
inmates from engaging in a disruptive act) and Rule 104
(prohibiting the use of intimidating, coercive, or
threatening language). (Am. Compl. ¶ 15; Feb. 6, 2016
Incident Case File at 2).
February 23, 2016, Defendant Hearing Officer David Sipes held
a prison disciplinary hearing concerning the charges. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 15). At the hearing, Tarpley pleaded not
guilty. (Id.). Tarpley argued the infraction should
be dismissed because the notice he asked his cellmate to put
up in the dayroom did not cause a disturbance and because the
drawing was “just art.” (Feb. 6, 2016 Incident
Case File at 10).
concluded that both the drawing found in Tarpley's cell
and the letter Tarpley admitted writing that praised assaults
on correctional officers were intimidating and found Tarpley
guilty of violating Rule 104. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15; Feb. 6,
2016 Incident Case File at 11). Sipes found Tarpley not
guilty of Rule 100 because the text on the
“notice” did not encourage a disturbance; rather,
the directive was to write letters and file ARPs. (Am. Compl.
¶ 15; Feb. 6, 2016 Incident Case File at 11). Sipes
imposed sanctions of ninety days' segregation, revoked
200 good-conduct credits, and suspended Tarpley's visits
for 150 days. (Am. Compl. ¶ 15; Feb. 6, 2016 Incident
Case File at 11).
appealed Sipes' decision to Warden Bishop, arguing that
the decision violated Tarpley's procedural and
substantive due process rights, that enforcement of the rule
in this case was arbitrary. (Am. Compl. ¶ 16). On March
22, 2016, Bishop affirmed the guilty finding. (Id.
Ex. 2 at 1, ECF No. 5-2).
May 21, 2017 Incident and Subsequent
21, 2017, Officer O'Haver stopped Tarpley on an NBCI
walkway and searched an envelope Tarpley was carrying. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 19). The envelope contained another
inmate's trial transcripts. (Id.). Tarpley was
providing legal assistance to his fellow inmate “free
of charge, ” as permitted by Division of Corrections.
(Id.). According to the 2015 NBCI Inmate Handbook,
“it is the policy of the DPSCS not to interfere with,
or in any way hamper an individual's access to the
judicial process.” (Id.). Still, O'Haver
confiscated the transcript Tarpley was carrying and, after
Tarpley asked for O'Haver's name, ordered Tarpley
into a holding cell where he was strip-searched.
then issued Tarpley a Notice of Rule Violation, charging him
with violating Rule 309 (prohibiting stealing or possessing
the property of another person identified as stolen) and Rule
405 (prohibiting demonstration of disrespect or use of vulgar
language). (Id.; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 5 [“May
21, 2017 Incident Case File”] at 1, ECF No. 29-10).
Tarpley told O'Haver the transcript was not stolen;
O'Haver said Tarpley should not have asked for his name.
(Am. Compl. ¶ 19). Tarpley was distressed because he
thought he could lose as many as 900 days of good-conduct
credit. (Id.). Further, his confinement to
segregation deprived him of “some very important
recreation time” required to “stave off serious
and protracted back trouble caused by the ‘inactive
lifestyle' forced upon him as a result of his
incarceration at NBCI.” (Id.).
of the hearing on those charges, Tarpley's unit manager
tried to convince him to accept a guilty finding in exchange
for five days' cell restriction and threatened that if
Tarpley put up a fight he would lose all good-conduct credit.
(Id. ¶ 19). On June 15, 2017, Hearing Officer
Anthony Bryant presided over a hearing concerning
O'Haver's Notice of Rule Violation, and Tarpley lost
no good-conduct credits. (Id. ¶ 19).
July 17 & July 19, 2017 Incidents and Subsequent
17, 2017, an anonymous note was found hanging in the
recreation hall for Housing Unit 3 calling for inmates to
unite against Holly Pierce, a nurse at NBCI. (Defs.' Mot.
