Cooke v. U.S. Bureau of Prisons, 5:12–CT–3020–D.

Decision Date27 February 2013
Docket NumberNo. 5:12–CT–3020–D.,5:12–CT–3020–D.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of North Carolina
PartiesRandle COOKE, and Kendrick Douglas, Plaintiffs, v. UNITED STATES BUREAU OF PRISONS, et al., Defendants.


Philip J. Fornaci, Washington Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, Douglas Baruch, Karen Soares, Washington, DC, Steven R. Edelstein, Edelstein and Payne, Raleigh, NC, for Plaintiffs.

Seth Morgan Wood, U.S. Attorney's Office, Raleigh, NC, for Defendants.


JAMES C. DEVER III, Chief Judge.

Randle Cooke and Kendrick Douglas (collectively plaintiffs) are detainees in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4248. Each has been designated a “sexually dangerous person” under 18 U.S.C. § 4248 and is committed at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina. Plaintiffs have health conditions that require them to use wheelchairs for mobility and filed this action pursuant to the Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4151–4156, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 et seq., the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb et seq., and the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution [D.E. 1].

Plaintiffs, who are represented by counsel, allege that defendants' “failure to accommodate Plaintiffs' recognized disabilities has deprived—and continues to deprive—[them] of the ability to, inter alia, navigate their living quarters and other areas of the institution, receive adequate and confidential medical treatment, participate in recreational activities, and equally and effectively take part in other services and activities of the institution, including dining and religious programs.” Compl. ¶ 1. Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees.

On April 23, 2012, defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment [D.E. 25]. On June 8, 2012, plaintiffs responded in opposition to the motion [D.E. 29] and filed a motion for discovery and to deny defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment [D.E. 30]. SeeFed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). Defendants filed a reply in support of their motion to dismiss or for summary judgment [D.E. 31], and a response in opposition to plaintiffs' motion for discovery [D.E. 32]. Plaintiffs filed a reply [D.E. 34]. As explained below, defendants' motion to dismiss is granted in part and denied in part, and defendants' motion for summary judgment is denied without prejudice.


Plaintiffs Randle Cooke (Cooke) and Kendrick Douglas (Douglas) are detainees in the custody of the Attorney General as “sexually dangerous persons” pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 4248 at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in Butner, North Carolina (“Butner”). Compl. ¶ 12.1 Plaintiffs have health conditions that require them to use wheelchairs for mobility. Id. ¶¶ 1, 4–5. Plaintiffs assert that their living quarters at Butner—including their cells, bathrooms, indoor and outdoor recreation areas, medical examination rooms, cafeteria, and telephone—are not designed to accommodate plaintiffs' disabilities, and that the Bureau of Prisons' failure to implement accommodations discriminates against plaintiffs on the basis of their disabilities and violates several federal laws and the Constitution. Id. ¶¶ 22–84. Plaintiffs further assert that the conditions at Butner have adversely affected their ability to engage in religious activities, in violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the First Amendment. Id. ¶¶ 85–96. Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and attorneys' fees. Id. ¶¶ A–F (prayer for relief).


Plaintiffs contend that defendants' motion for summary judgment is premature due to the absence of any discovery. Generally, “summary judgment is appropriate only after adequate time for discovery.” Evans v. Techs. Applications & Serv. Co., 80 F.3d 954, 961 (4th Cir.1996) (quotation omitted). Rule 56(d) provides:

If a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may: (1) defer considering the motion or deny it; (2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or (3) issue any other appropriate order.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). Thus, Rule 56(d) permits a court to delay ruling on a motion for summary judgment if the nonmoving party requires discovery to identify “facts essential to justify the party's opposition.” Crawford–El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 599 n. 20, 118 S.Ct. 1584, 140 L.Ed.2d 759 (1998) (quotation omitted); see Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 n. 5, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Nader v. Blair, 549 F.3d 953, 961–62 (4th Cir.2008).

A party requesting relief pursuant to Rule 56(d) must demonstrate that the party has not had sufficient time to develop information needed to oppose the summary judgment motion. See, e.g., Harrods Ltd. v. Sixty Internet Domain Names, 302 F.3d 214, 244 (4th Cir.2002). In making its determination, a court may consider the diligence that the non-moving party has demonstrated in pursuing discovery. See White v. BFI Waste Servs., LLC, 375 F.3d 288, 295 n. 2 (4th Cir.2004); Harrods Ltd., 302 F.3d at 245;Strag v. Bd. of Trs., 55 F.3d 943, 953–54 (4th Cir.1995). A court also may consider whether the case “involves complex factual questions about intent and motive.” Harrods, 302 F.3d at 247.

