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Clayborne v. West

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 5, 2019

WILLIAM C. CLAYBORNE, #368-289, Plaintiff,


          Date Paul W. Grimm, United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff William C. Clayborne, a prisoner in Maryland state prison, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against former Eastern Correctional Institution (“ECI”) Assistant Warden Walter West[2] and ECI Officers Horce Peppers, Patricia Gattis, Joshua Weisenburg and Antoinette Perry. Compl. 1, ECF No. 1; Am. Compl., ECF No. 6. Clayborne claims that, while he was incarcerated at ECI, Officer Weisenburg falsely reported that he threatened Weisenburg, after which he was housed in the Administrative Segregation Observation Area (“ASOA”) from February 26, 2018 to March 9, 2018, where he was denied access to his legal mail and “mistreated very badly.” Compl. 1. He claims that the delay in receiving his mail “caused [his state court] case to be dismissed, ” and he seeks injunctive and monetary relief to remedy that alleged wrong. Compl. 1; Am. Compl. 3. Additionally, he seeks monetary damages to compensate for his alleged “inhumane treatment.” Compl. 1; Am. Compl. 3. And, he asks the Court to provide him with the diminution credits he claims he could have received if he had not been transferred repeatedly among Maryland's state prisons. Am. Compl. 3.

         Defendants have moved to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment in their favor, arguing, inter alia, that Clayborne failed to exhaust administrative remedies as to his claim that he was denied access to his legal mail and failed to state a claim based on his alleged inhumane treatment. Defs.' Mot., ECF No. 19; see Defs.' Mem., ECF No. 19-1. Clayborne opposes Defendants' dispositive motion, ECF No. 20, and requests appointment of counsel. ECF No. 22.[3]The pending motions may be decided without a hearing. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). Because Clayborne competently presents his claims and I am not holding a hearing in this case, appointment of counsel is DENIED. Clayborne's requests for mandamus relief are dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. Regarding Clayborne's claim that he was denied access to his legal mail, Defendants' motion, treated as a motion for summary judgment, is GRANTED, and the Complaint is DISMISSED without prejudice for failure to complete administrative exhaustion. As for Clayborne's claim of inhumane treatment, Defendants' motion, treated as a motion to dismiss, is GRANTED because Clayborne fails to state a claim against Defendants.

         Standards of Review

         With regard to all but Defendant's argument that Clayborne failed to exhaust administrative remedies, I am not considering any evidence other than the Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) grievances that are attached to or integral to the Complaint, and Clayborne does not dispute their authenticity. See ECF No. 1-1; ECF No. 19-2, at 18. Accordingly, I will treat Defendants' motion as a motion to dismiss for all arguments but the administrative exhaustion argument, for which I will treat it as a motion for summary judgment. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d), 10(c); Phillips v. LCI Int'l, Inc., 190 F.3d 609, 618 (4th Cir. 1999). Clayborne's claims are subject to dismissal if they “fail[] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). A pleading 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, 678-79 (2009). “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.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. Rule 12(b)(6)'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.” Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012) (quoting Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006)).

         For purposes of resolving a motion to dismiss, the Court accepts the plaintiff's well-pleaded allegations as true. See Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir. 2011). While this Court is required to liberally construe documents that self-represented litigants file and hold them to a less stringent standard than those that attorneys draft, see Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007); Estelle v. Gamble, 429 US. 97, 106 (1976), the requirement of liberal construction does not mean that the Court can ignore a clear failure in the pleading to allege facts that set forth a claim currently cognizable in a federal district court, see Weller v. Dep't of Soc. Servs., 901 F.2d 387, 391 (4th Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must also abide by the “affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club, Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 526 (4th Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         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). “A disputed fact presents a genuine issue ‘if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.'” Cole v. Prince George's Cty., 798 F.Supp.2d 739, 742 (D. Md. 2011) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). 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 that a genuine dispute exists as to material facts. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-87 & n.10 (1986).


         Clayborne claims that Defendant Weisenburg “fabricated a story that [Clayborne] had threatened him, ” after which Clayborne was placed on Administrative Segregation pending an adjustment hearing, and held from February 26, 2018 through March 9, 2018 in ASOA. He alleges that, while housed at ASOA, he was denied access to the courts for a period of two and a half weeks because he was not permitted to sign for and receive his legal mail or writing material. Compl. 1, 4; Am. Compl. 2. He claims that, as a result of this delay, his appeal of an agency decision issued by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) was dismissed in the Circuit Court for Somerset County when he failed to respond to a dispositive motion.[4] Compl. 1, 3-4.

         Clayborne also complains about the conditions during his confinement in ASOA, stating he did not have a change of underwear, could not wash his hands, received “food in paper bags” and had to eat without utensils, and often his breakfasts consisted of “toast and jelly.” Compl. 1-3. Clayborne identifies Captain Perry as the shift commander during his ASOA placement, Lieutenant Gattis as the officer overseeing the area, and Lieutenant Peppers as the officer to whom he complained. He states that Defendant West “never addressed [his] inhumane treatment nor denial of legal mail but had someone else answer the ARP by dismissing it.” Am. Compl. 2.

         Clayborne filed an ARP, ARP ECI-0582-18, complaining about the denial of access to his legal mail and the poor conditions of confinement he experienced while housed in ASOA. March 10, 2018 ARP, ECF No. 1-1, at 1-2. The Warden's Office received it on March 12, 2018 and dismissed it that day for procedural reasons-it raised multiple issues, and inmates are required to file a separate ARP for each issue. Id. at 1. Clayborne was given until March 28, 2018 to resubmit a grievance containing only a single issue. Id.

         On March 19, 2018, the Warden's Office received Clayborne's resubmission, ARP ECI-0582-18, dated March 15, 2018, which centered entirely on the withholding of his legal mail during his time in ASOA.[5] March 15, 2018 ARP, ECF No. 1-1, at 5. On April 13, 2018, the ARP was dismissed as unsubstantiated. ECF No. 19-2, at 18. On April 26, 2018, Clayborne appealed the Warden's dismissal of his ARP concerning receipt of legal mail; the Commissioner of Correction received the appeal on May 14, 2018. ECF No. 1-1, at 6, 8. The outcome of the headquarters appeal is not apparent from the record; however, IGO employee Samiyah Hassan declares that Clayborne did not file an IGO complaint concerning the withholding of legal mail. Hassan Decl. 1, ¶ 3, ECF No. 19-4.


         Appointment ...

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