United States District Court, D. Maryland
SEIFULLAH A. ALI, Plaintiff,
PRINCE GEORGE'S COUNTY; MARY LOU MCDONOUGH; CORENNE LABBE; W. STEPHAN SIMMONS; AMANDA WELCH Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
W. Grimm, United States District Judge.
Seifullah A. Ali alleges that while he was incarcerated at
Prince George's County Detention Center
(“PGCDC”), he was denied the ability to exercise
his religion. ECF No. 60 (“Am. Compl.”) ¶ 1.
Plaintiff names Prince George's County (“the
County”), along with PGCDC employees Mary Lou
McDonough, Corenne Labbe, W. Stephan Simmons and Amanda Welch
(the “Individual Defendants”), in their official
and individual capacities, as defendants. Pending is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 72. For the reasons
discussed below, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is granted
in part and denied in part. The claims against the Individual
Defendants in their individual capacities are dismissed. The
case will proceed against the Individual Defendants in their
official capacities and the County. Defendants' request
to dismiss Plaintiff's claims for punitive damages is
was incarcerated at PGCDC between December 2014 and April
2016 while awaiting trial and sentencing for criminal charges
in the Prince George's County Circuit Court. Am. Compl.
¶ 21. Mary Lou McDonough is the Warden and Director of
PGCDC; Corenne Labbe is the Deputy Director and head of the
Bureau of Administration of PGCDC; W. Stephan Simmons is the
Chief of the Program Services Division of PGCDC; and Amanda
Welch is the Chief of the Inmate Services Section of PGCDC.
Id. at ¶¶ 7-10. Plaintiff claims the
County and the Individual Defendants prohibited him and other
Muslim inmates from exercising their religion at
Plaintiff allegedly sought permission to congregate for group
prayers and to engage in study groups. Id. at
¶¶ 25-31. Plaintiff claims that he was told it was
the policy of PGCDC to prohibit Muslim inmates from
congregating for prayers or study group unless a volunteer
imam from outside PGCDC was present to lead the services but
that “no one from the volunteer community had
volunteered to perform these services at the Detention
Center.” Id. at ¶ 28. Plaintiff says that
he volunteered to help PGCDC seek out imams from the local
community that would be willing to visit PGCDC, but his
requests were denied. Id. at ¶ 30. In addition
to prayer services, Plaintiff alleges he and other Muslim
inmates were denied special meals for holidays. Id.
at ¶ 32. Plaintiff claims he was told that it was not
the policy of the PGCDC to provide special meals to Muslim
inmates. Id. Plaintiff maintains that other
correctional institutions in Maryland allow congregation for
prayer services and provide special meals for religious
holidays. Id. at ¶ 35.
further alleges Defendants provided programs, services and
opportunities to Christian inmates, but “failed to
undertake reasonable efforts to bring Muslim religious
volunteers to the Detention Center.” Id. at
¶ 34. PGCDC contracted with a ministry to bring
religious officials to perform Christian services and
programs. Id. at ¶ 40. Christian inmates were
permitted to congregate for religious services and engage in
Bible study groups even when a religious official was not
present. Id. at ¶ 41-42. They are also given
special meals during Christmas and Easter. Id. at
asserts that “[a]ll of these policies, practices, and
customs were formulated, designed, and implemented by and
under the supervision of” the Individual Defendants,
and that the Individual Defendants were “acting on
behalf of Prince George's County.” Id. at
¶¶ 44, 50.
of Plaintiff's complaint alleges a violation of the
Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act against
Defendant Prince George's County and the Individual
Defendants in their official capacities. Id. at
¶¶ 51-59. Count II alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 and the Free Exercise Clause of the First
Amendment against Defendant Prince George's County and
the Individual Defendants in their official and individual
capacities. Id. at ¶¶ 60-68. Count III
alleges a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the Equal
Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment against
Defendant Prince George's County and the Individual
Defendants in their official and individual capacities.
Id. at ¶¶ 69-77. Plaintiff seeks
compensatory, nominal, punitive, and other money damages.
Id. at ¶ 78.
filed a motion to dismiss, contending that the official
capacity claims should be dismissed in each count, the
individual capacity claims should be dismissed in Counts II
and III, and that the Individual Defendants are entitled to
qualified immunity as to Counts II and III. ECF No. 72 at 2.
Defendants also argue that Plaintiff's punitive damages
claims must be dismissed. ECF No. 74 at 6.
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.” Presley v. City of Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). The well pleaded facts as
alleged in Plaintiff's complaint are accepted as true.
See Aziz v. Alcolac, 658 F.3d 388, 390 (4th Cir.
2011). Factual allegations are construed “in the light
most favorable to [the] plaintiff.” Adcock v.
Freightliner LLC, 550 F.3d 369, 374 (4th Cir. 2008)
(quoting Battlefield Builders, Inc. v. Swango, 743
F.2d 1060, 1062 (4th Cir. 1984)).
move to dismiss the § 1983 individual capacity claims in
Counts II and III against the Individual Defendants. ECF No.
72. Section 1983 provides liability for “[e]very person
who, under color of [state law], subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States . . . to the
deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
“‘Although § 1983 must be read against the
background of tort liability that makes a man responsible for
the natural consequences of his actions, liability will only
lie where it is affirmatively shown that the official charged
acted personally in the deprivation of the plaintiffs'
rights.'” Wilcox v. Brown, 877 F.3d 161,
170 (4th Cir. 2017) (quoting Vinnedge v. Gibbs, 550
F.2d 926, 928 (4th Cir. 1977) (citation, alteration, and
internal quotation marks omitted in original). “The
doctrine of respondeat superior has no application
under this section.” Id. Rather, § 1983
“require[s] proof of an affirmative causal connection
between the official's acts or omissions and the alleged
constitutional deprivation”). Id. (citing and
quoting Swint v. City of Wadley, 51 F.3d 988, 999
(11th Cir. 1995)).
example, § 1983 liability based on personal involvement
was found for a prison director and sheriff where the
defendants “played key roles” in ensuring that
the plaintiff remained in solitary confinement by
“seeking and recommending approval by the
Governor.” Williamson v. Stirling, 912 F.3d
154, 172-73 (4th Cir. 2018). In contrast, civil rights claims
against a sheriff stemming from a foreclosure action were
dismissed where the plaintiff failed to allege any specific
facts regarding the sheriff's personal involvement.
Proctor v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 289 F.Supp.3d
676, 690-91 (D. Md. 2018).
Plaintiff fails to adequately plead personal involvement of
the Individual Defendants. Plaintiff repeatedly alleges that
his requests for accommodation were communicated to and
denied by Defendants' agents, “including Chaplain
James Penn, Chaplain Filiberto Romero, Lieutenant Dixon, and
various correctional officers in his housing units, including
Corporals Montgomery, Dudley, Wallace, Hawkins, and
Mothershead.” Am. Compl. ¶ 27; see also
Id. at ¶¶ 28-33. In fact, Plaintiff does not
allege any specific action or omission taken by the
Individual Defendants. ...