Flores v. Western Correctional Institution et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION. Signed by Judge Paula Xinis on 6/27/2017. (c/m 06/27/2017 jf3s, Deputy Clerk)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
ANGEL FLORES, #362446, #3534316,
Civil Action No. PX-16-2963
WESTERN CORRECTIONAL INSTITUTION *
WARDEN RICHARD J. GRAHAM, JR.,
ASS’T WARDEN DENISE GELSINGER,
BRADLEY O. BUTLER, Security Chief,
HALL, 4-12 Shift Lieutenant,
SHIMKO, Intelligence Lieutenant,
A. CARTWRIGHT II, Administrative
Remedy Procedure Coordinator,
HUMBERTSON, Administrative Segregation *
COMMISSIONER OF CORRECTION,
SECRETARY, Department of Public Safety and
Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss, or, in the alternative, motion for
summary judgment filed by Defendants Western Correctional Institution (“WCI”), Warden
Richard Graham, Assistant Warden Denise Gelsinger, Security Chief Bradley Butler, Lt. Allen
Hall, Lt. Jeffrey C. Shimko, Salem Humbertson, CO II Alicia Cartwright, and the Secretary for
the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (“DPSCS”) (ECF No. 10). Plaintiff
Angel Flores filed a cross-motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 14). The issues are fully
briefed and the Court now rules pursuant to Local Rule 105.6 because no hearing is necessary.
For the reasons stated below, Defendants’ motion will be granted in part and denied in part.
Plaintiff’s motion is denied.
On February 7, 2016, Flores was attacked by another inmate while serving his prison
sentence at the Western Correctional Institute. He was treated for injuries to his face, forehead,
and neck and placed on administrative segregation pending investigation of the incident “Per 412 shift Lieutenant (?. Hall) and Intelligence Lieutenant (?. Shimko).” ECF No. 1 at 5.1 Flores
could not immediately identify his attacker, but video footage reviewed by Lt. Shimko and
another prison official identified the attacker as James Morgan. See ECF No. 1-2 at 4; ECF No.
14-1 at 15. Flores’s file was never updated to reflect the attack. See Compl., ECF No. 1 at 7.
Flores was placed in administrative segregation following the attack. See id. at 5; see also ECF
No. 10-2 at 3.
On February 22, 2016 and March 1, 2016, Flores filed Administrative Remedy Procedure
(ARP) requests seeking to be released from administrative segregation into the general
population. ECF No. 10-2 at 6–7, 8–9. Specifically, Flores complained that he was entitled to be
present at a hearing regarding his segregated status and that he had not been afforded such a
hearing. He requested that an “ICC representative” attend his next administrative review. Id. at 9.
Flores’ ARPs were dismissed on the ground that housing determinations concern case
management decisions that are not covered by the ARP process. Id. at 6, 8. 2
Flores includes with Lieutenant Hall and Lieutenant Shimko’s names question marks and periods without
explanation. See, e.g., ECF No. 1 at 5–7.
See Aurel v. Mailroom North Branch, No. ELH-14-2813, 2016 WL 3957647 at *8 (D. Md. July 21, 2016) (noting
that the ARP process does not apply to case management decisions, which are to be directly grieved to the Inmate
Grievance Office and citing DPSCS Executive Directive OPS.185.0002.05F(1)).
On May 4, 2016, Defendant Humbertson, the case manager for Flores’ housing unit, met
with Flores for a “monthly admin seg [sic] review.” At that meeting, Flores signed a body
waiver wherein he acknowledged that he did “not have any known enemies at WCI and feel[s
he] can be safely housed in general population at this time.”3 ECF No. 10-2 at 5; see also id. at
12. According to Flores, Defendant Humbertson told him that he would email the investigating
officers (Defendants Hall and Shimko) and the warden, assistant warden, and security chief
regarding Flores’s pending return to the general prison population. Compl, ECF No. 1 at 5–6.
Humbertson allegedly also said that if Flores did not “hear anything” by the following day, it
could mean that his case was still under investigation. Id. at 5; see also ECF No. 10-2 at 12.
