United States District Court, D. Maryland
SALAHUDDIN F. SMART, Plaintiff,
QUEEN ANNE'S COUNTY, WARDEN LAMONTE E. COOKE and CHIEF OF SECURITY MILTON S. GREENWOOD, JR., Defendants.
THEODORE D. CHUANG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Salahuddin F. Smart was a pre-trial detainee at the Queen
Anne's County Detention Center ("QACDC") in
Centreville, Maryland when he filed this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Queen Anne's
County, Maryland ("QAC"); QACDC Warden Lamonte
Cooke; and QACDC Chief of Security Milton Greenwood. Pending
before the Court are Defendants' unopposed Motion to
Dismiss or for Summary Judgment and Defendants' Motion to
Strike the Amended Complaint. 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, the Motion to Strike the Amended Complaint and the
Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.
who is presently incarcerated at the Camden County Detention
Center in New Jersey, was detained at QACDC on a traffic
violation. On December 12, 2017, Smart filed a Complaint on
his own behalf and for fellow inmate Lamar Burgess, Sr.
seeking to pursue a class action alleging that Defendants
improperly restricted inmate receipt of incoming mail,
specifically, that QACDC barred the receipt of greeting
cards, family photographs, and certain other printed
materials in violation of the First Amendment right to
freedom of association, the Eighth Amendment right against
cruel and unusual punishment, the Fourth Amendment right
against unlawful detention and seizure, and the Fourteenth
Amendment right to equal protection of the law. Burgess did
not sign the Complaint.
September 5, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss or
for Summary Judgment. Smart filed no memorandum in opposition
to the Motion, nor did he request additional time to respond.
On December 26, 2018, Smart filed a complaint, without a case
number, that was docketed as an amended complaint in this
case filed without leave of the Court. After QAC filed a
Motion to Strike this filing, the Court concluded that the
filing asserted separate claims and thus docketed it as a
complaint in a new case. The Court nevertheless granted Smart
leave to file an amended complaint by February 15, 2019. On
February 25, 2019, ten days after the extended time for
filing the Amended Complaint had expired, Smart filed a
request for additional time to file an amended complaint. On
March 5, 2019, the Court issued an Order extending the time
for Smart to file an amended complaint until March 26, 2019.
The Court received the Amended Complaint on April 4, 2019.
The submission was postmarked March 29, 2019, and Smart had
dated the document March 21, 2019.
threshold matter, the Court finds that Smart, who presumably
is not an attorney, may not represent the interests of
another individual. D. Md. Local R. 101.1(a) (stating that
individual parties may represent only themselves, not other
parties). Nor may Smart bring a class action on behalf of
other detainees or inmates. See Oxendine v.
Williams, 509 F.2d 1405, 1407 (4th Cir. 1975) (stating
that a. pro se prisoner unassisted by counsel cannot
represent fellow inmates in a class action). Thus, the Court
construes the Complaint as asserted by Smart only and as an
individual claim, not a class action.
Motion to Strike the Amended Complaint, Defendants argue that
the Court should strike the Amended Complaint because it was
filed outside the March 26, 2019 deadline. Defendants'
Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment seeks dismissal or
summary judgment on several grounds: (1) QAC is entitled to
dismissal because it is not an entity amenable to suit; (2)
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity against
Smart's claims; and (3) Smart has failed to state a claim
of constitutional violations arising from the QACDC policy of
barring inmates from receiving greeting cards, photographs,
and certain other printed materials.
Motion to Strike the Amended Complaint
Motion, Defendants argue that Smart's Amended Complaint
should be stricken as untimely. Where the Amended Complaint
was postmarked on March 29, 2019 and received on April 4,
2019, it appears to have been filed after the March 26, 2019
deadline. Under the "prison mailbox rule," a
pleading is deemed filed as of the date that it was placed in
the prison mail system. See Houston v. Lack, 487
U.S. 266, 270 (1988). Although Smart listed, on the Amended
Complaint, a date of March 21, 2019, he does not actually
assert, and provides no evidence, that he placed the Amended
Complaint in the prison mail system on or before March 26,
2019. For example, he provides no proof of a mailing date,
prison trust fund records, receipt for postage, or his own
declaration. See Roberts v. McKenzie, Civ. No.
