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Brightwell v. Warden

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 21, 2019

WARDEN, et al., Defendants



         Pending is a Motion to Dismiss, or in the alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF 20) filed by Defendants Warden, Secretary Stephen T. Moyer, Rachel Sessa, Commissioner of Correction, Adrian Boyd, and Adetokunbo Osilesi.[1] ECF 20. Plaintiff has responded. ECF 24. Upon review of the papers filed, this Court finds a hearing unnecessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the reasons stated below, the dispositive motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, [2] IS GRANTED.


         A. Plaintiffs Allegations

         Brightwell is an inmate at the Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup (MCI-J). On August 23, 2018, he filed the instant civil rights complaint presenting a laundry list of grievances about his incarceration. ECF 1. He subsequently filed an Amended Complaint alleging "conspiracy, abuse of authority, harassment, stealing property, discrimination intentionally, negligence, removal of open Court cases, Court exhibits, denial of access to Courts, mental abuse." ECF 8 at p. 1.

         In his Amended Complaint, ECF No. 8 at p. 6, Plaintiff alleges that in February of 2017, he entered a settlement agreement with employees of the Maryland Division of Correction resolving Brightwell v. Hershberger, et al., Civil Action No. PX-11 -3278.

         The agreement, attached as an exhibit to Defendants' dispositive motion, provided:

5. Property: While housed at Patuxent Institution, Plaintiff will be allowed access to his property maintained at Patuxent Institution within one (1) day of execution of this agreement and permitted to take any and all of the following items and to the extent that he does not have these items they will be provided within two (2) days of execution of this agreement: one comb, one hairbrush, two toothpaste, two deodorants, two bars of soap, two shampoo items, one mouthwash, one pack of tooth floss, two big towels, two big wash cloths, two white writing pads, two big ink pens, twenty white envelopes, give manila envelopes, all of his legal books, all of his religious books legal cases in court (all), all new novels that the Eastern Correctional Institution [("ECI)] sent to [Patuxent] that came from Barnes and Noble, and his petition to Governor of Maryland, etc.
6. Purchase of Approved Items: Plaintiff and/or his Counsel will be allowed to purchase approved items from an approved vendor for Plaintiffs use consistent with DPSCS guidelines for such items.

See ECF 20-3 at pp. 4-5. In addition to defining Plaintiffs allowable property, the agreement contemplated Plaintiffs transfer to MCI-J. Id. at p. 4.

         On April 25, 2018, while housed at MCI-J, Plaintiff observed Officer Osilesi carrying Plaintiffs X-Box 360 in a green trash bag. ECF 8 at p. 7. Plaintiff confronted Osilesi and accused him of stealing his property. Id. Osilesi advised Plaintiff that he was told to take the property. Id.

         Plaintiff asked to accompany the property and Osilesi told him to wait in the hallway of the G- building Control Center. Id. Approximately 20 minutes later Lt. Boyd arrived with two other correctional officers. Id. at p. 8. Osilesi advised the officers that Plaintiff refused to lock in to his cell, which Plaintiff disputed. Id. Lloyd escorted Plaintiff to his cell and slammed the cell door. Id. at p. 9.

         On August 15, 2018, Plaintiff was instructed by an unidentified officer to pack up his property because he was being transferred. ECF 8 at p. 9. He was given a large green trash bag to put his property in and the bag was taken to the property room by the unidentified officer. Id.

         When the transfer failed to occur, on August 17, 2018, Plaintiff requested that his property be returned to him. Id. When his property was returned several items were missing including a watch, legal books, court cases, typing paper, a "Steven Right Angle F Adapter Male to Female" for his television, evidence, exhibits, a college dictionary, Black's Law Dictionary, copies of DCDs and Directives, and certified mail receipts. Id. at pp. 9-10.

         Plaintiff alleges generally that since he was transferred to MCI-J in 2017 he has "been harassed, disliked, mentally abused, etc., by MCI-J Correctional Staff." Id. at p. 10. Upon his arrival at MCI-J, Plaintiff states he was placed in an unsanitary cell, GW-145. ECF 8 at p. 11. He claims that he had to bang on the cell door in order to get the attention of staff to open the door. He also claims that at times he missed religious classes and services because the cell door could not be opened. Id.

         Additionally, Plaintiff claims that his current cell assignment, HE-142, is also unsanitary. Id. He states that the toilet flushes on its own, there are large flying cock roaches, and that when the adjoining cell flushes the toilet it causes his toilet to spray waste. Id. at pp. 11-12. Additionally he claims the cell is often flooded. He states that there are holes in the walls around the windows. Id. at p. 12.

         Plaintiff also claims that he did not receive pay for working as a laundry man. ECF 8 at p. 12. Plaintiff states that Sgt. Blankinship inquired about his pay but all the money he earned was taken and put toward money he owed. Id. at pp. 12-13. Plaintiff claims this was an error as a Division of Correction Directive provides that he would be left $10.00 so that he would not become indigent. Id. Plaintiff stopped eating to protest his lack of pay. Id. at p. 13. Captain Johnson investigated Plaintiffs concerns and on July 24, 2018, he was given $10.00 for spending. Plaintiff states that he should have received $30.00--$10.00 each month. Id.

