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Lewis v. Campbell

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 30, 2019

TREMAYNE LEWIS, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN Y CAMPBELL, [1] CAPTAIN APERA SCOTT, CAPTAIN ELWYN EDWARDS, CAPTAIN MICHAEL ENNIS, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Paul W. Grimm United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Tremayne Lewis, a Maryland Division of Corrections prisoner, alleges that while housed at Jessup Correctional Institution (“JCI”) he was assaulted by unidentified members of a Special Operations Group (“SOG”) approved by Warden Campbell, supervised by Captains Edwards and Scott, and led by Captain Ennis. Compl. 3, ECF 1. Essentially, Lewis argues that Warden Campbell knowingly permitted correctional officers to use excessive force against him during a cell extraction in violation of the Eighth Amendment, which prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” U.S. Const. amend. VIII.

         Defendants filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment (ECF No. 12), which I will construe as a motion to dismiss. Lewis has opposed the motion. Opp'n, ECF No. 17. A hearing is not needed to resolve Defendants' motion. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). For the following reasons, Defendants' motion is denied.

         Background

         Lewis alleges that SOG members assaulted him in his cell on March 8, 2018, at around 2:30 a.m. Compl. 3. The members allegedly shot him with rubber bullets in the right eye and right temple and permitted a “K-9 dog” to bark in his face while they kicked and pepper-sprayed him. Id.

         Defendants, in response, say Warden Campbell had ordered a “planned Use of Force” against Lewis “because he refused a facility transfer and [was] believed to be in possession of a homemade weapon.” Ennis Decl. ¶ 3, ECF No. 12-3.[2] Captain Ennis's declaration asserts that Lewis ignored multiple orders to clear obstructions from his cell and was lying on the floor with his hands behind his back. Id. ¶ 4. The team took several minutes to clear enough of the obstruction to open the cell door several inches. When Lewis attempted to grab members of the team, Officer Pence[3] shot multiple non-lethal “beanbag rounds” (as opposed to rubber bullets) through the food port, none of which hit Lewis, according to Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 5-6. When Lewis continued to resist, Captain Ennis sprayed multiple one- to two-second bursts of pepper spray into the cell. Id. ¶ 7.

         Officers entered the cell, “place[d]” Lewis on the ground, and “after a brief struggle” placed him into restraints. Id. They then escorted him to the dayroom for a strip search and an evaluation by medical staff prior to transport to North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”). Id.; see also Medical R. 2, ECF No. 12-4 (March 8, 2018 medical notation as to scrape on his scapula). For this incident, Lewis received a notice stating he had violated prison rules. Ennis Decl. ¶ 8.

         Defendants provide a July 11, 2018 note following an ophthalmology examination for reported “trauma.” Medical R. 3. The note states there was “[n]o evidence of any damage to eye - will check non-dilated pupils.” Id. By October 10, 2018, the follow-up examination noted that any issue of “vision loss” was “resolved.” Id. at 4. Lewis later complained to nursing staff that he continued to suffer eye pain. Id. at 5. X-rays found no evidence of a fracture. Id. at 6.

         In his opposition response, Lewis submits a declaration disputing Defendants' account. Pl.'s Decl., ECF No. 17-2. Lewis notes that Defendants did not deny the use of a K-9 or that the incident, which was pre-planned, was not videotaped, in contravention to Division of Corrections policy. Opp'n 2-4. Lewis implies he was unable to identify the officers due to this breach of policy. Id. at 4. He states that he was not seen by medical staff at JCI after the incident, as Defendants allege, but instead was immediately placed in a van and transported to NBCI. Id. at 5.

         Standard of Review

         Defendants seek dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[4]Rule 12(b)(6) authorizes parties in a civil action to seek the dismissal of a claim or complaint on the grounds that it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6); Tucker v. Specialized Loan Servicing, LLC, 83 F.Supp.3d 635, 647-48, (D. Md. 2015). This rule's purpose “is to test the sufficiency of a complaint and not to resolve contests surrounding the facts, the merits of a claim, or the applicability of defenses.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and must state “a plausible claim for relief, ” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.

         “Generally, when a defendant moves to dismiss a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), courts are limited to considering the sufficiency of allegations set forth in the complaint and the ‘documents attached or incorporated into the complaint.'” Zak v. Chelsea Therapeutics Int'l, Ltd., 780 F.3d 597, 606 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 448 (4th Cir. 2011)). A court also may consider matters subject to judicial notice. See Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). Where, as here, the defendants have submitted numerous exhibits along with their motion, the court may consider such evidence only if it converts the motion to one for summary judgment. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d).

         Analysis

         Defendants contend that Lewis has failed to state a cognizable claim. In particular, they argue that the allegations involving Warden Campbell do not support a finding of supervisory liability and, further, that the Complaint fails to specify what actions each of the named defendants took that could be said to have violated his ...


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