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Rico v. Green

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 6, 2019

MICHAEL RICO, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT GREEN, Defendant. MICHAEL RICO, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSAN MALAGARI, Defendant. MICHAEL RICO, Plaintiff,
v.
SGT. CHRISTOPHER AVEN, Defendant. MICHAEL BRIAN RICO, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC WATKINS, Defendant. MICHAEL RICO, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBIN WHITE, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          GEORGE J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         On June 27, 2018, pro se Plaintiff Michael Rico filed separate 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaints against Robert Green, Susan Malagari, Sgt. Christopher Auen, [1] Eric Watkins, and Robin White (collectively, "Defendants"). ECF No. 1 in Civil Action Nos. GJH-18-1949 ("No. 49"), GJH-18-1950 ("No. 50"), GJH-18-1951 ("No. 51"); GJH-18-1952 ("No. 52"), GJH-18-1953 ("No. 53"). Rico claims that each Defendant violated his constitutional rights while he was housed in the Montgomery County Correctional Facility ("MCCF") in Boyds, Maryland from 2017 to 2018. See Id. He seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as monetary damages. Id.

         Subsequently, Defendants Green, Malagari, Auen, and White each filed Motions to Dismiss. ECF No. 14, No. 49; ECF No. 10, No. 50; ECF No. 13, No. 51; ECF No. 17, No. 53. Meanwhile, Defendant Watkins filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss and a Partial Answer. ECF Nos. 11 & 12, No. 52. Rico responded to each of Defendants' motions. ECF Nos. 16 & 17, No. 49; ECF Nos. 12 & 17, No. 50; ECF Nos. 15 & 17, No. 51; ECF No. 16, No. 52; ECF No. 19, No. 53. Defendants Green, Auen, and Watkins then replied. ECF No. 18, No. 49; ECF No. 20, No. 51; ECF No. 22, No. 52. Rico filed Motions to File Surreply as to Green, Auen, and White (ECF No. 28, No. 49; ECF No. 23, No. 51; ECF No. 34, No. 53), which shall be granted.[2] Accordingly, Green's Motion to Strike Surreply (ECF No. 26, No. 49) will be denied as moot.

         Given the relatedness of Rico's allegations against Defendants, the cases are best considered together for the purpose of dispositive review and in the interest of judicial economy. Therefore, they shall be consolidated into No. 49, and the Clerk shall be directed to close Nos. 50-53.

         For the reasons stated below, the Motions to Dismiss filed by Defendants Green, Malagari, Auen, and White shall be granted in part and denied without prejudice in part. Defendant Watkins' Partial Motion to Dismiss shall be granted. To the extent Rico seeks declaratory or injunctive relief in these consolidated cases, those claims shall be dismissed. His claims for monetary damages shall proceed. Within 30 days of the date of this Order, Defendants shall file an Answer to the consolidated Complaint ("Complaint") or a renewed dispositive motion with adequate supporting materials. The parties are reminded that all future pleadings related to these claims must note "Civil Action No. GJH-18-1949."

         I. BACKGROUND

         Rico alleges that at 3:30 a.m. on September 28, 2017, he was brought to the MCCF medical unit after complaining of a migraine and vomiting. ECF No. 1 at 4-5, No. 52.[3] Rico states that he asked for medicine, but the nurse who was on duty refused to give it to him. Id. After Rico had a disagreement with the nurse, correctional officers arrived. Id. One of the officers, Defendant Eric Watkins, handcuffed Rico with his hands behind his back, brought him to the segregation unit, and told him to enter a shower and face the rear wall in order to be strip searched. Id. at 6. Rico claims that Watkins then slammed his head on the wall three times, causing a gash to his right eye, before slamming him to the ground. Id. At that time, another officer entered and Watkins performed the strip search, allegedly grabbing Rico's genitals. Id. Rico states that about an hour later, he was taken to the hospital to be treated for his injuries. Id.

         Rico has filed suit against Watkins, claiming that as a result of the assault he continues to suffer physically and psychologically. Id. As relief, he seeks paid medical therapy and treatment, monetary damages for pain and suffering, and an order directing Defendants to update the MCCF inmate handbook to include a discussion of correctional officers' use of force, including the scope of strip searches. Id. at 7.

         Rico also filed suit against Robin White, a Nurse Supervisor at MCCF, whom he claims is responsible for the nursing staff. ECF 1 at 5-7, No. 53. According to Rico, the September 28, 2017 episode in which he was denied medication led to the assault by Watkins. Id. at 5-7. Rico also claims that White has repeatedly refused to give him needed medication and failed to address grievances involving her staff. Id. As relief, he seeks more accountability and oversight within the nursing staff, a change in policy to allow inmates to keep medication in their cells, and "monetary damages for pain and suffering." Id. at 5.

         Rico also filed a civil action against Christopher Auen, whom Rico claims was responsible for investigating the assault by Watkins. ECF No. 1 at 3, No. 51. Specifically, Rico alleges that Auen admitted he did not investigate Rico's claim that Watkins grabbed his genitals during the strip search. Id. As relief, Rico seeks possible removal of Auen, better oversight at MCCF, as well as "monetary damages for pain and suffering from assault." Id.

         Lastly, Rico brought suit against Robert Green, the Director of the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation ("MCDOCR"), [4] and Susan Malagari, Warden of MCDOCR. ECF No. 1, Nos. 49 & 50. Rico claims that Green had been aware of the deficiencies of the surveillance camera system at MCCF for 10 years but did not install new and additional cameras until March 8, 2018. ECF No. 1 at 4, No. 49. Rico also claims that Green failed to respond to grievances from March 12, 2018 to May 8, 2018, and that Green and Malagari have admitted that they do not know what happens to grievances. Id. at 4-5; ECF 1 at 5-6, No. 50. According to Rico, these failures in the grievance process at MCCF enabled his assault on September 28, 2017 and endangered his health and safety on December 8, 2018. Id.

         Moreover, Rico claims that under Green and Malagari's supervision, no one at MCCF knew the process for handling inmates' certified mail and, as a result, he was not provided certified mail service from March to April 2018. ECF No. 1 at 5-6, No. 49; ECF No. 1 at 4-5, No. 50. Rico also alleges that Green and Malagari have failed to update and correct the MCCF inmate handbook to reflect policies regarding use of force, strip searches, leg shackles, and certified mail. ECF No. 1 at 6, No. 49; ECF No. 1 at 6, No. 50. Rico also alleges that on several occasions, MCCF staff violated a "quad schedule" made effective as of March 1, 2018 which provided that inmates be allowed 30 minutes outside the cell, and that he was punished for "inciting a riot" by being locked in his cell because he was informing inmates of their rights. ECF No. 1 at 6-7, No. 49; ECF No. 1 at 7, No. 50.

         As relief, Rico seeks an order directing Defendants to eliminate the quad schedule and enforce state standards for time that inmates may spend outside of their cells, fix the grievance process at MCCF, submit to monitors and audits, properly update the inmate handbook, and provide certified mail service. ECF No. 1 at 4, 8, Nos. 49 & 50. In addition, he seeks "monetary damages for pain and suffering from assault by Sgt. Eric Watkins" which resulted from "failures of grievance process and ... camera failures." Id.

         On July 11, 2018, Rico was released from MCCF and transferred to the Maryland State Division of Corrections, which operates under the Department of Public Safety ...


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