Blanchard v. P.G. County Corrections et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Peter J. Messitte on 1/25/2017. (c/m 1/26/2017 jf3s, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
* CIVIL ACTION NO. PJM-16-593
P.G. COUNTY CORRECTIONS
MARY LOU MCDONOUGH
OFFICER K. REID
On February 29, 2016, the Court received for filing an “Affidavit” submitted by detainee Ray
Blanchard. ECF No. 1. Blanchard raised a laundry list of claims regarding his detention at the
Prince George’s County Detention Center (“PGCDC”).1 He alleged that he was denied access to the
PGCDC grievance system; PGCDC staff used excessive force against him on July 14, 2015;
detainees are provided inadequate medical treatment; the PGCDC commissary is overpriced;
PGCDC staff hinder, obstruct and prevent the forwarding of personal, legal and special mail;
detainees are denied due process in the taking of telephone, commissary, and other privileges prior
to a disciplinary hearing; and detainees are denied “leisure and law library” public information.2 Id.
Blanchard is now confined at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.
The Prince George’s County Department of Corrections is not a proper defendant in a
42 U.S.C. § 1983 action, for which a plaintiff must allege injury by a "person" acting under color of
state law. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Monell v. Dep't of Soc. Servs. of City of New York, 436 U.S. 658,
In his Supplemental Complaint, Blanchard alleges that on July 14, 2015, excessive force was
applied against him when Officer Reid pushed Blanchard’s arms against the wall and grabbed him
around the collar and forced him “into the direction of the multipurpose room.” ECF No. 14. He
also claims that Reid defamed him by stating very loudly “you mother fuckers aint nothing [but a]
bunch of crackheads and dope fiends” and continuing to use obscene language. Blanchard further
states that his medical needs were seemingly neglected as to his rheumatism, eyeglasses, medically
restricted housing, pain medication, ace wrap bandages. He next claims that he and other detainees
were denied meaningful access to the courts as they were denied copies of information related to
civil litigation, the attorney grievance process, habeas corpus, and “misrepresentation.” Blanchard
additionally claims that his grievance was not responded to, and he was subject to officer
Pending before this Court are Blanchard’s Motion for Appointment of Counsel, a Motion
Requesting Amendment and Consolidation with Ali v. Prince George’s County Department of
Corrections, et al., Civil Action No. PWG-16-186 (D. Md.),3 a Motion to Amend the Civil Rights
Complaint, and a Motion for Default Judgment. ECF Nos. 9, 10, 13, & 16.
690 & n. 55 (1978). Accordingly, the Prince George’s County Department of Corrections shall be
dismissed from the suit.
In Ali v. Prince George’s County Department of Corrections, Civil Action No. PWG16-186, the Plaintiff alleged that Prince George’s County has a dilatory booking process; he was
denied necessary medication, attendance at daily religious services, and access to a case manager
while at PGCDC; denied an inmate grievance on separate occasions; charged for personal grooming
and medical services; subject to excessive force in 2014, and denied medical care. Id., ECF No. 1.
Defendants McTernan,4 McDonough, and Reid5 have filed a Motion to Dismiss and
Alternatively, for Summary Judgment, arguing that Blanchard’s Complaint should be dismissed for
the failure to state a claim. They assert that Blanchard has failed to demonstrate injury associated
with his excessive force, access-to-courts, medical, verbal abuse, grievance, defamation, and
conditions of confinement (commissary) claims.6 ECF No. 18.
In his Opposition response, Blanchard seemingly claims that Defendants have answered the
Complaint in an untimely and dilatory manner.
ECF No. 20.
He further argues that he can
maintain a constitutional claim of excessive force even when the force applied does not result in
serious injury. Blanchard states that he has set out a claim of defamation based upon Officer Reid’s
spoken words. He additionally claims that he was stripped of his medical necessities and denied
treatment for his rheumatism. Blanchard complains that he was denied access to the courts in that
he was deprived of copies of “civil litigation,” and information regarding attorney grievance, habeas
corpus cases, and misrepresentation information causing several legal proceedings to become
Finally he contends that his right to access the PGCDC grievance system
implicated his access to the courts and resulted in “serious harassment.” Id.
Pending Non-Dispositive Motions
The Clerk shall amend the docket to reflect the correct spelling of this Defendant’s
Service of process was not effected on Defendants Meskaram, Abu, and Remero.
Counsel accepted service and entered an appearance on behalf of Defendants
McDonough, McTernan, and Reid on June 13, 2016, and subsequently filed Motions for Extension
of Time to file a Response. ECF Nos. 12-13, 15, & 17. The Motions shall be granted nunc pro tunc.
Blanchard, who was granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, seeks the appointment of
counsel, claiming that he is unable to afford counsel, his imprisonment greatly limits his ability to
litigate this case, the issues in the case are complex, he has limited access to the law library, an d his
case will likely involve conflicting testimony. ECF No. 9.
