Hart v. Shearin

Filing 31

MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Levi Russell, III on 1/15/2016. (c/m 1/15/16)(krs, Deputy Clerk)

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IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND NATHANIEL LEKAI HART, : Plaintiff, : v. : BOBBY P. SHEARIN, : Defendant. Civil Action No. GLR-14-2477 : MEMORANDUM OPINION THIS MATTER is before the Court on pro se Plaintiff Nathaniel Lekai Hart’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 24) and Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (ECF No. 30), and Defendant Bobby P. Shearin’s Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No 25). Hart is an inmate at the North Branch Correctional Institution (“NBCI”) in Cumberland, Maryland, and Shearin is NBCI’s former warden. Principally at issue is whether Shearin violated Hart’s federal constitutional rights when he placed Hart in segregated housing. The Court, having reviewed the documents, finds no hearing necessary. (D.Md. 2014). Motions and supporting See Local Rule 105.6 For the reasons outlined below, the Court will deny Hart’s Motions and grant Shearin’s Motion. I. A. BACKGROUND1 NBCI Lockdown and Segregated Housing Units Due to a rash of severe assaults by NBCI inmates on other inmates and NBCI staff, NBCI placed the institution on lockdown on August 5, 2013. During the lockdown, NBCI limited inmate showers, recreation, congregate religious observance, and group schooling. Inmates were permitted, however, to exercise and conduct religious worship in their cells. In further effort to quell the violence initiated by NBCI inmates, NBCI created four housing units. NBCI Housing Unit #1 as the primary segregation unit. designated NBCI reserved Housing Unit #2 for Maximum II inmates—inmates requiring special programming, such as mental health services, and inmates being released from Housing Unit #1 whose behavioral histories suggested difficulty in adjusting to a general population unit. NBCI designated Housing population units. Units #3 and #4 as the general NBCI made housing unit assignments based on each inmate’s behavioral history and institutional adjustment. NBCI placed Hart on disciplinary segregation on December 19, 2013; he was released on January 2, 2014. NBCI then transferred Hart to Housing Unit #2 on January 23, 2014.2 1 Unless otherwise noted, the following facts are taken from the parties’ briefings on the instant Motions, and are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. 2 The record is unclear as to where Hart was housed between January 2, 2014 and January 23, 2014. 2 All housing units, except Housing Unit #1, transition back to normal operations in 2014. began to Housing Unit #2 resumed normal operations in August 2014. B. Hart’s Worship, Visitor, and Occupational History at NBCI Between Sunday, August 10, 2014, and Sunday, January 11, 2015, Hart regularly attended Protestant worship services. Specifically, he attended three services in August 2014, two services in September 2014, four services in October 2014, five services in November 2014, and four services in December 2014. Hart has received two visits at NBCI. A social worker visited him on October 8, 2012, and his former wife visited him on April 26, 2014. NBCI placed Hart on a waiting list for a sanitation job on January 27, 2014. job. On On August 8, 2014, he began his sanitation November 19, 2014, Hart was reassigned from his sanitation job to his current status as a student. C. Procedural Background On August 7, 2014, Hart filed an Administrative Remedy Procedure (“ARP”) request, complaining that he was a general population inmate, but had been population since January 2014. the ARP request as segregated from (ECF No. 25-11). untimely. (Id.). Hart the general NBCI dismissed then filed a grievance with the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”), appealing the dismissal of his ARP request. 3 (ECF No. 25-12). The IGO dismissed the grievance on November 3, 2014 for exhaust administrative remedies and mootness. 2014, NBCI finding had him sanctioned guilty of Hart with interfering order, and refusing an assignment. cell with failure On August 28, restriction staff, to after disobeying an (Id.). Hart filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (2012) action on August 4, 2014. (ECF No. 1). Pursuant to the Court’s August 11, 2014 Order (ECF No. 3), Hart supplemented his Complaint on August 20, 2014. (ECF segregation No. 4). violated Hart his alleges federal that his placement constitutional right in to substantive due process because he has been unable to attend school or church, have contact visits, or engage in recreation or “normal movement.” (ECF Nos. 1, 4). Shearin filed a Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on March 13, 2015. (ECF No. 25). Motion for Summary Judgment.32 Response to Defendant’s That same day, Hart filed a (ECF No. 24). Motion to Dismiss Hart filed a or, in Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment on May 18, 2015. 3 the (ECF Hart’s Motion for Summary Judgment is based solely on his claim that the Court should have required Shearin to file a response to Hart’s claims without first granting several extensions of time. First, the Court notes that it also granted Hart an extension of time to reply to Shearin’s Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 28). Second, because Hart fails to identify any facts material to his claims, let alone argue that there is no genuine dispute of material fact, the Court will deny his Motion for Summary Judgment. 4 No. 29). He also filed an unopposed Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint on August 17, 2015. II. A. (ECF No. 30). DISCUSSION Standard of Review A complaint fails to state a claim if it does not contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), or does not state “a plausible claim for relief.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). 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. