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Reynolds v. Donate

June 10, 2009


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

(Judge McClure)



Michael Curtis Reynolds ("Plaintiff"), an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania, initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 regarding his prior incarceration in the Lackawanna County Prison, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Named as Defendants in Reynolds' initial complaint were Warden Janine Donate, Correctional Officer Cornell and Lieutenant Carol of the Lackawanna County Prison (hereinafter the Original Defendants). Plaintiff alleges that Warden Donate's policy prohibiting inmates from going to the law library without shoes is unconstitutional. He adds that prison staff refused to provide him with shoes for a period which exceeded four (4) months and that the denial of access to the law library prevented him from requesting another preliminary hearing. As relief, Plaintiff seeks a change in the Warden's law library policy and compensation.

A second complaint, Reynolds v. Donate, Civil No. 4:CV-06-1487, filed by Plaintiff named as Defendants, Warden Donate, and Additional Defendants Captain Katz as well as Correctional Officers Moskwa and "G."*fn1 Therein, Plaintiff again challenges Warden Donate's policy requiring that shoes be worn by prisoners going to the law library. His second complaint further maintains that Defendants Moskwa and "G." denied him access to the law library, and then tackled him and placed him in the prison's restrictive housing unit. Captain Katz is described as having presided over a disciplinary proceeding regarding Plaintiff's placement in restrictive housing. As relief, Plaintiff again seeks a change in Warden Donate's law library policy and compensation. Reynolds further requests that the Defendant correctional officers who assaulted him be disciplined and that a mistrial be declared in his criminal prosecution.

By Memorandum and Order dated August 7, 2006, this Court directed that Plaintiff's two above described cases be consolidated pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 42(a) and that the consolidated matter proceed under Reynolds, Civil Action No. 4:CV-06-1400, which was the initially filed complaint.

Thereafter, a third complaint, Reynolds v. Chiarelli, et al., Civil No. 4:CV-07-159, was likewise consolidated into this matter. Named as Additional Defendants in Reynolds, 07-159 are Captain Chiarelli and Assistant Warden Timothy Betti of the Lackawanna County Prison. Plaintiff again contends that he was denied adequate access to the prison's law library. Specifically, he alleges that Chiarelli and Betti constantly deny me permission to use the prison's law library despite his need to prepare for an upcoming federal criminal trial.*fn2 There are no other claims asserted in this complaint.

Presently pending are the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. The motions are ripe for consideration. For the reasons outlined below, the parties' respective requests for summary judgment will be denied.

Discussion Defendants' Summary Judgment Motion

Defendants contend that summary judgment should be entered in their favor because their actions with respect to Inmate Reynolds were undertaken in accordance with "proper prison policy." Record document no. 206, p. 3. They also claim entitlement to protection under the doctrine of qualified immunity.

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); See also, Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. SeeCelotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, the non-moving party must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. (internal quotations omitted); seealsoSaldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "'Such affirmative evidence -- regardless of whether it is direct or ...

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