United States District Court, D. Maryland
J. HAZEL UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Vincent Cole, an inmate housed at the Eastern Correctional
Institution (“ECI”) in Westover, Maryland, brings
this pro se prisoner civil rights action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Lieutenant Hance
Pepper, Chief of Security Walter Holmes, and Assistant Warden
Walter West. ECF No. 1. He alleges that Defendants filed
“false” inmate rule violations against him,
removed him from his prison job, and changed his security
classification in violation of his rights under the Fifth,
Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Id.
Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion
to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary
Judgment. ECF No. 16. Cole has filed an opposition with
exhibits. ECF No. 20. No hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6
(D. Md. 2018). For the following reasons, Defendants'
Motion, which will be construed as a Motion for Summary
Judgment, is granted.
Thursday, June 21, 2018, Cole failed to report for his prison
job at Maryland Correctional Enterprises (“MCE”)
because he was feeling unwell and dizzy. Id. at 4.
On that same day, all twenty-four inmates assigned to
ECI's West MCE workshops also did not show up for work.
Id. at 1. Cole explains it “[j]ust so
happen[ed] the prison heard a rumor that inmates in E.C.I.
were going to do a peaceful protest and not show up for
work.” Id. at 5. Cole denies he had
“knowledge of any protest nor would have been involved
in any kind of protest.” Id. He states that
the Division of Correction Inmate Employment Rules and
Regulations Book provides an inmate may take up to four
unexcused absences during any thirty-day period before an
inmate is subject to security reclassification. Cole
maintains that because he has been incarcerated for more than
thirty-two years and was to see the Parole Board any day,
“you couldn't have forced me to get involved in
anything to cause me to loose [sic] my only shot at
parole.” Id. at 4, 5.
interviewed all twenty-four inmates who were absent on June
21, 2018. ECF No. 1-1 at 1; see also ECF No. 16-2 at
2-33. On June 23, 2018, when Pepper asked Cole why he was
absent from work, Cole replied that he was sick due to a
reaction to his medication and was feeling dizzy. Cole
informed Pepper that the information on the prescription
states the medicine may cause dizziness. ECF No. 1 at 4, 5.
Later that day, Cole gave Pepper a succinct written statement
to explain his absence: “I was sick.”
Id.; see also ECF No. 16-2 at 9.
6, 2017, Pepper wrote a Notice of Rule Violation, charging
Cole with violating Rule 402 (absence from an assigned
location without authorization) and Rule 403 (providing false
information). ECF No. 1-1 at 1. In the Notice, Pepper stated
that his investigation showed that of the twenty-four inmates
at West MCE absent from work on June 21, 2018, twenty-three
did not provide a valid reason for their absence. Pepper thus
concluded the inmates had participated in an orchestrated,
planned work stoppage that day to protest a change in their
recreation schedule. Pepper identified Cole as one of the
participants. Id.; see also ECF No. 16-2 at
13, 2018, the Maryland Parole Commission deferred a
recommendation on Cole's parole application pending the
outcome of his disciplinary hearing related to his alleged
participation in the work stoppage. ECF 1-1 at 7,
9-11. At his disciplinary hearing on August 9,
2018, Cole pleaded not guilty to the rule violation charges.
ECF 16-2 at 36. Cole told the Hearing Officer, “I have
2 blister packs that show I have been a chronic care patient.
They have a warning on them that it may cause dizziness. I
got up that day felt dizzy, laid back down and blacked out. I
told Lt. Pepper I was sick.” ECF No. 16-2 at 36. The
Institutional Representative at the hearing confirmed that
the warning label on Cole's medication stated that it may
cause dizziness. ECF No. 16-2 at 36.
Hearing Officer credited Cole's evidence and offered him
an informal resolution. ECF No. 16-2 at 37. Cole accepted an
informal resolution by which the Rule 402 charge was reduced
to an incident report and the Rule 403 charge was dismissed.
Importantly, Cole did not lose any diminution or good time
credits. ECF 1-1 at 33; ECF No. 16-2 at 37, 44.
10, 2018, Cole was reclassified out of MCE, and on August 8,
2019, he was classified out of the job bank/wait list for
Sanitation into the Lifer's Mental Health Group. ECF No.
