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Underwood v. Mendez

January 16, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)



Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser's Report and Recommendation (Doc. 51), and Defendants' Objections to the October 19, 2005 Report and Recommendation (Doc. 52-1).*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation will be overruled, the Court will adopt the Report and Recommendation, and deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 44).


Plaintiff William R. Underwood began serving his prison term at USP Allenwood on March 11, 1996.*fn2 On April 11, 2002, a request for transfer form, sent to the Bureau of Prison (BOP)'s regional director, recommended that Underwood be transferred to USP Lee, for the stated reason of alleviating overpopulation at USP Allenwood.*fn3 Plaintiff filed a complaint against the prison warden and a case manager, Defendants Jake Mendez and Richard Matlack, respectively, alleging that the transfer was retaliatory in nature and in violation of Plaintiff's constitutionally protected right to have access to the courts. At the time of his transfer, Plaintiff had litigation pending in the Southern District of New York and in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Matlack made comments about getting rid of Plaintiff because the efforts required of prison personnel to assist Plaintiff with his pending litigation were burdensome. (Doc. 50 pp. 3-4.) Further, Plaintiff alleges that after seeing Plaintiff use the legal mailbox several times, Defendant Mendez stated that "everytime I see you, you're going to that legal mail-box. I'm getting you (sic) ass outta here." (Id. at 4.)

Plaintiff initially filed his complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia on or about January 27, 2003. By order dated June 24, 2004, the D.C. District Court granted Defendants' motion for a change of venue, and the case was transferred to this Court on July 23, 2004. (Doc. 1.) On November 3, 2004, Underwood filed a Second Amended Complaint ("the Complaint") with the Court. (Doc. 6.)

On June 20, 2005, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint and for entry of summary judgment in their favor. (Doc. 28.) Magistrate Judge Smyser issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. 34) on September 9, 2005, in which he recommended denying the Defendants' motion to dismiss. By order dated March 31, 2006, the Court overruled the objections of both parties and adopted the September 9, 2005 Report and Recommendation, thereby denying Defendants' motion to dismiss.

Defendants thereafter filed an Answer to the Complaint (Doc. 42) and a motion for summary judgment (Doc. 44). Briefs in support of and in opposition to this motion were timely filed. (Docs. 45, 48.) On October 19, 2006, Magistrate Judge Smyser issued the present Report and Recommendation ("the R&R") (Doc. 51), recommending that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be denied. Defendants filed an objection to the R&R on November 2, 2006. (Doc. 52.) Plaintiff did not file an objection to the R&R.

The summary judgment motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. The Report and Recommendation is likewise ripe for disposition.


A. Review of a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation

Where objections to the magistrate judge's report are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate 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). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the ...

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