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McKnight v. Bucks County Dep't of

September 30, 2009

WILLIAM MCKNIGHT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BUCKS COUNTY DEP'T OF , CORRS., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff William McKnight ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint alleging civil rights violations pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with respect to his incarceration at the Bucks County Correctional Facility in Doylestown, Pennsylvania ("Bucks County Prison") (doc. no. 3). The thrust of Plaintiff's complaint is that the following Defendants, Bucks County Department of Corrections ("Bucks County Corrections"), Willis Morton ("Morton"), Budd ("Budd"), Sergeant Lorenzo ("Lorenzo"), Gauntt ("Gauntt"), Roque ("Roque"), and Martin ("Martin") (collectively, "Defendants"),*fn1 engaged in a pattern of conduct to retaliate against Plaintiff for exercising constitutionally protected rights, specifically Plaintiff's right to petition the government for redress in connection with the failure of Defendants to accommodate his dietary restrictions. Plaintiff alleges that this retaliation was manifested through the following actions:

(1) the seizure and destruction of his legal documents; (2) insufficient dental treatment; (3) unwarranted confinement to Bucks County Prisons's Restricted Housing Unit as a result of a disciplinary proceeding involving fellow inmate Ulysses Moore ("Moore"); and (4) two intrusive urinalysis tests intended to harass and antagonize Plaintiff.

On October 29, 2008, the Court granted Defendants' motion for summary judgment. The Court ruled in favor of the seven Defendants on the following individual grounds. First, Bucks County Corrections was not liable because Plaintiff failed to allege retaliation as a result of a policy or custom.*fn2

Second, Morton was not liable because Plaintiff failed to properly allege retaliation under a supervisory liability theory.*fn3 Third, Lorenzo was not liable because the single and brief confrontation alleged by Plaintiff did not rise to the level of an adverse action sufficient to deter a person of ordinary firmness from petitioning the government for the redress of grievances. Fourth, Budd was not liable for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff failed to properly allege retaliation under a supervisory liability theory; and (2) the single and brief incident of "implied" future retaliation did not rise to the level of an adverse action. Fifth, Gauntt was not liable for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a causal link between the alleged adverse actions and the alleged retaliation; and (2) Plaintiff failed to show that he was denied "access to the courts." Sixth, Roque was not liable because Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a causal link between the alleged adverse actions and the alleged retaliation and Plaintiff failed to show that Roque "manipulated" Moore into making false statements at Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. Seventh, Martin was not liable for the following reasons: (1) Plaintiff failed to demonstrate a causal link between the alleged adverse actions and the alleged retaliation and Plaintiff failed to show that Moore was "manipulated" into making false statements at Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing; and (2) Plaintiff did not have a constitutional right to confront and cross-examine Moore at his disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff now moves for reconsideration of certain of the Court's findings.

II. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard

A motion for reconsideration is treated as the "functional equivalent" of a motion pursuant to Rule 59(e) which seeks to alter or amend a judgment. Fed. Kemper Ins. Co. v. Rauscher, 807 F.2d 345, 348 (3d Cir. 1986) (internal citation omitted). The purpose of a motion for reconsideration of a summary judgment order is to "correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Co. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). Reconsideration is appropriate where the party seeking reconsideration establishes "(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court . . . [issued its previous decision]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or prevent manifest injustice." Max's Seafood Cafe ex rel. Lou Ann v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999); North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995).

B. Proposed Grounds for Reconsideration

Plaintiff now seeks to have the Court reconsider the Court's Order granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff argues generally that there was evidence sufficient to survive a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff's arguments with respect to each of the individual defendants will be discussed ad seriatim below.*fn4

1. Defendant Gauntt

Plaintiff alleges that the Court's Order did not consider "statements provided by eyewitnesses and a logbook entry made by former defendant Huttick" showing "that defendant Gauntt possessed some motivation to deny knowledge of any prior complaints made [P]laintiff [sic]." Pet'r's Mot. Recons. ¶ 8-9. Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Gauntt was aware of Plaintiff's prior complaints based on either information from fellow correctional office employees or "his own perusal of plaintiff's legal papers." Plaintiff does not point to now, as he did not point to earlier, evidence to substantiate either of these theories.

Instead Plaintiff merely reasserts his previous allegation that Defendant Gauntt was aware of Plaintiff's claims based on the fact that Plaintiff's purported legal documents were discarded. Plaintiff attempts to generate a factual dispute regarding Defendant Gauntt's knowledge of Plaintiff's prior complaints by referencing a logbook entry of Corrections Officer Huttick indicating that ...


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