Ali v. The Prince George's County Department of Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paul W. Grimm on 8/7/2017. (kns, Deputy Clerk)(c/m 8/8/17)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
SEIFULLAH A. ALI,
CHAPLAIN ROMERO, etal.,
Case No.: PWG-16-186
Plaintiff Seifullah A. Ali was detained prior to trial and sentencing at the Prince George's
County Detention Center ("Detention Center") between December 23,2014 and April 21, 2016.
While there, Ali alleges that (l) he was unable to attend Friday and daily Islamic prayer services;
(2) he was denied inmate grievance forms and legal calls; (3) he was forced to pay for haircuts
and sick call visits; (4) he was unable to forward money from his institutional account to his
family; (5) he was placed in segregation prior to adjudication of a disciplinary matter; and (6) he
could not obtain certain legal information from the library.2
CompI. ~~ 3-6, 8-10.
Ali was arrested for possession of drugs and paraphernalia on December 22, 2014, and pleaded
guilty in Prince George's County Circuit Court in Case No. CT-151188 to the drug possession
charge on June 18, 2015. While awaiting trial on the drug charges, Ali was also charged in the
Circuit Court with 143 counts of violation of a peace order, harassment, misuse of the telephone,
and related charges in Case Nos. CT-150201-X and CT-150316-X. Ali was represented by
.counsel in each case. See http://casesearch.courts.state.md.us/casesearch/inquiry.
information provided in the Maryland electronic docket is shielded; however, Division of
Correction personnel at Western Correctional Institution ("WCI"), where Ali is now confined,
indicate he is serving a 28-year sentence imposed on April 8, 2016, for electronic harassment.
His presumptive release date is September 14,2033.
2 Ali also alleged constitutionally defj.cient health care by employees of Corizon, Inc., and
accused Corporal Lewis of assaulting him. CompI. ~ 2, 7, Mot. to Amend CompI., ECF NO.9.
money damages for alleged violation of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.c.
injunctive relief including: less restrictive access to the Detention Center library; provision of a
"multi-purpose religious building and a full law library containing civil as well as criminal case
law materials; elimination of sales tax on commissary items; a policy permitting family and
friends to visit segregation detainees who have pending adjustment hearings; placement of case
managers on the floor of each unit three hours a day; placement of grievance forms on each
floor; and federal court supervision of Detention Center operations. Id. ~ 11-12; Mot. to Amend,
Defendants McTerran, Dixon, McDonough, Bums, Stafford and Labbe have filed a
Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim and, Alternatively, for Summary Judgment, Defs.'
Mot., ECF No. 24, to which Ali has responded, Pl.'s Opp'n, ECF No. 27. A hearing in this
matter is unnecessary.
Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion,
construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted in part and Ali's religious
exercise claim shall proceed following service of process on Chaplains Romero and Penn.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for "the dismissal of a complaint if it fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted."
Velencia v. Drezhlo, No. RDB-12-237, 2012
WL 6562764, at *4 (D. Md. Dec. 13, 2012). This rule'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." Id. (quoting Presley v. City a/Charlottesville,
464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th
To that end, the Court bears in mind the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 8, Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009),
These claims were dismissed without prejudice and Ali was informed that these matters could be
brought as separate lawsuits. Apr. 13,2016 Order 2, ECF 12.
when considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). Specifically, a complaint 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," as "[t]hreadbare recitals of
the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice,"
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678-79.
Iqbal and Twombly).
See Velencia, 2012 WL 6562764, at *4 (discussing standard from
"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. With respect to claims that allege fraud, "a party
must state with particularity the circumstances constituting the fraud or mistake." Fed. R. Civ. P.
9(b). Fraud allegations that meet these heightened pleading requirements "typically 'include the
time, place and contents of the false representation, as well as the identity of the person making
the misrepresentation and what [was] obtained thereby.'"
Piotrowski v. Wells Fargo Bank, NA.,
No. DKC-11-3758, 2013 WL 247549, at *5 (D. Md. Jan. 22, 2013) (quoting Superior Bank,
v. Tandem Nat'l Mortg., Inc., 197 F. Supp. 2d 298,313-14
(D. Md. 2000)).
As a preliminary matter, Article III of the Constitution
limits the judicial
"actual, ongoing cases or controversies." Lewis v. Continental Bank Corp., 494 U.S. 472,
A case becomes moot when the issues presented are "no longer 'live' or the
parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome." City of Erie v. Pap's A.M,
U.S. 277, 287 (2000) (quoting County of Los Angeles v. Davis, 440 U.S. 625, 631 (1979)).
Ali is serving a lengthy sentence in the Maryland Division of Correction and no longer is housed
at the Detention Center. His injunctive relief requests concerning conditions of confinement are
rendered moot by his transfer from the Detention Center to the Division of Correction. See Slade
v. Hampton Rd. 's Reg'l Jail, 407 F.3d 243, 248-49 (4th Cir. 2005) (finding pre-trial detainee's
claim for injunctive relief mooted by release); Williams v. Griffin, 952 F.2d 820, 823 (4th Cir.
1991) (finding prisoner's Eighth Amendment claims for injunctive and declaratory relief moot
based on transfer); Magee v. Waters, 810 F.2d 451, 452 (4th Cir. 1987) (holding that the transfer
of a prisoner rendered moot his claim for injunctive relief). Ali's request for money damages,
however, survives his transfer from the Detention Center.
