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Dixon v. Hill-Peay

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 10, 2019

WILLIAM K. DIXON, Prisoner Identification No. 312-160, Plaintiff,


          Theodore D. Chuang United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff William K. Dixon, an inmate incarcerated at the North Branch Correctional Institution ("NBCI") in Cumberland, Maryland, has filed a civil rights complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that violations of his rights under the First, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when he was denied access to religious services, accused of attempting to bribe a prison chaplain in exchange for withdrawing a grievance relating to that alleged denial, and unfairly punished with disciplinary segregation. Defendants Jeffrey Nines, Assistant Warden of NBCI; Lt. Gregory Forney; and NBCI Chaplain Kevin Lamp (collectively, "Defendants") have filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. Dixon responded by filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, which the Court construes as both a Motion and a memorandum in opposition to Defendants' Motion. Having reviewed the submitted materials, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See D. Md. Local R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment, will be granted, and Dixon's Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.


         In his unverified Complain,, Dixon alleges that on March 4, 2017, he was not able to attend a Seventh Day Adventist ("SDA") religious service when his cell door did not open to allow him to leave and attend the service. As of that date, Dixon was listed in NBCI records as having SDA as his religious preference. However, his preference had changed over time. At Patuxent Institution, where Dixon was incarcerated until February 2016, he had listed his religious preference as Moorish Science Temple of America ("MSTA"). After arriving at NBCI in February 2016, Dixon switched his religious preference to SDA. On February 13, 2016, Dixon was released from his cell to attend an SDA religious service but went to the wrong location and was thus unable to attend. Between February 2016 and March 2017, Dixon was held in administrative segregation for significant stretches of time, during which, under NBCI policy, he and other inmates on segregation were not permitted to attend religious services and were instead supposed to worship in their own cells.

         On February 23, 2017, Dixon submitted a written request to change his religious preference to MSTA. On March 2, 2017, Chaplain Lamp responded in writing, noting that Dixon was presently listed as SDA and stating that if Dixon wanted to change religious groups, he needed to complete a form enclosed with the response.

         On March 4, 2017, when Dixon's cell door did not open so he was not able to attend an SDA service, Dixon asked correctional officers why he was not released for religious services. He was told that the chaplain was responsible for determining which religious services an inmate would be permitted to attend.

         On March 13, 2017, Dixon filed an Administrative Remedy Procedure grievance ("ARP") complaining about the denial of access to religious services. According to Lamp, on March 29, 2017, while he was interviewing Dixon about his ARP, Dixon offered to withdraw his ARP if Lamp would pay him five dollars. Lamp then reported Dixon for attempting to bribe a correctional officer. In contrast, Dixon claims that Lamp had tried to get him to withdraw the ARP in exchange for Lamp agreeing to change Dixon's religious preference to MSTA, which Dixon had "preferred for months." Pl.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 7, ECF No. 15-1. Dixon refused to withdraw the ARP without any monetary compensation. Dixon asked for $5, 000, which was the amount that he was seeking through the ARP.

         On April 2, 2017, Acting Warden Nines denied the ARP on the grounds that an NBCI investigation had concluded that Dixon's cell had been opened to allow him to attend the service, but he chose not to do so, and that Dixon had tried to bribe Lamp.

         Dixon was placed on administrative segregation, which he asserts was actually disciplinary segregation. On April 25, 2017, a disciplinary hearing was conducted. The witnesses were Dixon, Lamp, and a correctional officer who corroborated Lamp. The hearing officer found that Dixon had tried to bribe Lamp and imposed 60 days of cell restriction upon Dixon. Where Dixon had already served approximately 30 days in disciplinary segregation in advance of the hearing, dating back to March 29, 2017, he only had to serve approximately 30 more days on cell restriction, until May 27, 2017.

         According to Dixon, while in disciplinary segregation, he was denied access to certain personal property, outside recreation, phone privileges, work opportunities, and visitation without being handcuffed. He contends that received only one hour of recreation per week and was regularly handcuffed. Dixon further alleges that he suffered unspecified physical and emotional injuries as a result. At one point, he reported that he was hearing voices.

         On June 9, 2017, approximately three months after that incident, Dixon submitted a form seeking to change his preference to a third religion, Sunni Islam. The change was made on July 10, 2017.

         Dixon filed his Complaint in which he alleged that the denial of access to religious services violated his rights under the First Amendment, his punishment for allegedly bribing Lamp violated his right to due process under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and his placement in disciplinary segregation both before and after his disciplinary hearing constituted cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.

         In his Motion for Summary Judgment, Dixon for the first time alleges a claim of retaliation under the First Amendment. In a supplemental brief entitled "Motion for New Evidence Admission," submitted after he filed his Motion for Summary Judgment, Dixon attaches a prison grievance relating to a January 25, 2099 incident in which Correctional Officer Sharon Lipcomb ordered him not to attend a Sunni Islamic religious service. Briefs in opposition to a dispositive motion may not be used to amend a complaint or add new claims. See Zachair Ltd. v. Driggs,965 F.Supp. 741, 748 n.4 (D. Md. 1997) (stating that a plaintiff "is bound by the allegations contained in its complaint and cannot, through the use of motion briefs, amend the complaint"), aff'd,141 F.3d 1162 (4th Cir. ...

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