Williams v. Green
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge George Jarrod Hazel on 7/25/2017. (c/m 07/25/2017 - jf3s, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
LAMARR D. WILLIAMS, #370-175,
Case No.: GJH-16-1041
KATHLEEN GREEN, WARDEN,
Lamarr D. Williams, a Maryland Division of Correction ("DOC") prisoner housed at
Maryland Correctional Institution-Jessup ("MCI-J"), filed a self-represented civil rights
complaint under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking money damages against Kathleen Green, the former
warden of Eastern Correctional Institution ("Ed"). Williams alleges that while he was confined
at ECI, Green was deliberately indifferent to his safety, resulting in an August 21, 2015 attack
during which he was stabbed in the neck. ECF No. 1 at 3.1 Presently pending is Defendant
Green's unopposed Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment.
ECF No. 21.2 No hearing is necessary. Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons that follow,
Defendant's Motion, construed as a Motion for Summary Judgment, shall be granted.
Pin cites to documents filed on the Court's electronic filing system (CM/ECF) refer to the page numbers generated
by that system.
Pursuant to the dictates of Roseboro v. Garrison, 528 F.2d 309 (4th Cir. 1975), on December 13, 2016, Williams
was notified in writing that Green had filed a dispositive motion; that Williams had seventeen days in which to file
written opposition to the motion; and that if Williams failed to respond, summary judgment could be entered against
him without further notice. ECF No. 22. No response has been received by the Court.
Williams states that during May 2015 he was placed on administrative segregation "due
to numerous threats made on [his] life." ECF No. 1 at 3. On August 20, 2015, he alleges that he
was placed in a housing unit with known enemies. Id. He claims that due to his Security Threat
Group ("STG") status, he should not have been placed in that housing unit. Id.
Williams states that on the following morning, August 21, 2015, he was allegedly
ambushed by unnamed assailants and stabbed in the neck while on the way back from the "chow
hall." ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 21-2 at 17. Williams claims to have been emotionally
traumatized by the incident. ECF No. 1 at 3-4.
In the Complaint, Williams acknowledges that he failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies. Id. at 2. He states that he wrote a statement and signed an incident report, and "was
told that would be enough for an investigation." Id.
The parties agree that Williams has repeatedly expressed concern for his safety, both
before the incident alleged in this matter, see ECF Nos. 21-2 at 11, and since that date. See e.g.
id. at 19-20, 21, 22-23, 26-27, 53. As a result, Williams was moved between various housing
units at ECI, and on occasion placed in administrative segregation and protective custody. See
e.g. id. at 11-12.
Although Williams had previously claimed that he was at risk because he had attempted
to disassociate from his STG and feared retribution, id. 11-12, prison records do not show that
Williams ever reported known enemies to prison authorities. Id. at 7. Moreover, on August 11,
2015, Williams advised the correctional staff that he could safely be housed in Housing Unit 6,
id. at 13, which he was assigned to on August 20, 2015. Id. at 4.
The day after his assignment to Housing Unit 6, Williams reported that he had been
assaulted and had been told that "if [he] didn't leave it will be worse next time." Id. at 17.
Medical treatment was provided that afternoon by Charlotte Townley, RN, who noted a break in
his skin on the back of his neck and a scabbed area. Id. at 16. No other injuries were noted and
RN Townley reported that Williams denied being in pain. Id. Williams' medical records reflect
no medical attention on or after August 21, 2015 as a result of the alleged incident. ECF No. 213.3
In response to Williams' allegations of an assault, an Administrative Segregation
Investigation Report was issued that same day. Id. at 15. The investigator wrote that Williams
had "a mark on the back of his head" and that Williams had informed him that he was "STG
'[Gangster's Disciples]' but dropped his flag and has been moving around ever since." Id. The
investigator recommended that Williams be transferred from ECI because he had already been
placed in several units in the facility. Id.
On August 21, 2015, the same day as the attack, Williams was moved out of the housing
block where the incident occurred and into Administrative Segregation within ECI. Id. Williams
was eventually transferred from ECI to Roxbury Correctional Institution (RCI) in April 2016. Id.
Green argues that Williams' allegations are insufficient to state a claim based on
supervisory liability, and there is no 42 U.S.C. § 1983 liability under the doctrine of respondeat
In a statement attached to his Complaint, Williams stated that an order for mental health evaluation had been
submitted by case management after this incident due to the "mental issues" he had from the incident. ECF No. 1-1.
