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Morris v. Bishop

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 9, 2019

BRANDON MORRIS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN FRANK B. BISHOP, JR., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          Catherine C. Blake United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Brandon Morris, an inmate at North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI), filed the above-captioned civil rights action challenging his continued placement on administrative segregation. ECF No. 1. Defendant Bishop filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 14, and Morris filed a Response in Opposition, ECF No. 16. The Motion is now ripe for review. The Court finds a hearing in these matters unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Bishop's dispositive Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, will be GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         A. Morris's Complaint

         In its entirety, Morris's Statement of Claim is as follows:

I've been in solitary confinement since 1-26-06 for infractions on said date. Per correctional service article 9-616[c][3], since I've no other infractions renewing or prolonging Ad Seg time I'm no longer a risk to general population. Frank Bishop approves my Ad Seg because the victim of my crime was a fellow coworker, friend. It's a personal vendetta and not by policy.

ECF No. 1 at 2. As relief, Morris requests that his "administrative segregation solitary confinement" be terminated and that he be "transferred to general population at an out of state prison[.]" Id. at 3.

         B. Bishop's Motion & Exhibits

         Bishop has filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, in which he argues that he is entitled to judgment in his favor because Morris has not exhausted the administrative grievance process; Morris's placement on administrative segregation does not implicate a protected liberty interest triggering due process protections under the Fourteenth Amendment; Morris has failed to allege facts to support an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim because he has not alleged that he suffered a serious injury; and Morris's assertions that Bishop is retaliating against him due to a personal vendetta are conclusory and unsupported by the evidence.

         In support of his dispositive Motion, Bishop has submitted several exhibits. These documents reflect that in 2006, while incarcerated at Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) on unspecified charges and receiving medical treatment at a local hospital under the custody of Officer Wroten, Morris took Wroten's service revolver and shot Wroten in the face, causing injuries from which Wroten died several days later. ECF No. 14-3 at 6, 9-10, 12. After shooting Wroten, Morris fled with the revolver and "took a hospital visitor hostage and then carjacked a taxi." Id. at 12. Morris was later convicted in state court of first degree murder and other charges related to the incident and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole plus 301 years. Id. Following an institutional hearing, he was also found guilty of several rule violations stemming from the incident and sanctioned with six years of disciplinary segregation. Id. at 8-10.

         Between October 2009 and September 2014, Morris was incarcerated with the New Mexico Corrections Department pursuant to an Interstate Corrections Compact (ICC) Agreement. Id. at 2; ECF No. 14-4 at 2. After threatening and harassing correctional staff members, New Mexico requested that Morris be returned to Maryland. ECF No. 14-4 at 2. Morris was returned to North Branch Correctional Institution (NBCI) in September 2014, where he remained until December 2014. ECF No. 14-3 at 2. At that time, he was placed with the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) pursuant to a corrections agreement. Id; ECF No. 14-4 at 3. However, Morris was again returned to NBCI in February 2016, after the Federal BOP indicated that it was "unable to continue to house him due to his extensive management and mental health concerns" and the fact that he "require[d] specialized housing" which was in limited supply. ECF No. 14-4 at 3.

         Once Morris returned to NBCI, he was placed on administrative segregation. ECF No. 14-3 at 12-14. According to a memorandum from NBCFs assistant warden, "[d]ue to the nature of the [2006 murder of Wroten and related crimes] and the inmate's action[, ] inmate Morris should be listed dangerous to protect the safety of staff and other inmates." Id. at 12.

         In October 2016, Morris was charged with staff assault and other offenses after throwing a liquid substance on a corrections officer. Id. at 21. He refused to participate in the disciplinary hearing, and was found guilty of the charged violations in abstentia. Id. at 22, 25. Based on the guilty finding, Morris was sanctioned with 120 days of disciplinary segregation, which was effective from October 19, 2016 through February 15, 2017. Id. at 4, 26. After Morris's disciplinary segregation concluded on February 15, 2017, he was returned to administrative segregation. See Id. at 3 8 (stating that Morris was assigned "CM-WJ-Segregation- Administrative" effective February 15, 2017).

         Bishop has also submitted copies of the annual certification for Morris to remain on administrative segregation/special confinement housing. On February 8, 2017, the administrative segregation team recommended that Morris "be continued on Admin Seg until transferred out of state," citing Morris's conviction and his disciplinary infractions. Id. at 13. This recommendation was approved by Headquarters on March 3, 2017. Id. Another recommendation was submitted the following year on February 7, 2018; it appears that the recommendation was approved, though no date is provided. Id. at 14. Bishop has submitted the monthly reviews of Morris's administrative segregation/special confinement housing occurring between February 2018 and August 2018, which note that the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is attempting to find another state to accept Morris under an ICC Agreement. Id. at 38-51.

         Further, Bishop has submitted an affidavit stating that he did not make decisions regarding Morris "as part of a personal vendetta," explaining that he "did not work at the Roxbury Correctional Institution when Inmate Morris escaped and murdered Officer Wroten" and "did not have a personal relationship with Officer Wroten." ECF No. 14-6 at 2. Bishop also submitted an affidavit from Samiyah Hassan, an Administrative Officer with the Inmate Grievance Office (IGO), stating that Morris had not filed any grievances with the IGO regarding his administrative segregation status. ECF No. 14-7 at 1.

         C. Morris's Response

         Morris filed a Response in Opposition to Bishop's Motion that is much more detailed than his original Complaint. ECF No. 16. In the Response, Morris claims that he has been held in segregation past his segregation end date of February 15, 2017. Id. at 1, 3, 5-6. He conclusorily claims that Bishop is retaliating against him because "only the Defendant[']s personal vindictiveness" would cause Morris to be detained beyond his segregation end date. Id. at 5. Further, he contends that the monthly and annual reviews of his segregation status are "flawed" and "perfunctory in that they were meaningless" because the case management committee has failed to consider available alternatives as required by the Case Management Manual. Id. at 1, 3.[1]

         As to Bishop's contention that Morris has not demonstrated an injury sufficient to sustain his Eighth Amendment claim, Morris asserts that he has suffered a serious emotional harm. Id. at 4.- However, as proof of his injury, he cites his diagnosis of and treatment for various mental illnesses during his incarceration outside of Maryland. Id. (citing diagnosis and treatment in Leavenworth Kansas in 2008 and 2009, and his "clinical contacts" between December 2014 and October 2015 while he was in custody of the Federal BOP). For the first time in his response, he contends that he fears for his life due to suicidal ideation, that he has asked correctional officers for help with this but they have ignored him, and that he is "in desperate need of [his] medication and treatment." Id.

         Finally, as to Bishop's exhaustion argument, Morris asserts that he did send a grievance to the IGO but never received a response, and he speculates that "officers were either throwing away my mail or ...


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