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Baker v. Williamson

May 5, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caldwell


I. Introduction

On April 14, 2008, pro se plaintiff, Darryl Orrin Baker, an inmate formerly housed at the Satellite Prison Camp in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, (SPC-Lewisburg) filed an Amended Complaint*fn1 in this Bivens action*fn2 against the following Bureau of Prison (BOP) defendants: (1) Troy Williamson, the retired warden; (2) C. Angelini, a unit manager; (3) J. Tokar, a retired counselor; (4) P. Forbes, a counselor; (5) Dr. A. Bussanich, clinical director; (6) S. Gosa, a physician's assistant; (7) B. Chambers, a disciplinary hearing officer; (8) R. Kerstetter, correctional programs specialist; (9) J. Geradi, a physician's assistant; (10) Bill True, case manager; (11) B. Ross, a correctional officer; and (12) Ross Boyd, a correctional officer. (See Doc. 25-3, Am. Compl.) Plaintiff asserted the following constitutional violations: (1) an Eighth Amendment medical claim; (2) a First Amendment access-to-the-courts claim; (3) a retaliation claim; and (4) an equal-protection and racial-discrimination claim. Id.

On March 13, 2009, in response to defendants' motion to dismiss, or in the alternative, motion for summary judgment, the Court dismissed all claims against the defendants in their official capacities and the Eighth Amendment medical claim based on the care he received at SPC-Lewisburg for an eye injury that occurred at a different facility. See Doc. 54. Defendants then filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint. See Doc. 59.

Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. Doc. 78. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

II. Background

The amended complaint and the summary judgment record reveal the following background to Plaintiff's claims.*fn3

A. Baker's Access-to-the-Courts Claim

Baker had filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Baker v. United States, 1:05-CV-0146 (W.D. Pa.).*fn4 In his Amended Complaint, Baker alleges that defendants Chambers and Kerstetter interfered with his access to the courts when they refused and returned a July 11, 2006, order dismissing the action.*fn5 As a result, he was unable to appeal that final order. See Doc. 25-3 at CM/ECF pp. 13-16.*fn6

Baker was housed at FCI-Elkton, in Lisbon, Ohio when he filed that action. (Doc. 80, Defendants' Statement of Material Facts (DSMF) at ¶¶ 4-5). Baker was transferred to SPC-Lewisburg on August 26, 2005. Id. at ¶ 6.

A July 24, 2006, docket entry in that case reflects that the July 11, 2006, order sent to Baker was returned as undeliverable with the envelope bearing the notation: "Not at this address; Return to Sender." Id. at ¶ 10. The January 22, 2007, docket in that case still listed FCI-Elkton, and not SPC-Lewisburg, as Baker's address. Id. at ¶ 11. On February 9, 2007, Baker filed a notice of change of address with the Western District. Id. at ¶ 12. Baker then appealed the dismissal order. His appeal is still pending in the Third Circuit. Id. at ¶ 14.

Baker concedes that the Clerk of Court for the Western District mailed the July 11, 2006, order to FCI-Elkton. DSMF at ¶ 15.*fn7 Baker is suing Kerstetter and Chambers on the theory that they are in charge of the mail room at SPC-Lewisburg. DSMF at ¶¶ 21-22. Chambers is a Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) and does not oversee the mail room. Id. at ¶ 23.

B. Baker's Retaliation Claim

Baker claims that defendants retaliated against him for filing a grievance against Chambers and Kerstetter and for filing federal lawsuits. See Doc. 25-3 at pp. 16-17. The retaliation came in a variety of forms: (1) removal from his UNICOR job for a period of six months; (2) placement in Administrative Custody (AC); (3) transfer to a higher custody prison; (4) issuance of a false incident report stating he had a gambling ticket in his possession; and (5) issuance of a false incident report by Officer Ross Boyd for being in the law library. Id.

Baker arrived at SPC-Lewisburg on August 26, 2005. DSMF at ¶ 6. On February 20, 2007, he filed a grievance against Kerstetter and Chambers for supposedly returning the July 11, 2006, dismissal order to the Western District. Id. at ¶ 25.

While at SPC-Lewisburg, Baker received several disciplinary incident reports. Id. at ¶ 26. He received two incident reports on October 20, 2006. The first incident report, no. 1525638, was written at 6:00 a.m. and charged Baker with an unexcused absence from work. Id. at ¶¶ 27-28. Baker failed to appear for a scheduled lab test which was medically necessary for an upcoming appointment he had with an outside physician. Id. at ¶ 29. His failure to appear for this scheduled lab work "severely impact[ed] upon the timely completion of his medical care by the outside physician." Id. at ¶¶ 29-30. The incident report was handled at the Unit Discipline Committee (UDC) level and was not referred to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO). The UDC found Baker had committed the prohibited act as charged and sanctioned him 90-days loss of phone privileges. Id. at ¶ 32.

The second incident report, no. 1525640, charged Baker with refusing to obey an order and for being in an unauthorized area. It was written at 6:50 a.m. when he appeared at the Health Services area nearly an hour late for his scheduled lab work and demanded to be seen by lab personnel. Id. at ¶ 34. When told he had missed his appointment and ordered to leave the area, Baker became argumentative and refused to leave. Finally, when directed by an officer to leave, he did. Id. at ¶ 35. On October 23, 2006, the UDC found Baker had committed the prohibited acts as charged and sanctioned him 90-days loss of visiting privileges and the loss of his job. Id. at ¶ 38.

Baker was assigned to UNICOR (prison industries) from October 17, 2005 through October 27, 2006, when he was removed as a result of his sanction for incident report no. 1525640. Id. at ¶¶ 39-40.

On February 24, 2007, Officer Boyd Ross issued Baker an incident report for being in an unauthorized area and interfering with the taking of count after he allegedly malingered in the law library after Officer Ross had told all inmates to return to their cubes for count. See Doc. 82 at p. 44. Two days later, on February 26, 2007, Baker was reassigned to UNICOR. DSMF at ¶ 41. He continued to work at UNICOR until March 1, 2007. Id. Baker received another incident report on March 1, 2007, no. 1572742, for possessing gambling paraphernalia. Id. at ¶ 42. Baker was placed in AC pending investigation of his involvement in the gambling incident. Id. at ¶ 46. Baker concedes that he was placed in AC because of an incident report he received.*fn8 Id. at ¶ 47. The UDC referred this matter to the DHO. Id. at ¶ 43.

At Baker's March 26, 2007, DHO hearing, Baker admitted his guilt to the charged offense. Id. at ¶ 44. The DHO sanctioned him to six-days loss of good conduct time, 60-days loss of commissary privileges, and 15 days of disciplinary segregation, which were suspended pending 180 days' clear conduct. Id. at ¶ 45. Baker was released from AC on March 12, 2007. Id. at ¶ 48. Baker was housed only once in AC while at SPCLewisburg, from March 1 until March 12, 2007. Id. at ¶ 49.

As a consequence of Baker's receipt of the gambling-paraphernalia incident report, his custody classification was changed from "out" custody to "in" custody. Id. at ¶ 50. "In" custody inmates may not be housed at a camp facility, such as SPC-Lewisburg. Id. at ¶ 51. Due to his increase in custody level, Baker was housed in a dorm-style holdover unit with other inmates with similar custody levels awaiting transfers. Id. at ¶ 52. On March 27, 2007, Baker was transferred to FCI-Sandstone via a greater security transfer. Id. at ¶ 53.

A review of the docket sheet in Baker's Western District case, 1:CV-05-0146, reveals that he did not file any documents in that case between July 5, 2006, ...

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