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Generally, “a court may not consider extrinsic evidence at the 12(b)(6) stage.” Sparrows Point, Pursuant to Rule LLC, Chesapeake Bay Found., Inc. v. Severstal 794 12(d), F.Supp.2d however, 602, when 611 (D.Md. “matters 2011). outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the [12(b)(6)] motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has articulated two requirements for proper conversion of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to a Rule 56 motion. First, the “parties [must] be given some indication by the court that it is treating the 5 12(b)(6) motion as a motion for summary judgment” and, second, “the parties ‘first [must] be afforded a reasonable opportunity for discovery.’” Greater Balt. Ctr. for Pregnancy Concerns, Inc. Balt., v. Mayor of 721 F.3d 264, 281 (4th Cir. 2013) (quoting Gay v. Wall, 761 F.2d 175, 177 (4th Cir. 1985)). The alternative caption of Shearin’s Motion and the attached exhibits are sufficient indicia that the Motion might be treated as one for summary judgment. 381 F.Supp.2d 458, 464 (D.Md. 2005). See Moret v. Harvey, Furthermore, Hart has not filed a Rule 56(d) affidavit expressing a need for discovery or a motion to appoint counsel to assist him with discovery. See Nguyen v. CNA Corp., 44 F.3d 234, 242 (4th Cir. 1995) (“[T]he failure to file an affidavit under Rule 56[(d)] is itself sufficient grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate.” (quoting Paddington Bouchard, 34 F.3d 1132, 1137 (2d Cir. 1994))). Partners v. Accordingly, the Court will treat Shearin’s Motion as one for summary judgment. Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must grant summary judgment if the moving party demonstrates that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). to judgment as a matter of law. In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the Court views the facts in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 6 255 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S. H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 157 (1970)). Once a motion for summary judgment is properly made and supported, the opposing party has the burden of showing that a genuine dispute exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586–87 (1986). Rule 56(c) requires the nonmoving party to go beyond the pleadings and by its own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). “[T]he between the mere existence parties will of some not defeat alleged an factual otherwise dispute properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” at 247–48. Anderson, 477 U.S. A “material fact” is one that might affect the outcome of a party’s case. Id. at 248; see also JKC Holding Co. v. Wash. Sports Ventures, Inc., 264 F.3d 459, 465 (4th Cir. 2001) (citing Hooven-Lewis v. Caldera, 249 F.3d 259, 265 (4th Cir. 2001)). Whether a fact is considered to be “material” is determined by the substantive law, and “[o]nly disputes over facts that governing judgment.” might law affect will the properly outcome preclude of the the suit entry under of the summary Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; accord Hooven-Lewis, 249 7 F.3d at 265. A “genuine” issue concerning a “material” fact arises when the evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict in the nonmoving party’s favor. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. B. Analysis 1. Shearin’s Motion for Summary Judgment The Court will grant Shearin’s Motion for Summary Judgment because Hart failed to exhaust administrative remedies. Moreover, even assuming Hart exhausted administrative remedies, there is no evidence that Shearin violated Hart’s federal constitutional rights. a. Exhaustion The Prisoner Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) (2012), requires inmates to pursue administrative grievances until they receive a final denial of all available stages appealing through process. Chase v. Peay, 286 F.Supp.2d 523, 530 (D.Md. 2003), aff’d, 98 F.App’x 253 (4th Cir. 2004). in the the claims, This Court may not consider a claim that has not been exhausted. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219–20 (2007). administrative See Jones v. Exhaustion “means using all steps that the agency holds out, and doing so properly (so that the agency addresses the issues on the merits).” Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 90 (2006) (quoting Pozo v. McCaughtry, 286 F.3d 1022, 1024 (7th Cir. 2002)). 8 Pursuant to, Code an of inmate Maryland Regulations incarcerated in an (“COMAR”) institution employing the ARP system, such as NBCI, must exhaust the system before filing a grievance with the IGO. In order to exhaust the ARP system, Hart was required to obtain a response from the Commissioner of Corrections. See Hart, however, failed to do so. COMAR (See ECF No. 29-2). Thus, Hart failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and, consequently, he is not permitted to bring his claims in this Court. Jones, 549 U.S. at 211 (citing Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 524 (2002)). b. Even Merits of Hart’s § 1983 Claims assuming Hart exhausted administrative remedies, Shearin is entitled to summary judgment on all of Hart’s § 1983 claims. To demonstrate prevail a on a deprivation § 1983 of claim, rights a plaintiff guaranteed must by the Constitution or laws of the United States and that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Liberally construing his Complaint, Hart asserts that Shearin violated his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment 4 rights.43 See Erickson v. Hart also alleges that Shearin violated his First Amendment rights because his confinement to segregation caused him to lose all access to church services. This claim is moot, however, because it is undisputed that Hart has attended at least eighteen church services while in segregation. (See ECF No. 25-9). 