         On August 25, 2018, Sgt. James and two other correctional officers came to Plaintiffs cell to conduct a cell search. ECF 8 at p. 14. They advised Plaintiff they were looking for some books. Id. Plaintiff asked about his legal books, cases, and other property that had not been returned to him. Id. On October 14, 2018, Plaintiff addressed a request to Sgt. Jones regarding securing all of his legal books. Id. at. p. 15. He did not receive a response. Id.

         B. Defendants' Response

         i. Xbox Gaming System

         On December 30, 2016, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DSPSCS) promulgated Division of Correction Directive 220-004 "Inmate Personal Property" which allowed inmates to keep authorized personal property, including an Xbox gaming consoles in their cell. ECF 20-4 at p. 36. While incarcerated at Patuxent, Plaintiff acquired an Xbox, which he brought with him on June 13, 2017 when he was transferred to MCI-J. ECF No. 20-5, ¶ 3.

         On March 6, 2018, Warden Morgan prohibited any new Xboxes from entering the institution due to a statewide investigation Xboxes by the Division of Corrections. ECF 20-4 at p. 61. On April 20, 2018, all Xboxes in the institution were inspected and sealed with security tape. Id. at p. 62. Those inmates who possessed an Xbox were permitted to keep it. Id. On May 14, 2018, Commissioner Corcoran issued a memo noting that all Xboxes were being removed and examined from all facilities during the Xbox investigation and that DPSCS would thereafter return the gaming systems. Id.

         On April 25, 2018, Officer Osilesi removed Plaintiffs Xbox from his cell pursuant to the investigation. ECF 20-6 at p. 2; ECF 20-7 at p. 2. Plaintiff yelled at Osilesi and refused to lock in His cell, yelling also at Lt. Boyd and demanding to know who gave Osilesi permission to enter his cell and remove the gaming system. ECF 20-7 at p. 2. Boyd explained to Plaintiff that it was a statewide check of the gaming system and the Xbox would be returned after the investigation was complete. Id.

         On May 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed ARP MCI-J-0272-18 complaining that Officer Osilesi stole his Xbox from his cell. ECF 20-4 at p. 3. The ARP was investigated by Capt. Crystal Harris. ECF 20-8. Harris attempted to interview Plaintiff on May 29, 2018, but he refused to report to the p supervisor's office and stated that he did not want the Xbox. Id. at p. 2. Capt. Harris also noted all Xbox units were inspected by staff, including Plaintiffs. Id. at p. 3.

         On June 13, 2018, the Warden responded to Plaintiffs ARP, explaining that the ARP was dismissed because "an investigation revealed no evidence to support your claim....Your property was not stolen. Your Xbox was confiscated during the statewide search of all Xbox gaming systems. ECF 20-4 at p. 7. On or about May 29, 2018, the Xbox was presented to Plaintiff, but he refused to take it. ECF 20-4 at p. 8. Plaintiff was advised that the X-Box was in the property vault awaiting his action. ECF 20-4 at p. 8; ECF 20-9, ¶ 4.

         Plaintiff filed IGO No. 20181170 on July 11, 2018 as an appeal from the ARP MCI-J 0272-18. ECF 20-11, ¶ 5. The IGO dismissed Plaintiffs grievance on November 2, 2018, based on a determination that Plaintiff failed to state a claim and further finding that Plaintiff had been presented with a confiscation form regarding the X-Box which he refused to sign and that efforts were made to return the X-Box, but Plaintiff refused to accept it.. ECF 20-4 at p. 8.

         ii.. Wages

         Plaintiff was employed as a laundry worker at MCI-J beginning on March 2, 2018. ECF 20-9 at pp. 2, 9, 12; ECF 20-4 at p. 12. Prior to his employment he was indigent. Id. As a laundry worker, he earned a monthly salary of $29.45. ECF 20-9 at p. 13. On May 17, 2018, he was paid $57.00, representing his wages for March and April, 2018. Id., p. 9. Plaintiff had incurred debts of $910.00 for federal court filing fees, $57.39 in state fees, and $8.00 for copy card purchases. Id. Funds were deducted from Plaintiffs account and applied toward his debts. On May 17, 2018, $11.40 and $35.60 were deducted from his inmate account to pay on his federal and state debts respectively. Id. On June 4, 2018, $5.89 was taken from Plaintiff s account and applied to his federal debt and $13.56 was taken and applied to his state debt. Id.

         On August 1, 2018, plaintiff filed ARP MCI-J-0459-18 alleging he was denied wages for the first two months of his employment as a laundry worker on the evening shift. ECF 20-4 at p. 11. The ARP was dismissed as untimely. Id. Plaintiff s appeal to the Commissioner was also dismissed. Id. at p. 9. On September 24, 2018, Plaintiff filed IGO No. 20181594 as a grievance appeal from the disposition of ARP-MCIJ-0473-19, complaining that ARP MCIJ-0459-18 was improperly dismissed. ECF 20-11, ¶ 6. The grievance was dismissed on October 31, 2018, due to Plaintiffs failure to properly exhaust the ARP process. Id.

         iii. Conditions of Confinement

         When Plaintiff arrived at MCI-J on June 15, 2017, he was assigned to cell GW-145. ECF 20-5, ¶ 3. He was transferred to HW-130 on June 11, 2018, HE-213 on ...

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