The Court did not find evidence of Williams receiving mental health treatment but notes that several of the
photocopied pages were hard to read.
superior. ECF No. 21-1 at 7-11. She also argues that Williams did not exhaust his administrative
remedies regarding the incident, submitting in support of this argument the declaration of Susan
Shumaker, Litigation Coordinator at ECI, who stated that a review of ECI's Administrative
Remedy Procedure ("ARP") index for August and September confirms that Williams failed to
file an ARP. ECF No. 21-2 at 1; see also ECF No. 21-2 at 28-50. Green also asserts the defenses
of sovereign and qualified immunity. Id. at 12-15.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
To survive a motion to dismiss invoking 12(b)(6), "a complaint must contain sufficient
factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft
v. lqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(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."
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) ("a plaintiffs
obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his `entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of a cause of action's elements will not do.").
Fed. R. Civ. P. 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) (citation and internal
quotation marks omitted). When deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court "must
accept as true all of the factual allegations contained in the complaint," and must "draw all
reasonable inferences [from those facts] in favor of the plaintiff." E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co.
v. Kolon Indus., Inc., 637 F.3d 435, 440 (4th Cir. 2011) (citations and internal quotation marks
omitted). The Court need not, however, accept unsupported legal allegations, see Revene v.
Charles County Comm 'rs, 882 F.2d 870, 873 (4th Cir. 1989), legal conclusions couched as
factual allegations, Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986), or conclusory factual
allegations devoid of any reference to actual events. United Black Firefighters of Norfolk v.
Hirst, 604 F.2d 844, 847 (4th Cir. 1979).
Defendant's motion is styled as a Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary
Judgment. If the Court considers materials outside the pleadings, as the Court does here, the
Court must treat a motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). When
the Court treats a motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment, 101 parties must be
given a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion." Id.
When the moving party styles its motion as a "Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for
Summary Judgment," as is the case here, and attaches additional materials to its motion, the
nonmoving party is, of course, aware that materials outside the pleadings are before the Court,
and the Court can treat the motion as one for summary judgment. See Laughlin v. Metropolitan
Wash. Airports Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260-61 (4th Cir. 1998). Further, the Court is not prohibited
from granting a motion for summary judgment before the commencement of discovery. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 56(a) (stating that the court "shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" without distinguishing pre-or post-discovery).
However, summary judgment should not be granted if the nonmoving party has not had
the opportunity to discover information that is essential to his opposition to the motion. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 n.5, (1987). If the nonmoving party feels that the
motion is premature, that party can invoke Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(d). See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 326 (1986). Under Rule 56(d), the Court may deny a motion for summary
judgment if the non-movant shows through an affidavit that, for specified reasons, he or she
cannot properly present facts, currently unavailable to him or her, that are essential to justify an
opposition. Fed. R. Civ. Pro. 56(d). "[T]he failure to file an affidavit. . . is itself sufficient
grounds to reject a claim that the opportunity for discovery was inadequate." Harrods Ltd. v.
Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir. 2002) (citations omitted). But a failure
to file an affidavit may be excused "if the nonmoving party has adequately -informed the district
court that the motion is premature and that more discovery is necessary" and the "nonmoving
party's objections before the district court served as the functional equivalent of an affidavit." Id.
at 244-45 (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Here, Plaintiff has not filed an affidavit under Rule 56(d) or made an equivalent showing
of the need for more discovery. Thus, the Court will convert Defendant's Motion to Dismiss into
a Motion for Summary Judgment.
Summary judgment is appropriate if "materials in the record, including depositions,
documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations.
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials," Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), show that there is
"no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. The party moving for
summary judgment bears the burden of demonstrating that no genuine dispute exists as to
material facts. Pulliam Inv. Co. v. Cameo Props., 810 F.2d 1282, 1286 (4th Cir. 1987). If the
moving party demonstrates that there is no evidence to support the nonmoving party's case, the
burden shifts to the nonmoving party to identify specific facts showing that there is a genuine
issue for trial. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. A material fact is one that "might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law." Spriggs v. Diamond Auto Glass, 242 F.3d 179,
183 (4th Cir. 2001) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). A
dispute of material fact is only "genuine" if sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party
exists for the trier of fact to return a verdict for that party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. However,
the nonmoving party "cannot create a genuine issue of material fact through mere speculation or
the building of one inference upon another." Beale v. Hardy, 769 F.2d 213, 214 (4th Cir. 1986).