AW-12-2474, 2013 WL 3179102, at *4 (D. Md. June 20, 2013)
("When a court does not receive a pleading within a
reasonable time after the date upon which an inmate claims to
have mailed it, it is appropriate to require independent
proof of the mailing date such as mail logs ... or receipts
for postage before giving the inmate the benefit of the
prison mailbox rule."), aff'd, 566
Fed.Appx. 226 (4th Cir. 2014). Thus, the Court finds he is
not entitled to the benefit of this rule. Accordingly, on the
current record, the Court may strike the Amended Complaint as
the Court could allow Smart an opportunity to come forward
with proof of the date of mailing, it need not do so because
the Court finds that the Amended Complaint is properly
stricken for other reasons. First, a review of the
allegations reveals that Counts 4-6 largely restate the
allegations in the original Complaint about the prison's
policy of not permitting inmates to receive certain kinds of
mail and do not add any material facts. The new allegations,
which assert claims of First Amendment retaliation for the
filing of prison grievances in the form of a transfer to
another detention facility, and an Eighth Amendment claim
relating to allegedly inadequate medical care, track the
claims made in ECF No. 23, which was docketed as the original
complaint in a new case, No. TDC-18-4023, that has since been
dismissed. Where the Court had already concluded that these
claims constituted a separate case that has been separately
resolved, see ECF No. 33, it was not proper to seek
to assert them again in this case.
the Court finds that the Amended Complaint fails to provide
sufficient facts to state a plausible claim for relief on
these new causes of action. Although courts "should
freely give leave" to amend, an amendment should not be
accepted if it would be futile, such as when the amendment
would be subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim.
See Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir.
2006); Oliver v. Dep 't of Pub. Safety & Corr.
Servs., 350 F.Supp.3d 340, 346 (D. Md. 2018). On the
First Amendment claim, "the First Amendment right to
free speech includes not only the affirmative right to speak,
but also the right to be free from retaliation by a public
official for the exercise of that right." Suarez
Corp. Indus, v. McGrow, 202 F.3d 676, 685 (4th Cir.
2000). To state a claim of retaliation for exercising First
Amendment rights, a plaintiff must show that: (1) the
plaintiff engaged in protected First Amendment activity; (2)
the defendant took some action that adversely affected the
First Amendment rights; and (3) there was a causal
relationship between the protected activity and the
defendant's conduct. See Constantine v. Rectors &
Visitors of George Mason Univ., 411 F.3d 474, 499 (4th
Cir. 2005). An inmate's "right to file a prison
grievance free from retaliation" is protected by the
First Amendment. Booker v. S. Carolina Dep't of
Corrections, 855 F.3d 533, 545 (4th Cir. 2017).
Amended Complaint, although Smart claims that he was
transferred to another prison in retaliation for filing a
prison grievance, he does not identify the grievance to which
he is referring. Where he claims that he was transferred in
November 2017, he cannot be referring to his Complaint filed
in this case, which was first filed on December 12, 2017.
Since Smart has not identified the specific prison grievance
he filed, and he has not provided the date or time frame when
he filed it to allow for an assessment of whether it was
proximate in time to the alleged retaliatory action, he has
not stated sufficient facts to support a plausible claim that
his transfer was causally connected to the grievance. See
Constantine, 411 F.3d at 499.
Smart has not alleged sufficient facts to support his Eighth
Amendment claim for deliberate indifference to a serious
medical need. See Estelle v. Gamble,429 U.S. 97,
106 (1976). This standard requires proof that, objectively,
the prisoner plaintiff was suffering from a serious medical
need and that, subjectively, the prison staff was aware of
the need for medical attention but failed to either provide
it or ensure the needed care was available. See Iko v.
Shreve,535 F.3d 225, 241 (4th Cir. 2008). A medical
condition is serious when it is "so obvious that even a
lay person would easily recognize the necessity for a
doctor's attention." Id. (internal citation
omitted). As for the subjective component, "[a]n
official is deliberately indifferent to an inmate's
serious medical needs only when he or she subjectively knows
of and disregards an excessive risk to inmate health or
safety." Jackson v. Lightsey,775 F.3d 170, 178
(4th Cir. 2014) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S.
825, 837 (1994)). Thus, "[deliberate ...