1-1 at 2, 3; ECF No. 16-2 at 45. On December 3, 2018, he
resumed working for MCE. ECF No. 16-2 at 45. On August 1,
2018, Cole was moved to a new housing unit. On September 14,
2018, he was moved to an honors incentives unit. Id.
filed his Complaint on October 4, 2018. ECF No. 1. In his
Complaint, Cole alleges that Pepper wrote a
“false” rule violation charge against him, which
resulted in the denial of parole and loss of potential
diminution credits. ECF No. 1 at 4-5. As relief, Cole requests an
investigation into his claims and the “false
report” and monetary damages of an unstated sum.
Id. at 6-7, 12; see also ECF No. 16-2 at
2-33. Cole also seeks to bring state criminal misdemeanor
charges against Pepper. ECF No. 1 at 12.
filed their Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion
for Summary Judgment on December 31, 2018. ECF No. 16. Cole
filed a response on February 19, 2019. ECF No. 20. Defendants
did not file a reply.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
purpose of a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the plaintiff's
complaint. See Edwards v. Goldsboro, 178 F.3d 231,
243 (4th Cir. 1999). The Supreme Court articulated the proper
framework for analysis:
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires only
“a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to
“give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim
is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957) (abrogated on other
grounds). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations,
ibid.; Sanjuan v. American Bd. of Psychiatry and
Neurology, Inc., 40 F.3d 247, 251 (7th Cir. 1994), a
plaintiff's obligation to provide the
“grounds” of his “entitle[ment] to
relief” requires more than labels and conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action
will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265,
286 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts “are not
bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a
factual allegation”). Factual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level, see 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal
Practice and Procedure § 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)
(hereinafter Wright & Miller) (“[T]he pleading must
contain something more . . . than . . . a statement of facts
that merely creates a suspicion [of] a legally cognizable
right of action”), on the assumption that all the
allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in
fact), see, e.g., Swierkiewicz v. Sorema
N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 508, n.1 (2002); Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327(1989) (“Rule 12(b)(6)
does not countenance . . . dismissals based on a judge's
disbelief of a complaint's factual allegations”);
Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974) (a
well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears
“that a recovery is very remote and unlikely”).
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
standard does not require defendant to establish
“beyond doubt” that plaintiff can prove no set of
facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to
relief. Id. at 561. Once a claim has been stated
adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts
consistent with the allegations in the complaint.
Id. at 562. The court need not, however, accept
unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v. Charles Cty.
Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal
conclusions couched as factual allegations, see Papasan
v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory
factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events,
see United Black Firefighters v. Hirst, 604 F.2d
844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
as here, matters outside the pleadings are presented to the
Court, a 12(b)(6) motion “shall be treated as one for
summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule
56.” Laughlin v. Metro. Washington Airports
Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998) (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)). A motion for summary judgment will be
granted only if there exists no genuine issue as to any
material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as
a matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c);
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250
(1986); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322
(1986). The moving party bears the burden of showing that
there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. However,
no genuine issue of material fact exists if the nonmoving
party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential
element of his or her case as to which he or she would have
the burden of proof. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23.
Therefore, on those issues on which the nonmoving party has
the burden of proof, it is his or her responsibility to
confront the summary judgment motion with an affidavit or
other similar evidence showing that there is a genuine issue
motion for summary judgment will be granted only if there
exists no genuine issue as to any material fact and the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986); Celotex Corp.
v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party
bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue as
to any material fact. However, no genuine issue of material
fact exists if the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient
showing on an essential element of his or her case as to
which he or she would have the burden of proof.
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. Therefore, on those
issues on which the nonmoving party has the burden of proof,
it is his or her responsibility to confront the summary
judgment motion with an affidavit or other similar evidence
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., the Supreme Court
explained that, in considering a motion for summary judgment,
the “judge's function is not himself to weigh the
evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to
determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial.”
477 U.S. at 249 (1986). A dispute about a material fact is
genuine “if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury
could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.”
Id. at 248. Thus, “the judge must ask himself
not whether he thinks the evidence unmistakably favors one
side or the other but whether a fair-minded jury could return
a verdict for the [nonmoving party] on the evidence
presented.” Id. at 252.
undertaking this inquiry, a court must view the facts and the
reasonable inferences drawn therefrom “in a light most
favorable to the party opposing the motion.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. Ltd.
v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587
(1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold,
Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)); see also
E.E.O.C. v. Navy
Fed. Credit Union, 424 F.3d 397, 405 (4th Cir. 2005).
The mere existence of a “scintilla” of evidence