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Terrell v. Benfer

October 22, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure


Plaintiff Brooks Terrell ("Plaintiff" or "Terrell"), an inmate presently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution Talladega ("FCI Talladega") in Talladega, Alabama, commenced this pro se civil rights action by filing a Complaint raising claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Presently before the Court are Defendants' motions for summary judgment (Rec. Doc. No. 14) and for a protective order (Rec. Doc. No. 28). For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment will be denied, and the motion for a protective order will be denied as moot.


I. Procedural Background

On July 1, 2008, Plaintiff filed his Complaint in which he names the following employees of the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("USP Lewisburg") as Defendants: Lieutenant Benfer, Lieutenant Flemmins, and Correctional Officer Chuck Anderson. The events that form the basis for his Complaint occurred while Plaintiff was confined in the Special Housing Unit ("SHU") at USP Lewisburg. He alleges that, on May 25, 2008, Defendant Anderson violated the Eighth Amendment by yelling in the SHU that Plaintiff is a rapist. (Rec. Doc. No. 1 § IV ¶ 1.) He further alleges that, on May 30, 2008, Defendants Flemmins and Anderson moved him within the SHU to a cell with another inmate in violation of the Fifth and Eighth Amendments. (Id. ¶¶ 2-3.) Plaintiff alleges that the other inmate beat him, tied him up, and "took him hostage." (Id.) The inmate allegedly stated that "he will not live with a rapist." (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he suffered abrasions to his neck, wrists, ankles, and mouth and suffered mental trauma. (Id.) As relief, Plaintiff seeks $15,000 from each Defendant. (Id. § V.)

Service of the Complaint was directed by Order dated July 15, 2008. (Rec. Doc. No. 7.) On September 12, 2008, Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment. (Rec. Doc. No. 14.) On September 18, 2008, Defendants filed a supporting brief (Rec. Doc. No. 15), a statement of material facts ("SMF") (Rec. Doc. No. 16), and a supporting declaration (Rec. Doc. No. 17). On December 23, 2008, Plaintiff filed a document entitled "Motion for Cross Summary Judgment" to which he attached an affidavit and supporting exhibits. (Rec. Doc. No. 21.) The document contained the caption for this action as well as for Plaintiff's other pending civil rights action at Civil No. 4:08-CV-1311 and was filed on both dockets. On January 15, 2009, this Court issued Orders in both cases construing the document as Plaintiff's brief in opposition to the motions for summary judgment pending in both cases inasmuch as it contained argument and citations to case law responding to the arguments presented in both sets of Defendants' supporting briefs. (See Rec. Doc. No. 22.) The Order also directed Plaintiff to file a statement of material facts responding to Defendants' SMF in accordance with Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 56.1 ("LR 56.1"). (See id.) On February 2, 2009, Plaintiff filed identical statements of material facts in this case and in his action at Civil No. 4:08-CV-1311. (Rec. Doc. No. 24.) Defendants filed a reply brief on February 17, 2009. (Rec. Doc. No. 26.) Accordingly, the motion is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

It is appropriate for a court to grant a motion for summary judgment "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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue is genuine "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). "Material facts" are those which might affect the outcome of the suit. Id.; Justofin v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 372 F.3d 517, 521 (3d Cir. 2004).

A party seeking the entry of summary judgment bears the initial responsibility of stating the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. The moving party can discharge that burden by "'showing' . . . that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986).

Once the moving party meets its burden of showing an absence of genuine issues of material fact, the nonmoving party must provide some evidence that an issue of material fact remains. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585-86 (1986). However, the nonmoving party cannot do so merely by 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. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Ridgewood Bd. of Educ. v. N.E. ex rel. M.E., 172 F.3d 238, 252 (3d Cir. 1999). 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).

III. Discussion

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies

Defendants assert that they are entitled to summary judgment because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before filing his Complaint in this action. Section 1997e(a) of Title 42 of the United States Code provides that "[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted." This "exhaustion requirement applies to all inmate suits about prison life, whether they involve general circumstances or particular episodes, and whether they allege excessive force or some other wrong." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516, 532 (2002). A prisoner must exhaust all available administrative remedies before initiating a federal lawsuit. Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001). Failure to exhaust available administrative remedies is an affirmative defense. Ray v. Kertes, 285 F.3d 287, 295 (3d Cir. 2002). As such, the failure to exhaust available administrative remedies must be pleaded and proven by the Defendants. Brown v. Croak, 312 F.3d 109, 111 (3d Cir. 2002).

Defendants have properly raised the matter of exhaustion of administrative remedies made available to inmates confined in BOP custody. The BOP Administrative Remedy Program is described at 28 C.F.R. Part 542. The purpose of the program "is to allow an inmate to seek formal review of an issue relating to any aspect of his/her own confinement." 28 C.F.R. § 542.10(a). Inmates first must informally present their complaints to staff, and staff shall attempt to informally resolve any issue before an inmate files a request for administrative relief. 28 C.F.R. § 542.13(a). If unsuccessful at informal resolution, the inmate may raise his complaint with the warden of the institution where he is confined through the submission of a BP-9 form. Id. at ...

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