9 Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (explaining that a Court should liberally construe pro se pleadings). The Court will address these rights in turn. i. Eighth Amendment Punishment Cruel and Unusual The Eight Amendment, applicable to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, provides that cruel and unusual punishment shall not be imposed. U.S. Const. amend. VIII. To establish the imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, a prisoner must prove two elements: (1) that the deprivation of a basic human need was objectively sufficiently serious; and (2) that subjectively the officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 166 (4th Cir. 1995) (quoting Strickler v. Waters, 989 F.2d 1375, 1379 (4th Cir. 1993)). either of Because these two Hart presents elements, no the evidence Court finds to satisfy Shearin is entitled to summary judgment on Hart’s Eighth Amendment claim. ii. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process The Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause provides that no state shall “deprive any person property, without due process of law.” § 1. For Hart to prevail on his of life, liberty, or U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1983 claim alleging a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause, the Court must find that a liberty interest protected by the Due 10 Process Clause is at stake. See Scheuerman v. Bozman, No. 09- 1386, 2010 WL 761125, at *4 (D.Md. Mar. 1, 2010) aff’d, 382 F.App’x 284 (4th Cir. 2010). In Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 483–84 (1995), the Supreme Court of the United States recognized that “States may under certain circumstances create liberty interests which are protected by the Due Process Clause.” A state creates such an interest when it “imposes atypical and significant hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id. at 484. To determine whether Hart possessed a liberty interest in avoiding confinement in segregation, the Court must compare the conditions to which he has been exposed in segregation with those he could expect to experience as an ordinary incident of prison life. 1997). Beverati v. Smith, 120 F.3d 500, 503 (4th Cir. In Beverati, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit concluded that there was no liberty interest in avoiding segregation when conditions in segregation: inmates experienced the following vermin-infested cells smeared with human feces and urine; unbearably hot temperatures; cold food served in considerably population; dirty smaller clothing, portions linens, and than in bedding; the general no outside recreation; permission to leave their cells only three to four times per week; and no educational or religious services. F.3d at 504. 11 120 Here, Hart presents no evidence of how the conditions in segregation differ from those he could expect as an ordinary incident of his life in NBCI. The undisputed record demonstrates that Hart’s conditions in segregation are better than those experienced by the inmates in Beverati because he is registered as services. a (See therefore, that student and ECF Nos. there is has 25-8, no attended numerous 25-9). liberty The interest religious Court at finds, stake and Shearin is entitled to summary judgment on Hart’s Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claim. iii. Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection The Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection Clause provides that no state shall “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. To prevail on an equal protection claim, a plaintiff must show “that he has been treated differently from others with whom he is similarly situated and that the unequal treatment was the result of intentional or purposeful discrimination.” Morrison v. Garraghty, 239 F.3d 648, 654 (4th Cir. 2001). makes such disparity a in showing, the Court treatment can be must If the plaintiff determine justified under whether the the requisite level of scrutiny. See City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439–40 (1985); In re Long Term Admin. Segregation of Inmates Designated as Five Percenters, 174 F.3d 464, 471 (4th 12 Cir. 1999). regulations strict Because prisoners are not a suspect class, “prison need only scrutiny.” survive Waters a v. reasonableness Bass, 304 inquiry, F.Supp.2d 802, not 810 (E.D.Va. 2004). Hart presents no evidence that he was treated differently than any similarly situated inmates. finds Shearin is entitled to Accordingly, the Court summary judgment on Hart’s Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection claim. 2. Hart’s Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), the Court should “freely give leave” to file an amended complaint “when justice so requires.” The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has “interpreted Rule 15(a) to provide that ‘leave to amend a pleading should be denied only when the amendment would be prejudicial to the opposing party, there has been bad faith on the part of the moving party, or the amendment would have been futile.’” Laber v. Harvey, 438 F.3d 404, 426 (4th Cir. 2006) (quoting Johnson v. Oroweat Foods Co., 785 F.2d 503, 509 (4th Cir. 1986)). In his Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, Hart attempts to add a § 1983 claim for violation of his right to procedural due process. He contends he was entitled hearing or notice before NBCI placed him in segregation. would be futile to permit Hart 13 to add this claim to to a It his Complaint because “the security and custody classification of state prison inmates is a matter for state prison-official discretion whose exercise is not subject to federal procedural due process constraints.” (4th Cir. 1994). Slezak v. Evatt, 21 F.3d 590, 594 Thus, Hart’s Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint will be denied. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, Shearin’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 25) is GRANTED. Hart’s Motion for Summary Judgment for (ECF No. 24) and Motion Complaint (ECF No. 30) are DENIED. Leave to an A separate Order follows. Entered this 15th day of January 2016 /s/ ____________________________ George L. Russell, III United States District Judge 14 Amended

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