Plaintiffs' attorney has filed a declaration asserting the need for discovery and stating that no discovery has taken place in this case. See Pls.' Rule 56(d) Mot., Soares Decl.2 The Fourth Circuit places “great weight on the Rule [56(d) ] affidavit.” Evans, 80 F.3d at 961. Plaintiffs' counsel's Rule 56(d) affidavit notes that defendants' summary judgment motion “rel[ies] in part on declarations submitted by witnesses who have not been deposed or otherwise subjected to cross-examination concerning their allegations” and “photographs and documents that have not been produced in full to Plaintiffs who “have had no opportunity to properly evaluate the credibility or completeness of this evidence nor to inspect the premises (with or without Plaintiffs' experts) in order to properly challenge and rebut Defendants' proffered evidence.” Soares Decl. ¶¶ 2, 4. Plaintiffs also assert that [w]hile each Plaintiff is able to testify as to the accessibility conditions and discriminatory conduct as alleged in the Complaint, the bulk of the evidence relating to the prison conditions and Defendants' failure to comply with applicable accessibility laws and the Constitution, is within Defendants' exclusive custody and control and will need to be adduced during discovery.” Id. ¶ 5

Defendants respond that discovery is unnecessary because the court should dismiss the case for failure to exhaust administrative remedies or pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Defs.' Opp'n Pls.' Rule 56(d) Mot. 2–3. Defendants further contend that “the declaration in support of Plaintiffs' motion does not specifically identify information sought by discovery, the reasons the information has not yet been obtained, and the materiality of the information to its opposition to the summary judgment motion.” Id. 5–6 (internal quotation and citation omitted).


As for defendants' argument that plaintiffs failed to exhaust administrative remedies, defendants initially focus on the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), which states that [n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under [42 U.S.C. § ] 1983 ... or any other Federal law, by a prisoner ... until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a); see Woodford v. Ngo, 548 U.S. 81, 84–85, 126 S.Ct. 2378, 165 L.Ed.2d 368 (2006). The PLRA's exhaustion requirement applies to all prisoner “suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong.” Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532, 122 S.Ct. 983, 152 L.Ed.2d 12 (2002). The PLRA defines “prisoner” to mean “any person incarcerated or detained in any facility who is accused of, convicted of, sentenced for, or adjudicated delinquent for, violations of criminal law or the terms and conditions of parole, probation, pretrial release, or diversionary program.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h). The PLRA requires a “prisoner” to exhaust administrative remedies regardless of the relief offered through administrative procedures. See Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741, 121 S.Ct. 1819, 149 L.Ed.2d 958 (2001). [E]xhaustion is mandatory under the PLRA and ... unexhausted claims cannot be brought in court.” Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 211, 127 S.Ct. 910, 166 L.Ed.2d 798 (2007).

Plaintiffs concede that they did not exhaust any administrative remedies as to any claims. Nonetheless, they contend that as detainees under 18 U.S.C. § 4248, they are not “prisoners” under the PLRA and have no duty to exhaust administrative remedies under the PLRA. In support, they correctly note that proceedings under 18 U.S.C. § 4248 are civil, not criminal, actions. See United States v. Comstock, 560 U.S. 126, 130 S.Ct. 1949, 1954, 176 L.Ed.2d 878 (2010); United States v. Caporale, 701 F.3d 128, 130 (4th Cir.2012); United States v. Wooden, 693 F.3d 440, 442–43 (4th Cir.2012); United States v. Francis, 686 F.3d 265, 268 (4th Cir.2012); United States v. Timms, 664 F.3d 436, 456 (4th Cir.2012); United States v. Broncheau, 645 F.3d 676, 683 (4th Cir.2011). Thus, they argue that their claims are not subject to the PLRA's mandatory exhaustion requirement. See Hicks v. James, 255 Fed.Appx. 744, 748 (4th Cir.2007) (per curiam) (unpublished) (collecting cases); Michau v. Charleston Cnty., S.C., 434 F.3d 725, 727–28 (4th Cir.2006) (holding that a person detained under South Carolina's Sexually Violent Predator Act does not meet the PLRA's definition of “prisoner” and therefore, the PLRA's...

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  • Part two: case summaries by major topic.
    • United States
    • Detention and Corrections Caselaw Quarterly No. 60, June 2014
    • 1 Junio 2014
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