Ex. 8 [“July 2017 Incident Case File”] at 2-3,
ECF No. 29-13). The note referred to Pierce as an “evil
minded power tripping bitch, ” a “disreputable
slut, ” and a “malevolent slut, ” and
accused her of prescribing unauthorized medications without
regard to preexisting conditions. (Id. at 3-4). The
note encourages inmates to contact the Executive Director of
the Maryland Board of Nursing to complain about her actions
and to ask “Steve in cell B-1” “if you need
help pushing that pen.” (Id. at 4). Shift
Commander Cutter's investigation included comparing the
handwriting in the note found with known handwriting by
Tarpley. (Cutter Decl. at 2, ECF No. 29-14).
19, 2017, prison authorities summoned Tarpley via the
public-address system from the South Yard of NBCI to the gate
to be handcuffed. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 20- 21). Officers
escorted Tarpley to a holding cell while they inventoried his
property. (Id. ¶ 21). Cutter then charged
Tarpley with violating Rule 100 (disruptive act), Rule 104
(use of intimidating, coercive, or threatening language), and
Rule 405 (demonstrate or use vulgar language). (Id.
¶ 20; Cutter Decl. at 2). Tarpley states he never saw
the documents that apparently formed the basis of the
charges. (Id. ¶ 22). While other inmates who
arrived after Tarpley received hearings and were released
from segregation, Tarpley sat in disciplinary segregation for
thirty-two days before receiving a hearing. (Id.
¶¶ 20, 22).
August 22, 2017, Sipes presided over a hearing concerning the
charges. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 22). Tarpley argued that
the charges should be dismissed due to Cutter's lack of
personal knowledge of the allegations. (Id.). Sipes
concluded that “rules No. 100 and 104 were not
supported by the record.” (Id.). When Tarpley
denied being the author of the document upon which the
disrespect charge was based, Sipes shook a copy of
“some other paper, ” and described it as
“documentation at the highest level, ” explaining
that Zeigler emailed it to him for purposes of the hearing.
(Id.). Sipes did not allow Tarpley to read the
documents but insisted one was a letter that constituted a
threat. (Id.). Sipes then stated that if Tarpley did
not agree to an informal resolution and plead guilty to Rule
405 for disrespecting Holly Pierce, Sipes would convict him
of the use of coercive, intimidating, or threatening language
charge and revoke all of his good-conduct credit.
(Id.). Tarpley accepted an informal resolution and
received a thirty-day cell restriction; he was released from
segregation the following day and lost no good-conduct
credits. (Id.; Defs.' Mot. Ex. 10 [“Aug.
22, 2017 Hearing Records”] at 6, ECF No. 29-15).
August 23, 2017 Incident and Subsequent
August 23, 2017, Officer Joshua VanSkiver escorted Tarpley to
cell 3-A-25 following “some sort of mass
disturbance” requiring a security lockdown of the
housing unit. (Am. Compl. ¶ 24). Tarpley entered the
cell and sat down, but VanSkiver ordered Tarpley to stand up
so that his handcuffs could be removed and an inmate worker
could put Tarpley's property in the cell. (Id.
¶ 25). VanSkiver removed the chair from Tarpley's
cell, telling him it was broken and “did not belong
there anyway, ” and promised Tarpley he would get
another one to replace it. (Id.) VanSkiver knew
Tarpley had back problems but did not replace Tarpley's
days later, when Tarpley reminded Vanskiver about the chair,
Vanskiver said he forgot and asked Tarpley to keep reminding
him. (Id. ¶ 26). Concluding Vanskiver did not
intend to replace the chair, Tarpley drafted an
Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) complaint
and placed it in his cell door for pick-up. (Id.).
VanSkiver became irate and began “shrieking” that
his name was “Officer VanSkiver, not Joshua
VanSkiver.” (Id.). According to VanSkiver,
Tarpley yelled vulgarities and threatening statements at him.