When ruling on a motion for summary judgment, "[t]he evidence of the non-movant is to be
believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255.
A. Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies
Defendant argues that Plaintiff's claim should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust
his administrative remedies. Prisoners are required to exhaust "such administrative remedies as
are available" before filing an action. 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Ross v. Blake, 136 S.Ct. 1850,
1858 (2016) ("An inmate ... must exhaust available remedies, but need not exhaust unavailable
ones."). "[A]n administrative remedy is not considered to have been available if a prisoner,
through no fault of his own, was prevented from availing himself of it." Moore v. Bennette, 517
F.3d 717, 725 (4th Cir. 2008). "Conversely, a prisoner does not exhaust all available remedies
simply by failing to follow the required steps so that remedies that once were available to him no
longer are." Id. (citation omitted).
Exhaustion is a mandatory requirement. Ross, 136 S. Ct. 1850, 1857 (2016); Jones v.
Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219 (2007). A court may not excuse a failure to exhaust. Ross, 136 S. Ct. at
1856 (citing Miller v. French, 530 U.S. 327, 337 (2000)). The purpose of exhaustion is to: (1)
"allow [ ] a prison to address complaints about the program it administers before being subjected
to suit"; (2) "reduce[ ] litigation to the extent complaints are satisfactorily resolved"; and (3)
prepare a "useful record" in the event of litigation. Jones, 549 U.S. at 219. A prisoner's failure to
exhaust administrative remedies is an affirmative defense; defendant bears the burden of proving
that he had remedies available to him of which he failed to take advantage. Jones, 549 U.S. at
211-12,216; Moore, 517 F.3d at 725.
In Ross, the Supreme Court identified three circumstances in which an administrative
remedy is unavailable. 136 S. Ct. at 1859. First, "an administrative procedure is unavailable
when (despite what regulations or guidance materials may promise) it operates as a simple dead
end—with officers unable or consistently unwilling to provide any relief to aggrieved inmates."
Id. at 1859. Second, "an administrative scheme might be so opaque that it becomes, practically
speaking, incapable of use. In this situation, some mechanism exists to provide relief, but no
ordinary prisoner can discern or navigate it." Id. The third circumstance arises when "prison
administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through
machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation." Id. at 1860.
In Maryland, filing a request for administrative remedy with the warden of the prison is
the first of three steps in the Administrative Remedy Procedure ("ARP") process. See Md. Code
Regs. 12.07.01.04(A). The ARP request must be filed within 30 days of the date on which the
incident occurred, or within 30 days of the date the inmate first gained knowledge of the incident
or injury giving rise to the complaint, whichever is later. Md. Code Regs. 12.07.01.05(A). If the
ARP request is dismissed or denied, the inmate must file an appeal with the Commissioner of
Correction. See Md. Code Regs. 12.07.01.05(B). If that appeal is denied or the Commissioner
fails to respond to the grievance, the inmate must file a subsequent appeal with the Inmate
Grievance Office. See Md. Corr. Servs., Code § 10-206; Md. Code Regs. 12.07.01.04(B). Only
after exhausting these administrative channels is the inmate empowered to seek judicial review
of his claims in a court of law. See Md. Corr. Servs. § 10-210; 42. U.S.C. § 1997e(a).
Defendant documents that Williams did not attempt to complete any portion of the
administrative exhaustion process. In his Complaint, Williams acknowledges that he did not
exhaust his administrative requirements, but argues that he "wrote a statement and signed an
incident report...and was told that would be enough for an investigation." ECF No. 1 at 2.
As the Supreme Court said in Ross, an administrative remedy is not available when
"prison administrators thwart inmates from taking advantage of a grievance process through
machination, misrepresentation, or intimidation." Id. at 1860 (emphasis added). Here, the record
shows that an investigation into the assault was initiated after Williams' submitted a statement.
ECF No. 21-2 at 15. Williams has not opposed defendant's motion and has not provided any
more information regarding this comment. Thus, the Court finds that Williams has not shown
that this statement, by an unnamed individual, was a misrepresentation. While Williams may
have misinterpreted this individual's statement, there is no indication that he was "thwart[ed
from taking advantage of a grievance process." Id. at 1860. Thus, the Court finds that Plaintiff
did not exhaust his administrative remedy as to this claim and it is subject to dismissal on that
B. Failure to State a Claim
However, even if Williams were to have exhausted his administrative remedies, the Court
would still find that it was subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted. Williams names Green as the sole defendant, based on her supervisory status as
Warden at ECI, and alleges that his placement in Housing Unit 6 was made with deliberate
indifference to his safety.
