Johnson v. Simmons

Decision Date22 March 2021
Docket NumberCivil Action No. GJH-20-559
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Plaintiff Earl D. Johnson brings this civil action against Defendants Warden Richard Dovey, Lt. Dwayne Draper, Lt. Eric Kretzer, and Sgt. Brian Simmons related to his placement in administrative segregation housing while incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Training Center. ECF No. 1. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, Motion for Summary Judgment. ECF No. 18. Also pending are Plaintiff's Motion to Amend the Complaint, ECF No. 21, and other self-styled requests to supplement or amend the Complaint, ECF Nos. 16, 26, 27, which will be denied. For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion is granted.


Plaintiff, who is self-represented, is currently incarcerated at the Roxbury Correctional Institution ("RCI") in Hagerstown, Maryland.2 This lawsuit, which was filed on February 28, 2020, raises claims based on Plaintiff's incarceration at the Maryland Correctional Training Center ("MCTC"). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff filed supplemental information at the Court's direction. ECF No. 5. He subsequently filed numerous submissions to amend and supplement the Complaint. ECF Nos. 9, 12, 13, 14, 16, 21, 26, 27.

Broadly, Plaintiff alleges that he was improperly kept in administrative segregation housing, rather than being returned to the general population or transferred to another facility, as retaliation for filing a lawsuit against an MCTC officer and due to negligence on the part of MCTC's staff. Plaintiff further alleges that he filed administrative remedy procedure complaints ("ARPs"), but Defendants did not properly investigate or follow up on them. Plaintiff requests monetary relief and transfer to Jessup Correctional Institution. ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 5 at 3-4; ECF No. 9.

Defendants, in their Motion to Dismiss or, in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment—supported by a number of exhibits, including affidavits by the individual defendants—argue that Plaintiff was kept in administrative segregation housing due to legitimate security reasons, that he was not immediately transferred due to COVID-19 restrictions, that his ARPs were rejected due to non-compliance with the relevant rules for filing them, and that he did not exhaust his administrative remedies prior to filing this Complaint. ECF No. 18. The following description of the events in question includes allegations by both parties.

A. Plaintiff's Placement on Administrative Segregation

According to Defendant, on December 16, 2019, Plaintiff asked an officer in Housing Unit 5 to put him in administrative segregation housing because he feared for his life after being robbed by other inmates.3 ECF No. 18-4 ¶ 3; see also ECF No. 18-5 at 3-5. Plaintiff was placed on administrative segregation that same day. ECF No. 18-5 at 4. The Administrative Segregation Team—composed of "Administration, Case Managers, Housing Unit Lieutenants, Intel Officers and Investigative Officers"—meets with inmates within 120 hours of their placement on administrative segregation and then every 30 days thereafter. ECF No. 18-4 ¶¶ 4-5. On December 17, 2019, members of the Administrative Segregation Team, including Defendants Dovey and Simmons, met to discuss Plaintiff's placement on administrative segregation and determined that "the investigative team and case management" would meet with Plaintiff the next day. ECF No. 18-6 ¶ 2(a). The following day, December 18, 2019, three members of the Administrative Segregation Team, as well as Defendant Simmons, met with Plaintiff. Id. Based on his allegations of being robbed at knifepoint by other inmates as well as his stated fear for his safety, the team recommended assigning him to administrative segregation and placing him on a transfer list for a medium security facility. Id.

On January 15, 2020, the same three team members and Defendant Simmons met for Plaintiff's monthly administrative team review. Id. ¶ 2(b). The team decided he would remain on administrative segregation and remain on the medium facility transfer list. Id.

On February 11, 2020, the team met again about Plaintiff's situation, and then met with Plaintiff the following day, February 12, 2020, to provide him an update. ECF No. 18-4 ¶ 5.According to Defendant Simmons, during that meeting with Plaintiff, "someone (not sure who) mentioned Plaintiff's lawsuits against officers at MCTC." Id. Defendant Simmons further states in his affidavit that "[w]hen an inmate places a civil suit on an officer, it is normal to talk to the officer and inmate to ensure, and place in writing, that neither party fears for their safety." Id. He goes on to say that, when asked about the civil lawsuits against staff, Plaintiff "became belligerent and very angry" and "was making negative comments toward staff." Id. ¶ 6. As a result, Defendant Simmons continues, the team "felt it was in the best interest for staff and [Plaintiff's] safety to be transferred to another medium security facility and not be placed back into general population. [Plaintiff's] threatening language towards staff prevented him from going back into general population." Id. Another member of the team, Case Manager Samuel Croteau, states in his affidavit that, at that February 12, 2020 meeting, Plaintiff became "belligerent and argumentative and increasingly hostile about the lawsuit and the situation," and "[d]ue to this increased verbal hostility toward the officer involved in the lawsuit, . . . the inmate would need to remain on the transfer list for the safety of the officer." ECF No. 18-6 ¶ 3.