Two weeks later, Flores was still in administrative segregation and had not received a
reply from Defendants Hall or Shimko. As such, he filed another ARP on May 18, 2016, “ARP
WCI-1114-16”, seeking to recant his body waiver. He noted no change in his housing status and
no updates regarding the investigation of the February 7th attack. ARP WCI-1114-16, ECF No.
1-1. Flores requested to be assigned to a single cell and placed on recreation alone status until he
received written assurance from Defendants Hall and Shimko that he was not at risk for further
harm after the initial attack. Id. at 2–3. Defendant Cartwright dismissed this ARP the day after it
was filed, again on the grounds that housing determinations are a matter of case management and
cannot be properly challenged through the Administrative Remedy Procedure. Id. at 2.
Defendant Humbertson claims that he never learned of Flores’ desire to recant his body waiver.
ECF No. 10-2 at 16.4
On May 21, 2016, Flores was returned to the general prison population and, notably, was
housed on the same tier as James Morgan, the inmate who had attacked him on February 7, 2016.
The record contains no information about an April review between Defendant Humbertson and Flores.
The Information Report Form containing Humbertson’s statement was not signed under oath.
Within an hour of Flores’ return, Morgan and three other inmates stabbed Flores. Compl., ECF
No. 1 at 6. Flores’ injuries included a “large laceration about 10 inches long with multiple
puncture wounds to the same area,” bruises, and several stab wounds. See Medical Record, ECF
No. 14-8 at 3.
After the May 21st attack, four inmates (Grant Holley, James Morgan, Jerrod Ward, and
Raymond Murray) were thereafter identified as Flores’ “enemies” in the DPSCS database for
security reasons. Winters Decl., ECF No. 10-2 at 2. No such similar notation had been made to
Flores’ file after the February 7th attack. Flores alleges, without citing a particular policy, that
this omission is contrary to prison protocol. ECF No. 10-2 at 13. Sgt. Broadwater, however, told
Flores that “someone didn’t do their job” by failing to place a staff alert in Flores’ inmate file
regarding the February 7th attack. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 7. No information exists as to why
Plaintiff was returned to general population or the reasons for the delay in his return. Winters
Decl., ECF No. 10-2 at 1.
On May 22, 2016, the day after the second attack, Defendant Shimko met with Flores for
the first time. According to Flores, Shimko acknowledged at that meeting that Flores should not
have been returned to the general prison population. Shimko further noted that he would have not
allowed Flores’ return to the general population had he known of the impending move from
administrative segregation. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 7. Flores was again placed on administrative
segregation pending investigation of the second attack.
After the May 21st attack, Flores filed a series of ARPs and inmate grievances, asserting
that the institution had failed to review properly his previous ARPs, especially the one recanting
the body waiver. See ECF No. 1-2 at 1; see also ECF No. 10-2 at 10–11. These ARPs were,
again, procedurally dismissed, See ECF No. 14-6 at 2, 8, noting that Flores signed the body
waiver voluntarily, did not indicate that the ARP was an “emergency,” and did not contact his
case manager to request retraction of the body waiver. Id. at 8.
Flores then wrote the Executive Director of the Inmate Grievance Office (“IGO”) to
explain that he did not check the “emergency” box on the ARP because he considered himself
safe while in administrative segregation, and that his primary purpose in filing the ARPs was to
receive assurance that he was not in danger of further attack. See ECF No. 1-3 at 5; see also ECF
No. 1-2 at 10. After Flores filed the IGO letter, he was transferred from WCI to Jessup
Correctional Institution. The IGO therefore dismissed the letter as moot on August 12, 2016,
describing Flores’ concern as being that he was “improperly placed on Administrative
Segregation.” ECF No. 14-4 at 1.