(VanSkiver Decl. at 2, ECF No. 29-18). Shortly thereafter,
two officers escorted Tarpley to segregation. (Am. Compl.
¶ 26). VanSkiver then wrote a Notice of Infraction
charging Tarpley with violating Rule 104 (intimidating,
coercive, or threatening language) and Rule 312 (interfering
with or resisting the performance of staff duties). (Defs.
Mot. Ex. 19 [Aug. 26, 2017 Hearing Record”] at 4, ECF
requested Sipes recuse himself from hearing the charges
regarding VanSkiver, based on the “threats” he
made at the August 22, 2017 hearing, but Sipes denied the
motion. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). Sipes also denied
Tarpley's request for a continuance. (Id.). At
the hearing Tarpley argued in part that if he said,
“fuck you, I will kill you if I want, ” it was
not a threat. (Aug. 26, 2017 Hearing Record at 10). After
reviewing the housing unit video and listening to testimony,
Sipes found Tarpley guilty of the Rule 104 violation.
(Id.). Sipes found Tarpley not guilty of the Rule
312 violation. (Id.). As a penalty, Sipes imposed
270 days of segregation and revoked 120 days of good conduct
credit. (Id. at 11).
to Tarpley, Sipes “obfuscated the absence of the
evidence” Tarpley requested by considering a later ARP
rather than the one Tarpley wrote on the day of the VanSkiver
incident. (Am. Compl. ¶ 27). Tarpley tried to appeal
Sipes's decision, but Security Chief Bohrer said that the
appeal had not been received. (Id.).
seven-count Amended Complaint, as supplemented, Tarpley
alleges: “denial of due process, denial of adequate,
timely, and effective remedy for wrongful conviction and
deprivation of 200 good conduct credits” against Sipes
and Thomas (Count I); denial of due process and
“refusal of impartial hearing officer” against
Sipes (Count II); “retaliation/harassment, denial of
due process/willful knowing and malicious filing of false
report; false disciplinary charges” against Cutter,
O'Haver, Sipes, Mellott, and Thomas (Count III);
“conspiracy to retaliate, retaliation, denial of due
process, denial of timely, meaningful, and adequate appellate
review” against VanSkiver, Cutter, Bohrer, Nines, and
Bishop (Count IV); “failure to supervise, govern, and
discipline custody staff at [NBCI]” against Mellott,
Cutter, Bohrer, Nines, and Bishop (Count V); “failure
to supervise, govern, and discipline the operation of the
Department of Correction and its staff, denial of due
process” against Zeigler and Corcoran (Count VI);
“intentional infliction of emotional distress, denial
of due process, Eighth Amend, cruel and unusual
punishment” against VanSkiver, O'Haver, Cutter,
Sipes, and Thomas (Count VII). (Am. Compl. at 16-17). Tarpley
brings all of his federal constitutional claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (2018). (Id. ¶ 1). Tarpley
brings claims under the Maryland Declaration of Rights
against Thomas. (Pl.'s Mot. Suppl. 3-4, ECF No. 35).
Tarpley seeks compensatory and punitive damages. (Am. Compl.
26, 2018, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss or, in the
alternative, for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 29). To date, the
Court has no record Tarpley filed an Opposition. On August
16, 2018, Tarpley filed a “Line, ” (ECF No. 31),
asking whether his Motion for Exten[s]ion of Time to Obtain
Discovery” had been received. That same day, he filed a
Motion for Joinder of Parties, (ECF No. 32). On October 1,
2018, Tarpley filed a “Line Request, ” in part,
asking whether the Court received a “Rule 56(d) motion
mailed August 2, 2018.” (ECF No. 34). On October 9,
2018, Tarpley filed a Motion for Leave to Supplement
Complaint and Joinder of Additional Parties. (ECF No. 35). On
October 22, 2018, Tarpley requested a case summary and
informed the Court that he is no longer incarcerated. (ECF
Motion for ...