According to Plaintiff, Defendant Simmons refused to transfer him from administrative segregation housing in retaliation for filing the lawsuit against John Steele, Case No. GJH 17-2419.4 ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 1-1 at 1; ECF No. 5 at 2. Plaintiff also claims that Defendants Kretzer and Dovey improperly failed to take any action against Defendant Simmons for his misconduct. See ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 5 at 3; ECF No. 9; ECF No. 12; ECF No. 13. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Kretzer is biased due to Plaintiff's earlier lawsuit against him, which also named Defendant Dovey as a defendant, and that Defendant Kretzer discriminates againstPlaintiff by "not stepping in" on his transfer to Jessup Correctional Institution ("JCI"). See ECF No. 5 at 3. Defendant Kretzer, however, states that he is not Defendant Simmons's supervisor and has never participated in administrative segregation reviews or determinations assigning Plaintiff to administrative segregation. ECF No. 18-7 ¶ 6.

On March 3, 2020, the Warden's office forwarded Case Manager Croteau an informal complaint filed by Plaintiff asking to be removed from administrative segregation. ECF No. 18-6 ¶ 3. According to Case Manager Croteau, at Plaintiff's next administrative segregation team review, the team told Plaintiff that he was not being recommended for the general population due to the "increased verbal hostility" he showed at the February meeting. Id. Instead, he would remain in administrative segregation and on the transfer list. Id. ¶ 2(d). On March 15, 2020, all transfers were stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Id. ¶ 4. Further administrative segregation team reviews were conducted regarding Plaintiff on April 8, 2020, May 6, 2020, and June 3, 2020. ECF No. 18-6 ¶ 2.

However, Plaintiff alleges that he has not been present for the administrative segregation team reviews since February 2020, and specifically that no one came to see him on May 6, 2020 for his administrative segregation review. ECF Nos. 12, 13. Case Manager Croteau's affidavit does not specify whether Plaintiff was present for the monthly meetings in April, May, and June, but he does state that at each meeting, the team determined that Plaintiff would remain in administrative segregation and on the transfer list. ECF No. 18-6 ¶ 2. Defendant Warden Richard Dovey states in his affidavit that he or his designee reviews administrative segregation housing assignments and that he reviewed and approved the determination to place Plaintiff on administrative segregation due to his concerns for his safety. ECF No. 18-9 ¶ 2.

Plaintiff complains about lack of phone access, lack of recreation, and his inability toattend Family Day while housed in administration segregation. See ECF No. 1 at 3; ECF No. 5 at 2-3; ECF No. 9; ECF No. 13. He adds that he cannot exercise in a two-man cell. ECF No. 5 at 3. Defendant Kretzer states that the housing conditions in administrative segregation, including telephone access, food, showers, recreation, mail, library, and religious practice about which Plaintiff complains in this case, are the same conditions for any other inmate in his administrative segregation housing unit. ECF No. 18-7 ¶ 5.

B. Administrative Procedure
1. Informal Complaints

According to Defendants, MCTC inmate correspondence is date stamped when received, assessed to determine whether it needs review by the Warden or to be forwarded to another individual for action, and recorded in a log. ECF No 18-5 ¶ 2. If forwarded, a "buck slip" is attached. Id. ¶ 3. If the buck slip is marked "Handle and Respond directly to inmate," the individual to whom it was sent is responsible for determining whether a response is necessary. Id. ¶ 4.

As shown in the exhibits to Defendants' motion, Plaintiff did not file any inmate correspondence in 2019. Id. at 6. In 2020, he filed three informal complaints as correspondence, all after filing this lawsuit. Id. at. 7. Specifically, on March 3, 2020, Plaintiff filed the above-mentioned request to be removed from administrative segregation, which was referred to Case Manager Croteau. Id. On April 3, 2020, he sent correspondence stating that he had written an ARP but never received a...

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