Flores filed the instant action on August 24, 2016 after exhausting his administrative
remedies and notifying the Maryland State Treasury of his intent to bring suit. See Compl., ECF
No. 1; ECF No. 1-4 at 2. Flores alleges that Defendants violated his rights under the Eighth and
Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Specifically, Flores asserts that the
Defendants failed to afford him a hearing while he was on administrative segregation and
subsequently failed to protect him from other violent inmates. He seeks compensatory damages
in the amount of $160,000 against each Defendant, jointly and severally, and punitive damages
in the amount of $60,000 against each Defendant. Id. at 4.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Defendants’ motion is styled as a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary
judgment, and they have attached additional materials to it. This implicates the court’s authority
under Rule 12(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to convert a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to
dismiss into a Rule 56 motion for summary judgment. See Bosiger v. U.S. Airways, 510 F.3d
442, 450 (4th Cir. 2007); Kensington Vol. Fire Dep’t., Inc. v. Montgomery Cty., 788 F. Supp. 2d
431, 436–37 (D. Md. 2011). When a defendant attaches documents to a motion to dismiss that
are not “integral to the complaint,” the Court cannot consider the documents unless it treats the
motion as one for summary judgment. See CACI Int’l v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 566
F.3d 150, 154 (4th Cir. 2009); Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(d). Before doing so, “[a]ll parties must be given
a reasonable opportunity to present all the material that is pertinent to the motion.” Id. Flores has
been put on notice by the Defendants styling the motion as one for summary judgment and
attaching additional materials. In fact, Flores filed his own cross-motion for summary judgment,
thereby acknowledging his awareness and acquiescence to the same. The Court, therefore, will
treat the motions as ones for summary judgment. See Laughlin v. Metropolitan Wash. Airports
Auth., 149 F.3d 253, 260–61 (4th Cir. 1998).
Summary judgment is governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a) which provides that “the court
shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” The Supreme Court has clarified that
this does not mean that any factual dispute will defeat the motion. “By its very terms, this
standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will
not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is
that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247 (1986) (emphasis in original).
“A party opposing a properly supported motion for summary judgment ‘may not rest
upon the mere allegations or denials of [his] pleadings’ but rather must ‘set forth specific facts
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.’” Bouchat v. Baltimore Ravens Football Club,
Inc., 346 F.3d 514, 522 (4th Cir. 2003) (alteration in original) (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)).
This court should “view the evidence in the light most favorable to . . . the nonmovant, and draw
all inferences in her favor without weighing the evidence or assessing the witness’s credibility.”
Dennis v. Columbia Colleton Med. Ctr., Inc., 290 F.3d 639, 644–45 (4th Cir. 2002). A court
must also, however, abide by the “affirmative obligation of the trial judge to prevent factually
unsupported claims and defenses from proceeding to trial.” Bouchat, 346 F.3d at 526 (internal
quotation marks omitted) (quoting Drewett v. Pratt, 999 F.2d 774, 778–79 (4th Cir. 1993) and
citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323–24 (1986)).
The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Each motion is considered
individually, and the facts relevant to each are viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmovant.” Rossignol v. Voorhaar, 316 F.3d 516, 523 (4th Cir. 2003).
Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment
Eleventh Amendment Sovereign Immunity
At the outset, the individual Defendants argue that they are immune from suit pursuant to
the Eleventh Amendment of the United States Constitution. ECF No. 10-1 at 10. Defendants are
partially correct. Under the Eleventh Amendment, states as well as their agencies and
departments are immune from suits in federal court brought by their citizens or the citizens of
another state. See Pennhurst State Sch. and Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984); see
also Will v. Michigan Dep’t of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70 (1989). While states can consent to
such suits, and 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 § 12-202(a), it has not waived
its immunity under the Eleventh Amendment to suit in federal court. See Carter v. Mayor and
City Council of Baltimore, 164 F. Supp. 2d 509, 514 (D. Md. 2001), vacated on other grounds,
39 F. App’x 930; Hopkins v. Baltimore City Det. Ctr., 2016 WL 470821 (D. Md. 2016).
With regard to individual Defendants, the Eleventh Amendment immunity analysis turns
on whether the defendant is sued in her individual or official capacity. Suits against state
defendants in their official capacities are construed as suits against the office itself, and so
sovereign immunity precludes suit. Will, 491 U.S. at 71. When a defendant is sued in her
personal capacity, however, the defendant enjoys no Eleventh Amendment protection. Hafer v.
Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 22 (1991).
