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Hill v. Derrick

June 8, 2006

JEFFREY D. HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
EVELYN DERRICK, RICHARD SUTTON, JANE STUGART-OTTERBEIN, AND LORI CRESSMAN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James F. McClure, Jr. United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

On June 20, 2005, plaintiff Jeffrey D. Hill commenced the instant litigation by filing a pro se complaint in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.*fn1 The complaint arises out of plaintiff's banishment from the Muncy Public Library. On November 3, 2005, we granted defendants' motion to dismiss in part, but allowed plaintiff's section 1983 claims, liberally construed as alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, to remain against defendants Derrick and Cressman. (Rec. Doc. No. 20.)

On March 3, 2006, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. He filed a brief in support on March 20, 2006. Defendants filed their motion for summary judgment on April 14, 2006. Their motion was fully briefed on May 5, 2006. On May 12, 2006, Hill filed a motion to strike portions of defendant's motion for summary judgment and facts in support of motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons we will deny Hill's motion to strike, deny Hill's motion for summary judgment, grant defendants' motion for summary judgment, enter judgment in favor of defendants and against plaintiff, and direct the clerk to close the case file.

DISCUSSION

I. LEGAL STANDARD

It is appropriate for a court to grant a motion for summary judgment "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

"If the nonmoving party has the burden of persuasion at trial, 'the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial.'" Jalil v. Avdel Corp., 873 F.2d 701, 706 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Chippolini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d. Cir. 1987)); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

In evaluating a motion for summary judgment the court will draw all reasonable inferences from the evidence in the record in favor of the nonmoving party. Am. Flint Glass Workers Union v. Beaumont Glass Co., 62 F.3d 574, 578 (3d Cir. 1995). The nonmoving party, however, cannot defeat a motion for summary judgment by merely offering general denials, vague allegations, or conclusory statements; rather the party must point to specific evidence in the record that creates a genuine issue as to a material fact. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 32; Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999).

II. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Local Rule 56.1

First, we note that defendants complied with Local Rule 56.1 and submitted a statement of undisputed material facts in the form of short and concise numbered paragraphs supported by citations to the record, albeit not always precise citations. (Rec. Doc. No. 61.) Plaintiff has not filed a counter-statement of undisputed material facts and has failed to comply with the procedure set forth in Local Rule 56.1. Local Rule 56.1 provides in relevant part that: The papers opposing a motion for summary judgment shall include a separate, short and concise statement of the material facts, responding to the numbered paragraphs set forth in the statement required in the foregoing paragraph [relating to the moving party's statement of material facts], as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried.

Local Rule 56.1 (emphasis added).

Despite Hill's failure to adhere to the technical requirements of the Local Rule, the court makes every effort to address Hill's assertions that genuine issues of material fact exist that he raises in various filings before the court and his own motion for summary judgment. Of course, at this stage in the litigation Hill cannot rest on mere allegations and must point to evidence in the record that supports his claim.

B. Undisputed Material Facts

The Muncy Public Library ("Library") is a nonprofit literary and educational institution, which provides information and reading materials to the residents of Muncy Borough, Muncy Township, and Muncy Creek Township. The Library is managed and operated by a private association known as the Board of Trustees of the Muncy Public Library ("Board"). The Board is comprised of nine members. One of the nine members is appointed by the Muncy Borough Council, while the remaining eight members are unpaid volunteers.

Defendant Evelyn Derrick is the President of the Board of Trustees of the Muncy Public Library.*fn2 The Library employs defendant Laurie Cressman as a librarian.*fn3

On September 10, 2002, the Board approved various rules and regulations to ensure patron safety. (Rec. Doc. No. 71, "Muncy Public Library Rules of Conduct", Ex. C, at 11.) The rules include the prohibition of "[a]dministering corporal punishment or physically abusing anyone on library property." Id. The rules provide that "[t]he Library Board of Trustees, on the recommendation of the library director, may deny any patron who violates these rules and regulations the privilege of access to the library." Id.*fn4

On July 21, 2003, at approximately 3:00 p.m., plaintiff Jeffrey D. Hill ("Hill") was using one of the computers in the computer area of the Muncy Public Library. While Hill was using the computer, two teenage patrons named Nevin Weaver and Lucas Bitler entered the computer area. Bitler began bouncing a basketball but stopped after plaintiff and defendant Cressman told him to stop.*fn5

Subsequently, Hill engaged in an argument with the two teenagers based on what Hill perceived to be inappropriate comments made by the teenagers. Rather than asking one of the librarians to intervene, Hill stood up and grabbed Bitler by the shirt and struck the teenager in the face, causing him to jerk backwards and knocking his hat off.*fn6 Hill hit Bitler hard enough that Cressman heard the strike even though she was not in the computer area.*fn7

Immediately after the incident Cressman and Jane Stugart-Otterbein spoke to Hill to get his side of the story. During that discussion Hill admitted to Cressman that he struck Bitler in the face. Hill further told Cressman that the boys were bothering him and that "somebody needed to discipline that kid and if nobody else was going to do it then I would." Plaintiff offered no other justification.

Hill then stormed out of the Library without being told to leave.*fn8

Immediately after the incident Cressman called Derrick and informed her about the incident. Cressman also told Derrick that Hill admitted to striking Bitler in the face. Derrick called 911 and as a result the Muncy Police Department came to the Library to investigate. On the date of the incident, Muncy Police Chief Richard ...


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