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Reil v. Muir

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 28, 2019

AVERY REIL, Plaintiff
v.
MICHAEL MUIR, Facility Administrator, JOHN CODD, [1] CATHY GRANT, Case Manager, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          JAMES K. BREDAR, CHIEF JUDGE

         Pending is Maryland inmate Avery Reil's pro se Complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that he was denied access to the courts. Defendants, Michael Muir, Facility Manager, and Cathy Grant, Case Manager, have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 10. Reil filed a Motion to Deny Summary Judgment or Deny the Motion to Dismiss, with his declaration (ECF No. 13 at 3), and subsequently filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and a Motion for a Jury Trial. ECF No. 14, 18. Defendants filed an opposition to Reil's Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 15.

         After considering the submissions, the Court finds a hearing is unnecessary to resolve the issues. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For reasons to follow Defendants' Motion will be treated as a Motion for Summary Judgment and granted. Reil's Motion to Deny Summary Judgment or Deny Motion to Dismiss, Motion for Summary Judgment, and Motion for a Jury Trial will be denied.

         BACKGROUND

         Rett was incarcerated at Eastern Correctional Institution in Westover, Maryland, at the time he filed this Complaint on July 20, 2018. He has been transferred since to another facility. ECF No. 17. His allegations are based on incidents that occurred at ECI.

         In his Complaint, he alleges that he is indigent and unable to pay for postage for mail, and that certified mail he sent on March 6, 2018, was returned to him on March 9, 2018, with a note that read, "you do not have enough money in your account to mail out the certifieds [sic]: non-sufficient funds." Compl. ECF No. 1 at 3. Reil states he then wrote to his case manager, John Codd, to obtain "additional postage for my legal mail as DCD 250-1 says to do." Id. Reil states Codd never answered his letter. When Reil spoke to Codd on May 2, 2019, Codd informed him that he "knew nothing about this rule." Id. That same day, Reil sent an informal complaint to the head case manager, Ms. Grant, and asked her how to have his legal mail approved for postage.

         Reil alleges that he has had mail sent back to him "several times" for insufficient postage. Id. He does not explain the nature of these items or when they were returned. Rather, he invites the Court to look at the ECI mail log, which is not in the record Id.

         Reil filed Administrative Remedy Procedure (ARP) request ECI-A-0063-18 about his concerns. He received a response that informed him he did not qualify for postage for certified mail, but he could be approved for first class postage for his legal mail. Reil claims the delay in providing postage to him has required that he sell his food to obtain funds to timely send his legal mail and amounts to cruel and unusual punishment Id. Reil seeks damages and asks for injunctive relief to have the Division of Correction enforce its own mail policies and to retrain case management staff regarding these policies. Id.

         STANDARD FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

         Summary judgment is proper when the moving party demonstrates, through "particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations ..., admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c)(1)(A); see Baldwin v. City of Greensboro, 714 F.3d 828, 833 (4th Cir. 2013). If the party seeking summary judgment demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify evidence that shows a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S.317 (1986). The existence of only a "scintilla of evidence" is not enough to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S.242, 251-52 (1986). Instead, the evidentiary materials submitted must show facts from which the finder of fact reasonably could find for the party opposing summary judgment. Id.

         If this initial burden is met, the opposing party may not rest on the mere allegations in the complaint. Id. at 247-48. The opposing party "must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, summary judgment is appropriate. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248-49.

         The argued existence of a factual dispute does not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion. Id. "If the evidence is merely colorable or is not significantly probative," summary judgment is appropriate. Id. at 249-50 (citations omitted). "When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt [the moving party's] version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007). On a motion for summary judgment, the court considers the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, drawing all justifiable inferences in his favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 585-86 (2009).

         When the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment, the court must "review each motion separately on its own merits to 'determine whether either of the parties deserves judgment as a matter of law.' Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003) (quoting Philip Morris Inc. v. Harshbarger, 122 F.3d 58, 62 n.4 (1st Cir. 1997)). Moreover, "[w]hen considering each individual motion, the court must take care to 'resolve all factual disputes and any competing, rational inferences in the light most favorable' to the party opposing that motion." Id. (quoting Wightman v. Springfield Terminal Ry. Co., 100 F.3d 228, 230 (1st Cir. 1996)). A court must, however, also abide by its affirmative obligation to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from going to trial. Drewitt v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778-79 (4th Cir. 1993).

         DISCUSSION

         Defendants argue that they are entitled to dismissal or summary judgment on several grounds including: failure to exhaust administrative remedies; failure to state a constitutional claim; respondeat superior; and qualified immunity. In support of their dispositive motion, Defendants have filed verified exhibits and declarations. Reil's cross-motion for summary judgment argues without supporting details that there is no genuine dispute of material fact at issue and that Defendants have been deliberately indifferent to their own policies and rules in violation of his right to due process and access to the courts. ECF No. 14 at 1.

         I. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies.

         Defendants argue that Reil did not properly present his claims through the ARP process before filing this lawsuit; therefore, the claims must be dismissed pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 ...


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