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals counsels that the Court must look to the substance
of the pleadings to determine whether a defendant is sued in her individual or official capacity
for Eleventh Amendment immunity purposes. Biggs v. Meadows, 66 F.3d 56, 58 (4th Cir. 1995).
The factors include the relief requested, plaintiff’s failure to make allegations regarding official
customs or policies, and the nature of the defenses. Id. at 61.
Here, Flores’ complaint demonstrates that he has sued the individual defendants in their
individual capacities. Flores, for example, has not alleged that Defendants’ actions were pursuant
to a custom or policy as is required to sue individuals in their official capacities. Flores has also
requested the kind of damages available only to defendants sued in their individual capacities, to
include punitive damages. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 4. Defendants also claim that they are entitled
qualified immunity, ECF No. 10-1 at 11, which is only available to defendants sued in their
individual capacities. Biggs, 66 F.3d at 61 (citing Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 167
(1985)). Plaintiff’s claims, therefore, are not barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity. To the
extent that Flores may be also suing Defendants in their official capacities, those claims are
hereby dismissed. See Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 663 (1974) (citing Ford Motor Co. v.
Dep’t of Treasury, 323 U.S. 459 (1945) (holding that where recovery must be paid from public
funds in the state treasury, a suit is barred by the Eleventh Amendment)).
Section 1983 Claims
Defendants next argue that WCI cannot be sued under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for direct
violations of Flores’ constitutional rights because WCI is not a “person” for the purposes of §
1983 liability. Defendant WCI is correct. See Preval v. Reno, 57 F. Supp. 2d 307, 310 (E.D. Va.
1999) (holding that jails are not “persons” amenable to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983), aff’d in
part and vacated in part on other grounds, No. 99-6950, 2000 WL 20591 (4th Cir. 2000); see
also Allison v. California Adult Auth., 419 F.2d 822, 823 (9th Cir. 1969) (holding that a prison
was not a “person” under 42 U.S.C. § 1983). Accordingly, the claims against WCI are dismissed.
Similarly, individual Defendants Richard J. Graham Jr., Denise Gelsinger, Bradley O.
Butler, argue that Flores has failed to plead sufficient personal involvement to sustain a claim
against them under § 1983. ECF No. 14-1 at 8. Flores pleads only that their signatures appear on
certain forms but do not identify any forms within the record to support his claim. Construing the
facts in the light most favorable to Flores, the Court identifies one ARP denial signed by
Defendant Gelsinger, but that denial postdated the second attack and so has no relation to
Flores’ allegations that Defendants failed to keep him safe by releasing him to general
population. Thus, summary judgment must be granted as to these Defendants.
In a last attempt to save his claims against these defendants, Flores asserts that they are
liable under a theory of respondeat superior. Id. at 7. Respondeat superior liability, however, is
not available for §1983 claims. Kitchen v. Ickes, 116 F. Supp. 3d 613, 629 (D. Md.
2015), aff’d, 644 F. App’x 243 (4th Cir. 2016), cert. denied, 137 S. Ct. 573 (2016). Accordingly,
Plaintiff’s claims against Richard J. Graham Jr., Denise Gelsinger, Bradley O. Butler, the
Commissioner of Correction, and the Secretary of the Department of Public Safety must fail.
Fourteenth Amendment Due Process claims
Flores challenges in passing that the ARP process was constitutionally deficient. Compl.
ECF No. 14-1 at 3–4. Specifically, he contends that he was improperly denied a hearing
concerning his administrative segregation status and the ARPs he filed before May 21st, id. at
15, and that the ARP recanting his body waiver was “not properly investigated.” Id. at 4.
Defendants correctly argue that Flores’ bare bones allegation does not amount to a proper
constitutional claim or violation of federal law. This is so because an inmate maintains no
independent constitutional entitlement to participate in a prison grievance process. See Adams v.
Rice, 40 F.3d 72, 75 (4th Cir. 1994). Accordingly, the Defendants’ motion for summary
judgment on Flores’ Fourteenth Amendment due process claim is granted.
