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Shiheed v. Webb

United States District Court, D. Maryland

July 16, 2019

YAHYI ABDUL SHIHEED, Plaintiff,
v.
WAYNE WEBB, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE L. RUSSELL, III UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendants Ronald Shoemaker, James Flannery, Bryan Cromwell, [1] James Garofalo, and James Fiorita's Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 43).[2] The Motion is ripe for disposition, and no hearing is necessary. See Local Rule 106.5 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND[3]

         Plaintiff Yahyi Abdul Shiheed is a prisoner confined at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”), in Cumberland, Maryland. (Compl. at 1, ECF No. 1).[4]In his original Complaint, Shiheed alleges that on August 18, 2016, while he was housed as a pretrial detainee at Jessup Correctional Institution (“JCI”) in Jessup, Maryland, unknown correctional officers, members of the “SRT team, ” assaulted him. (Id.). Shiheed pleads that he was in his cell when he observed Defendants assaulting two other inmates while they were “shaking down” the segregation tiers. (Id.). Shiheed told Defendants to stop. (Id.). Defendants came to Shiheed's cell and advised him that he was next. (Id.). Defendants then tried to close the door slot on his arm. (Id.). Defendants had Shiheed's cell door opened and they “beat [him] up by hitting, kicking[, ] and choking” him in his cell. (Id.). Defendants handcuffed Shiheed, took him out of the cell and slammed him onto the tier “bust[ing]” his head and eye. (Id.).

         On September 26, 2016, Shiheed sued “the Warden and Assistant Warden because they're in charge of this prison and what happens here at JCI with inmates and they know who entered the prison on 8/18/16 and they refuse to give me the officers names in this brutal assault.” (Id. at 5). Defendants Warden Wayne Webb and Assistant Warden Rosette Swan filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alterative, for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 21), which the Court granted. (ECF Nos. 28, 29). Attached to their Motion were documents which identified the correctional officers involved in the August 8, 2016 incident. (Webb & Swan's Mot. Dismiss Summ. J. [“Webb & Swan's Mot.”] Ex. 2 at 7, ECF No. 21-3).[5]As a result, the Court granted Shiheed's Motions to Amend the Complaint and Add Defendants and granted Webb and Swan's Motion. (ECF Nos. 28, 29).

         On January 25, 2019, Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 43). Shiheed filed an Opposition on February 13, 2019. (ECF No. 45). To date, the Court has no record that Defendants filed a Reply.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Conversion of Defendants' Motion

         Defendants style their Motion as a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment under Rule 56. A motion styled in this manner implicates the Court's discretion under Rule 12(d). See Kensington Volunteer Fire Dep't, Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F.Supp.2d 431, 436-37 (D.Md. 2011), aff'd, 684 F.3d 462 (4th Cir. 2012). This Rule provides that when “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). The Court “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.'” Wells-Bey v. Kopp, No. ELH-12-2319, 2013 WL 1700927, at *5 (D.Md. Apr. 16, 2013) (quoting 5C Wright & Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1366, at 159 (3d ed. 2004, 2012 Supp.)).

         The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion: notice and a reasonable opportunity for discovery. See Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. v. Mayor of Balt., 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013). 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. See Moret v. Harvey, 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md. 2005). 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).

         Ordinarily, summary judgment is inappropriate when “the parties have not had an opportunity for reasonable discovery.” E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011). Yet, “the party opposing summary judgment ‘cannot complain that summary judgment was granted without discovery unless that party had made an attempt to oppose the motion on the grounds that more time was needed for discovery.'” Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (quoting Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir. 1996)). To raise sufficiently the issue that more discovery is needed, the non-movant must typically file an affidavit or declaration under Rule 56(d), explaining the “specified reasons” why “it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). A Rule 56(d) affidavit is inadequate if it simply demands “discovery for the sake of discovery.” Hamilton v. Mayor of Balt., 807 F.Supp.2d 331, 342 (D.Md. 2011) (quoting Young v. UPS, No. DKC-08-2586, 2011 WL 665321, at *20 (D.Md. Feb. 14, 2011)). A Rule 56(d) request for discovery is properly denied when “the additional evidence sought for discovery would not have by itself created a genuine issue of material fact sufficient to defeat summary judgment.” Ingle ex rel. Estate of Ingle v. Yelton, 439 F.3d 191, 195 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Strag v. Bd. of Trs., Craven Cmty. Coll., 55 F.3d 943, 953 (4th Cir. 1995)).

         The Fourth Circuit has warned that it “‘place[s] great weight on the Rule 56[d] affidavit' and that ‘a reference to Rule 56[d] and the need for additional discovery in a memorandum of law in opposition to a motion for summary judgment is not an adequate substitute for a Rule 56[d] affidavit.'” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 244 (quoting Evans, 80 F.3d at 961). Failing to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit “is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.” Id. (quoting Evans, 80 F.3d at 961). Nevertheless, the Fourth Circuit has indicated that there are some limited instances in which summary judgment may be premature notwithstanding the non-movants' failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit. See id. A court may excuse the failure to file a Rule 56(d) affidavit when “fact-intensive issues, such as intent, are involved” and the nonmovant's objections to deciding summary judgment without discovery “serve[] as the functional equivalent of an affidavit.” Id. at 245 (quoting First Chicago Int'l v. United Exch. Co., 836 F.2d 1375, 1380-81 (D.C.Cir. 1988)).

         Here, Shiheed was on notice that the Court might resolve Defendants' Motion under Rule 56 because they styled their Motion in the alternative for summary judgment and presented extra-pleading material for the Court's consideration. See Moret, 381 F.Supp.2d at 464. Shiheed did not file a Rule 56(d) affidavit, nor does he otherwise assert that he needs discovery to properly address Defendants' Motion. Accordingly, the Court will construe Defendants' Motion as one for summary judgment.

         B. Standard of Review

         In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, drawing all justifiable inferences in that party's favor. Ricci v. DeStefano, 557 U.S. 557, 586 (2009); Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970)). Summary judgment is proper when the movant 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). Significantly, a party must be able to present the materials it cites in “a form that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2), and supporting affidavits and declarations “must be made on personal knowledge” and “set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

         Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to identify evidence showing there is genuine dispute of material fact. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). The nonmovant cannot create a genuine dispute of material fact “through mere speculation or the building of one inference upon another.” Othent ...


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