Exercise of Religion
Ali claims that Detention Center's Office of the Chaplain denied his request to attend
Islamic prayer services because the facility lacks a religious services center. CompI. ~ 3. "The
Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment forbids the adoption of laws designed to suppress
religious beliefs or practices." Morrison v. Garraghty, 239 F.3d 648, 656 (4th Cir. 2001). An
additional consideration in this case is the standard provided by the Religious Land Use and
Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIP A"). The act provides in part that:
[n]o government shall impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of a
person residing in or confined to an institution ... even if the burden results from
a rule of general applicability, unless the government demonstrates that
imposition of the burden on that person-(A)
is in furtherance of a compelling
government interest; and (B) is the least restrictive means of furthering that
compelling government interest.
42 U.S.C. 92000cc(a)(l).
It appears that Ali was provided some accommodation of his religious practices.
Mot. 3; Inmate Request Form, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 2, ECF No. 24-2 (providing Ali with prayer
calendar); Ramadan Participant List, Defs.' Mot. Ex. 3, ECF No. 24-3. Ali names two Detention
Center Chaplains in his Complaint, neither of which have been served. The Clerk shall assist Ali
in obtaining service of process on Chaplains Penn and Romero.
Once the Chaplains have been
served and have had an opportunity to respond to Ali's claims, I will address the matter.
Ali alleges he "was placed in the segregation
unit pnor to being heard by the
classification board for fighting," Compl. ~ 8, but does not explain the events that led to his
placement on segregation pending adjustment proceedings.
Because a pretrial detainee has not
been adjudged guilty of any crime, the Fourteenth Amendment's
due process clause prohibits
conditions of detainment that "amount to punishment of the detainee." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S.
520,535 (1979). Thus, a pretrial detainee's due process ri,ghts are "at least as great as the eighth
amendment protections available to the convicted prisoner."
Hill v. Nicodemus, 979 F.2d 987,
991 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting Martin v. Gentile, 849 F.2d 863, 871 (1988)). To establish that a
particular condition or restriction of detention constitutes impermissible punishment, a detainee
must show either (1) an expressed intent to punish or (2) a lack of a reasonable relationship to a
legitimate governmental non-punitive purpose. See Wolfish, 441 U.S. at 538. Ali's Complaint
does not state a due process claim because he provides no details that suggest that he was placed
in segregation prior to adjudication of a disciplinary matter for the purpose of punishment rather
than for administrative reasons such as preventing further fighting.
Conditions of Confinement
Beyond his placement in segregation, Ali complains of other conditions of confinement
including being forced to pay for haircuts and sick calls and his inability to send money from his
inmate account to his family.
Compl. ~~ 6, 9.
Ali alleges no actual injury as a result of
co-payments for haircuts or medical services or from the restriction on transfer of funds from his
Detention Center account. He also fails to show that these co-pays and restriction were punitive
in nature. His claims, therefore, fail.
Ali alleges that he was not provided full access to the Detention Center's law library,
claiming that the librarian told him that he could "only get information about criminal cases," not
civil cases like the pending matter.
Despite his confinement, Ali retains a constitutionally
protected right of access to the courts.
See Bounds v. Smith, 430 U.S. 817, 821 (1977).
Bounds does not guarantee inmates the wherewithal to transform themselves into
litigating engines capable of filing everything from shareholder derivative actions
to slip-and-fall claims. The tools it requires to be provided are those that the
inmates need in order to attack their sentences, directly or collaterally, and in
order to challenge the conditions of their confinement. Impairment of any other
litigating capacity is simply one of the incidental (and perfectly constitutional)
consequences of conviction and incarceration.
Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 355 (1996). In order to bring a claim alleging inadequate access
to library materials an inmate or detainee must allege a "specific problem he wished to research"
and "actual injury or specific harm which has resulted to him by his limited access to the jail
library or its limited contents." Magee v. Waters, 810 F.2d 451, 452 (4th Cir. 1987). Actual
injury occurs when a prisoner demonstrates that a "nonfrivolous" and "arguable" claim was lost
because of the denial of access to the courts. Lewis, 518 U.S. at 399.
During his pre-trial detention, Ali faced pending criminal charges but had not initiated
any civil actions challenging
his conditions of confinement,
and he does not specify any
conditions that he was seeking to alter at the time through the administrative remedy process.
And because he does not specify a particular issue that he wished to research, he also has fails to
demonstrate that he sought to challenge a viable claim or that his lack of access to certain library
materials prevented him from pursuing it.
Access to Grievance Forms
Ali also raises a general complaint that he could not obtain grievance forms. Compi. ~ 5.
The law in this Circuit dictates that no constitutional entitlement to grievance procedures or
access to such procedures is created merely because such procedures are voluntarily established
by a state. See Adams v. Rice, 40 F.3d 72,75 (4th Cir. 1994). To the extent that Ali intends to
frame this allegation as an access-to-courts claim, he fails to state a claim. Ali does not specify
that any of the Defendants were responsible for denying or delaying access to grievance forms,
and he fails to specify actual harm resulting therefrom, i.e., that a "nonfrivolous" and "arguable"
claim was lost because of the denial of access to the courts. Lewis, 518 U. S. at 399. In fact,
Defendants do not raise non-exhaustion of administrative remedies as an affirmative defense in
this lawsuit. See Defs.' Mot.
Apart from his religious exercise claims, which I cannot yet evaluate because Chaplains
Penn and Romero have not yet been served, Ali fails to state any claim for which relief can be
A separate Order shall issue dismissing all claims except to those relating to Ali's
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