Eighth Amendment Failure to Protect
As to Plaintiff’s remaining Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against
Defendants Humbertson, Shimko, Hall, and Cartwright, Defendants assert that Flores’ claim
does not survive because the evidence construed most favorably to Flores does not demonstrate
that these Defendants’ actions amounted to deliberate indifference to his health and safety. The
Court is not persuaded.
The Eighth Amendment provides a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment,
Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994) (citing Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31
(1993)), which includes protection “from violence at the hands of other prisoners.” Farmer, 511
U.S. at 833. This does not mean that every injury suffered by a prisoner at the hands of another
inmate amounts to an Eighth Amendment violation. Id. at 834. However, where an inmate
suffers an objectively serious deprivation of rights and the official allegedly responsible for the
deprivation has acted with “deliberate indifference” to inmate health or safety, an Eighth
Amendment claim shall lie. Id. at 826, 834. An objectively serious deprivation of rights includes
placing the Defendant at risk of significant physical or emotional injuries. See Danser v.
Stansberry, 772 F.3d 340, 346–47 (4th Cir. 2014). In making this determination, the Court
should “assess whether society considers the risk that the prisoner complains of to be so grave
that it violates contemporary standards of decency to expose anyone unwillingly to such a risk.”
Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 36 (1993).
Defendants do not challenge that Flores’s stab wounds, lacerations, and contusions
constitute “serious deprivations” of health and safety for Eighth Amendment purposes. Rather,
Defendants exclusively argue that Defendants’ conduct as a matter of law does not amount to
deliberate indifference. “Deliberate indifference” requires subjective awareness of the risk
presented to the Plaintiff. Farmer, 511 U.S. at 829. To be liable for an Eighth Amendment
violation for failure to protect, “the official must both be aware of facts from which the inference
could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the
inference.” Id. at 837. Therefore, an official’s negligent failure to protect an inmate from attack
by another inmate does not constitute an Eighth Amendment claim. Pressly v. Hutto, 816 F.2d
977, 979 (4th Cir. 1987) (emphasis added). Officials may not however simply skirt liability by
asserting that they failed to perceive a risk where “it is shown, for example, that [they] merely
refused to verify ‘underlying facts that [they] strongly suspected to be true,’ ‘or that [they]
declined to confirm inferences of risk that [they] strongly suspected to exist.’” Makdessi v.
Fields, 789 F.3d 126, 133–34 (4th Cir. 2015) (quoting Brice v. Virginia Beach Corr. Ctr., 58
F.3d 101, 105 (4th Cir. 1995)). Whether a defendant was deliberately indifferent is a question of
fact subject to demonstration “in the usual ways including inference from circumstantial
evidence” so that “a factfinder may conclude that [the official] knew of a substantial risk from
the very fact that the risk was obvious.” Raynor v. Pugh, 817 F.3d 123, 128 (quoting Farmer,
511 U.S. at 842).
When viewed in the light most favorable to Flores, genuine disputes of material fact exist
as to whether Defendants’ conduct amounts to deliberate indifference. Flores points first to
evidence that Defendants knew James Morgan had attacked Flores on February 7th, and thus
posed a specific and serious risk to Flores’ health and safety, so much so that they segregated
Flores from the general population as a result of that risk. Indeed, it was Defendant Shimko who
initially identified Morgan as the inmate who stabbed Flores on February 7th, and Shimko and
Hall were the officers investigating the attack. Shimko admitted as much when he noted that
Flores should not have been released into the general population without meeting with Shimko
first. Compl., ECF No. 1 at 7. Yet neither a “staff alert” nor any of the February 7th assailants’
names were added to Flores’ file between the February 7th and May 21st attacks.
Flores also argues that the May 18th ARP recanting his body waiver further alerted
Defendants regarding the danger posed by returning him to general population. ECF No. 1-1 at 3.
Whether the ARP was the “correct” way to notify Defendants of this concern is irrelevant as to
whether it put Defendants on notice of the risk itself. Flores aptly points out that, at the very
least, the ARP constitutes specific notice to Defendants that they should not put Flores on
unprotected on the same cell block as Morgan. Lastly, Flores asserts that his continued
segregation alone demonstrates Defendants awareness of the severity of the February 7th attack
and the risk that would be presented by returning him to the general prison population. Id. at 2–3.