“The court may request an attorney to represent any person” proceeding in forma pauperis
who is “unable to afford counsel.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(1) (2012). In civil actions, however, the
Court appoints counsel only in exceptional circumstances. Cook v. Bounds, 518 F.2d 779, 780 (4th
Cir. 1975). In doing so, the Court considers “the type and complexity of the case,” whether the
plaintiff has a colorable claim, and the plaintiff’s ability to prosecute the claim. See Whisenant v.
Yuam, 739 F.2d 160, 163 (4th Cir. 1984) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted), abrogated
on other grounds by Mallard v. U.S. Dist. Court for the S. Dist. of Iowa, 490 U.S. 296 (1989).
Exceptional circumstances include a litigant who “is barely able to read or write,” id. at 162, or
clearly “has a colorable claim but lacks the capacity to present it,” Berry v. Gutierrez, 587 F. Supp.
2d 717, 723 (E.D. Va. 2008); see also Altevogt v. Kirwan, No. WDQ-11-1061, 2012 WL 135283, at
*2 (D. Md. Jan. 13, 2012).
Blanchard’s proffered reasons for the appointment of counsel fail to show exceptional
circumstances or a particular need that would require the immediate assistance of an attorney. He
has presented his claims, as well as his motions, and his case has not yet proceeded to discovery or a
hearing. For these reasons, appointment of counsel is not warranted at this time. Blanchard’s
Motion to Appoint Counsel is therefore dismissed without prejudice. Should the case progress to
discovery or a hearing, he may renew his Motion.
Blanchard next seeks to amend and consolidate his case with Ali v. Prince George’s County
Department of Corrections, Civil Action No. PWG-16-186. (D. Md.). ECF No. 10. The Motion
shall be denied as review of both cases show that the allegations are personal to each of the
claimants, and involve particularized claims, which have little to no shared assertions.
Blanchard further seeks to amend his Complaint to add additional Defendants and facts to the
Complaint, as their names are revealed to him. ECF No. 13. Blanchard then levels another laundry
list of claims, but fails to provide any particular facts or dates as to how his rights were violated by
the named and unnamed parties. For these reasons Blanchard’s Motion to Amend shall be denied
Defendants McTernan, McDonough, and Reid’s dispositive motion, which solely questions
the adequacy of Blanchard’s Complaint, shall be evaluated as a Motion to Dismiss. The purpose of
a motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is to test the sufficiency of the Complaint. See
Presley v. City of Charlottesville, 464 F.3d 480, 483 (4th Cir. 2006). A Plaintiff's Complaint need
only satisfy the standard of Rule 8(a), which requires a “short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). “Rule 8(a)(2) still requires a
‘showing,’ rather than a blanket assertion, of entitlement to relief.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 n. 3 (2007). That showing must consist of more than “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action” or “naked assertion[s] devoid of further factual enhancement.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (internal citations omitted).
At this stage, the Court must consider all well-pleaded allegations in a Complaint as true,
Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 268 (1994), and must construe all factual allegations in the light
most favorable to the Plaintiff, see Harrison v. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., 176 F.3d 776,
783 (4th Cir. 1999) (citing Mylan Labs., Inc. v. Matkari, 7 F.3d 1130, 1134 (4th Cir. 1993)).
Because Blanchard is self-represented, his submissions are liberally construed. See Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). In evaluating the Complaint, the Court need not accept unsupported
legal allegations, Revene v. Charles Cnty. Comm'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), nor must it
agree with legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, or
conclusory factual allegations devoid of any reference to actual events, United Black Firefighters v.
Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979); see also Francis v. Giacomelli, 588 F.3d 186, 193 (4th Cir.
2009). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere
possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but it has not ‘show[n] ... that the pleader is
entitled to relief.’ “ Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2)). Thus, “[d]etermining
whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will...be a context-specific task that requires
the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. A Complaint needs
to give the parties sufficient notice as to the type of claim being alleged. See Chacko v. Patuxent
Inst., 429 F.3d 505, 509 (4th Cir. 2005).
Blanchard has undoubtedly raised a large number of constitutional claims concerning the
time of his pre-trial detention at the PGCDC. At this juncture, the Court concludes that his
allegations are bereft of adequate facts so as to put Defendants McTernan, McDonough, Reid and
others on notice of the constitutional claims raised against them and the exact nature of Blanchard’s
His claims at present state nothing more than unadorned accusations that he was
Blanchard continues to allege he was injured, but he does not specify the nature of
unlawfully harmed. He has failed to provide particularized information regarding his excessive
force, access-to-courts, medical, and grievance allegations. Defendants McTernan, McDonough,
and Reid’s dispositive motion shall be dismissed without prejudice. Blanchard shall be granted
additional time to submit a Supplemental Complaint which responds to the Court’s concerns and
addresses his omissions. A separate Order follows.
Date: January 25, 2017
PETER J. MESSITTE
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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