The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment imposes a
duty on a prison official to take "reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates."
Raynor v. Pugh, 817 F.3d 123, 127 (4th Cir. 2016) (quoting Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
832 (1994)).4 For liability to apply, an inmate must establish "a serious deprivation of his rights
in the form of a serious or significant physical or emotional injury, or a substantial risk thereof'
and demonstrate that "the prison official had a sufficiently culpable state of mind, which in this
context, consists of a deliberate indifference to health or safety." Id. (internal quotations and
The law in the Fourth Circuit is well established that the doctrine of respondeat superior
does not apply to impose liability on supervisors such as Defendant Green pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. See Love-Lane v. Martin, 355 F. 3d 766, 782 (4th Cir. 2004). Instead, supervisory
liability under § 1983 must be supported with evidence that:
(1)  the supervisor had actual or constructive knowledge that his subordinate
was engaged in conduct that posed a pervasive and unreasonable risk of
constitutional injury to citizens like the plaintiff; (2) the supervisor's response to
the knowledge was so inadequate as to show deliberate indifference to or tacit
authorization of the alleged offensive practices; and (3)  there was an affirmative
causal link between the supervisor's inaction and the particular constitutional
injury suffered by the plaintiff.
Shaw v. Stroud, 13 F. 3d 791, 799 (4th Cir. 1994) (citations omitted). Here, Williams has failed
to establish either that he suffered a serious deprivation of his rights or that Defendant Green had
a sufficiently culpable state of mind. The record demonstrates that on August 11, 2015,
Williams advised the correctional staff that he could safely be housed in Housing Unit 6. He
was assigned to that unit on August 20, 2015. The next day, he was allegedly assaulted and
threatened. Correctional staff investigated the incident, provided medical assistance and
The Eighth Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment applies to the states via the Fourteenth
Amendment. See Shakka v. Smith, 71 F.3d 162, 165 n. 2 (4th Cir. 1995).
removed him from the unit that same day, eventually transferring him to a different
correctional facility. From the record before it, the Court finds that these steps comply with
prison officials' duty to take "reasonable measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates."
Raynor, 817 F.3d at 127. Even more fatal to his claim, Williams does not allege that Green was
in any manner personally involved in the decision to move him to various housing units, nor
does he satisfy the elements for conferring supervisory liability. This, his Complaint does not
state a cognizable claim for which Green could be held liable.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity provides yet another reason to dismiss Plaintiff's
Complaint. Although not delineated in the Complaint, the Court assumes that Williams is suing
Green in her official and individual capacities. Green contends she is protected from suit in her
official capacity under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Eleventh
Amendment provides: "[t]he Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend
to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by
Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or subjects of any Foreign State." U.S. Const. amend.
XI. Judgment against a public employee "in his official capacity" imposes liability on the public
entity. See Brandon v. Holt, 469 U.S. 464, 471-72 (1985) (citing Monell v. New York Dept. of
Soc. Serv., 436 U.S. 658, 690 n. 55 (1978)). It follows that Williams' suit against Defendant
Green for actions undertaken in her official capacity as Warden is an action against the State of
Maryland. Under the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, a state, its agencies
and departments are immune from suits in federal court brought by its citizens or the citizens of
another state, unless it consents. See Penhurst State Sch. and Hasp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89,
100 (1984). While the State of Maryland has waived its sovereign immunity for certain types of
cases brought in state courts, see Md. Code Ann., State Gov't § 12-201(a), it has not waived its
immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to suit in federal court. See Weller v. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. .for City of Baltimore, 901 F.2d 387, 397 (4th Cir. 1990) ("[t]he waiver of sovereign
immunity in the Maryland Torts Claims Act clearly limits the state's waiver of immunity to
actions brought in the Maryland state courts."). Thus, William's Complaint against Defendant
Green in her official capacity is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.5
For the foregoing reasons, Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, Motion
for Summary Judgment, ECF No. 21, shall be granted. A separate Order follows.
GEORGE J. HAZEL
United States District Judge
Having found that Plaintiff's constitutional rights were not violated, the Court need not reach the issue of qualified
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