Defendants claim that the evidence available shows their lack of knowledge of a specific
risk to Flores’ safety. They point to Shimko’s statement that he would have intervened “had he
known” Flores was being removed from administrative segregation and Humbertson’s statement
that he was never notified about Flores’ body waiver recant. ECF No. 10-1 at 7; ECF No. 10-2 at
16. Furthermore, they argue that Flores’ May 18th ARP requesting a guarantee of safety was
insufficient to put them on proper notice because an ARP is not the proper channel for
challenging one’s housing status, because “recanting the waiver by itself falls short of indicating
a specific risk,” and because Flores did not check the available “emergency” box on the to
indicate the seriousness of his concern. ECF No. 10-1 at 8. But while this may provide fodder for
defense arguments at trial, it does not compel granting summary judgment on their behalf. When
viewing the facts most favorably to Flores, a reasonable fact-finder could conclude that
Defendants’ return of Flores to general population amounted to deliberate indifference to his
health and safety. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is therefore denied as to
Defendants Shimko, Hall, Cartwright, and Humbertson and the Eighth Amendment claims.
Defendants lastly argue that, in the event that some or all of Flores’ constitutional claims
survive summary judgment, they are nonetheless of qualifiedly immune from suit. This Court
The doctrine of qualified immunity is designed to ensure that government officials
performing discretionary functions can exercise their duties “free from the specter of endless and
debilitating lawsuits.” Torchinsky v. Siwinski, 942 F.2d 257, 260 (4th Cir. 1991). Without
qualified immunity, a substantial risk exists that fear of personal liability and harassing litigation
will “unduly inhibit officials in the discharge of their duties.” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S.
635, 638 (1987). Government officials are thus entitled to qualified immunity for civil damages
to the extent that “their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional
rights of which a reasonable person would have known.” Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800,
818 (1982). Accord Pritchett v. Alford, 973 F.2d 307, 312 (4th Cir. 1992).
A defendant asserting qualified immunity must demonstrate first that facts established by
the plaintiff make out a violation of a federal right; and second that the right had been “clearly
established” at the time of defendant's alleged misconduct. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223,
232 (2009). Courts are free to reach either of these two prongs first in light of the circumstances
of the case at hand. Id. at 236.
The “clearly established” prong “‘turns on the “objective legal reasonableness” of the
action, assessed in light of the legal rules that were “clearly established” at the time it was
taken.’” Messerschmidt v. Millender, 565 U.S. 535, 546 (2012) (quoting Anderson v.
Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 639 (1987) (citation omitted)). In determining whether it was clearly
established, the right must be defined at the appropriate level of specificity. Odom v. S.C. Dep’t
of Corr., 349 F.3d 765, 773 (4th Cir. 2003) (citing Wilson v. Layne, 526 U.S. 603, 615). The
exact conduct at issue need not have been held explicitly unlawful for the law governing an
officer’s actions to be clearly established; the correct analysis considers not only “specifically
adjudicated rights, but those manifestly included within more general applications of the core
constitutional principle involved.” Amaechi v. West, 237 F.3d 356, 362–63 (4th Cir. 2001). “To
be clearly established, a right must be sufficiently clear ‘that every reasonable official would
[have understood] that what he is doing violates that right.’ In other words, ‘existing precedent
must have placed the statutory or constitutional question beyond debate,’” Reichle v.
Howards, 566 U.S. 658, 132 (2012) (quoting Ashcroft v. al-Kidd, 563 U.S. 731, 740
(2011) (some internal quotation marks and citations omitted)), such that the unlawfulness of the
action must be apparent at the time of its occurrence. Anderson, 483 U.S. at 640.
On this point, the Court finds the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ recent decision in Cox
v. Quinn, 828 F.3d 227 (4th Cir. 2016) instructive. In Cox, an inmate who was severely beaten
by a fellow inmate while incarcerated filed suit against several prison officials alleging that they
had been deliberately indifferent to a substantial risk to his safety, in violation of 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and the Eighth Amendment. The inmate repeatedly complained to jail officials that he was
being threatened, harassed, and robbed by the group of inmates who ultimately orchestrated the
beating. The prison officials defended, in part, on the ground that they were entitled to qualified
immunity because reasonable correctional officers in the same circumstances would not have
known that they had violated the inmate’s clearly established rights. Id. at 234–35. The district
court found that the officers were not entitled to qualified immunity because the duty of jail
officials to protect prisoners from inmate violence had been clearly established as of April of
2011—the time when the inmate informed the prison officials of the harassment and when the
retaliatory beating took place. Id. at 235. The Fourth Circuit agreed, reiterating that “[i]t has
long been established that jail officials have a duty to protect inmates from a substantial and
known risk of harm, including harm inflicted by other prisoners.” Cox, 828 F.3d at 239 (citing
Farmer, 511 U.S. at 833). (“[B]y 2011, we had made it clear that ‘a prison official acts with
deliberate indifference when he ignores repeated requests from a vulnerable inmate to be
separated from a fellow inmate who has issued violent threats which the aggressor will likely
carry out in the absence of official intervention.’”) (quoting Odom v. S.C. Dep’t of Corr., 349
F.3d 765, 773 (4th Cir. 2003)).
Similarly here, Flores was attacked on February 7, 2016 by inmate James Morgan.
Defendants were aware of this attack and appropriately placed Flores on administrative
segregation while it was investigated. Over the next three months, Flores remained segregated
from the general prison population. Flores also specifically discussed his wellbeing with
Defendant Humbertson. After signing a body waiver to be released into the general population,
Flores was told that he may continue to be kept in segregation if Defendants Hall and Shimko
had continuing concerns about his safety. Flores did indeed remain segregated. Months later
without any status updates, Flores became increasingly concerned that he would not actually be
safe in the general prison population. He alerted Defendants of this concern by filing an ARP
through which he recanted his body waiver. That ARP was summarily denied, and two days
later. Despite Flores’ pleas with Defendants to keep him segregated until they could guarantee
his safety, Defendants returned Flores, without protection, to the same block as those that
attacked him on February 7th. Accordingly, if a jury credits these facts, an objectively reasonable
prison official would know these actions were unreasonable, ran afoul of clearly established law,
and violated the rights “manifestly included within more general applications of the core
constitutional principle” articulated in Farmer. See Odum, 349 F.3d at 773. Accordingly,
Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment
Plaintiff argues in favor of summary judgment based on the same facts and issues this
Court has already addressed, save one. Flores summarily refers to violations of the Religious
Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) for the first time in his cross-motion for
summary judgment, ECF No. 14-1 at 12. RLUIPA prohibits governments from implementing
land use regulations that impose a “substantial burden” on religious exercise or that discriminate
against any religious assemblies or institutions on the basis of religious denomination. 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000cc(a)–(b)(2). Flores provides no facts to support a claim under this statute, and none are
evident in the record. Additionally, Flores has not moved this Court to amend his complaint
pursuant to Rule 15(a) to include a new claim. The claim is therefore not properly before the
court and is dismissed without prejudice. McDonald v. LG Electronics USA, Inc., 219 F. Supp.
3d 533, 541 (2016) (citing Zachair, Ltd. v. Driggs, 965 F. Supp. 741, 748 (D. Md.
1997), aff’d, 141 F.3d 1162 (4th Cir. 1998) (holding that plaintiffs are “bound by the allegations
contained in its complaint and cannot, through the use of motion briefs, amend the complaint.”)).
Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment is therefore denied.
For these reasons, Flores’ motion for summary judgment in opposition to defendants’
motion to dismiss (ECF No. 14) is denied. Defendants’ motion for summary judgment (ECF No.
10) is granted in part and denied in part. All claims against Defendants Western Correctional
Institution, Graham, Gelsinger, Butler, Commissioner of Correction, and the Secretary of DPSCS
are dismissed. Flores’ due process and RLUIPA claims are dismissed. Defendants Hall, Shimko,
Cartwright, and Humbertson’s motion for summary judgment as to Flores’ Eighth Amendment
failure to protect claim is denied.
A separate order follows.
United States District Judge
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