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Mario Quijada v. Warden Bledsoe

March 31, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Plaintiff Mario Quijada ("Quijada"), an inmate confined at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg (USP-Lewisburg), Pennsylvania, filed this Bivens*fn1 -styled civil rights action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. The matter proceeds on an amended complaint filed on September 28, 2009. (Doc. No. 47). Named as Defendants are D. Scott Dodrill, Regional Director of the Bureau of Prisons ("BOP"), and the following current or former USP-Lewisburg employees: Troy Williamson, retired Warden; B.A. Bledsoe, Warden; Frank Strada and Chuck Maiorana, Associate Wardens; Frank Passaniti, Captain; Dean Hollenbach and D. Brewer, Unit Managers; Marwin Reeves, Treatment Specialist; and Marc Houser, Case Manager. Quijada sets forth allegations with respect to his designation and confinement in USP-Lewisburg's Special Management Unit ("SMU").

Before the Court is a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment filed on behalf of Defendants. (Doc. No. 74.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

I. Allegations in Amended Complaint

Quijada states that he was transferred to the SMU program at USP-Lewisburg on

November 16, 2007.*fn2 He was informed at that time by Defendants Williamson, Maiorana, Passaniti, Hollenbach, and Estrada that the SMU program was two years. He alleges that he was denied due process with respect to his transfer and confinement in the SMU. He states that at the time, the SMU was a program that was not approved or authorized by any BOP program statement. He claims that he was forced to "earn back" full privileges when he had committed no infractions warranting the loss of any privileges. (Doc. No. 47, Am. Compl. at 7.) He states that Defendants Bledsoe, Williamson, Dodrill, Maiorana, Estrada, Passaniti, and Hollenbach all failed to provide him with his due process rights. (Id. at 10.) He claims that each of these Defendants was involved in the present issues due to his filing of grievances and appeals. Nevertheless, Defendants have failed to provide him with a hearing regarding his unauthorized confinement in the SMU.

Quijada alleges that on November 19, 2008, Program Statement 5217.01 was issued with respect to the SMU. Despite the issuance of this Program Statement, he claims that he has not been afforded the Referral Procedures outlined therein, including a hearing. In the amended complaint Quijada proceeds to outline all of the due process procedures he believes he is entitled to pursuant to the SMU Program Statement.*fn3 According to Quijada, Defendants Brewer, Houser, and Reeves are the Unit Team members in charge of the SMU program and are responsible for presenting referrals for SMU placement to the warden. Regional Director Dodrill is thereafter responsible for determining whether each proposed referral is supported by evidence.

According to Quijada, he has been in the SMU at USP-Lewisburg since November 16, 2007, and he was approved for the new SMU program on December 12, 2008. He states that he still has yet to receive any due process as required by PS 5217.01. Although he has filed administrative remedies, they have been denied. Based on the foregoing, he alleges that his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments have been violated. He claims that all of the named Defendants have been personally involved in the violation of his rights in that they are operating and enforcing an SMU program without due process. As relief he seeks court orders directing his transfer to another United States Penitentiary and dismantling the SMU program. He also requests compensatory and punitive damages.

II. Standards of Review

A. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint, and construe any inferences to be drawn from the allegations in Plaintiff's favor. See Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). "The assumption of truth does not apply, however, to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or to '[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.'" Marangos v. Swett, 341 F. App'x 752, 755 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009)). In considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain enough "facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), and the factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted); accord Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1953. The facts plead must offer more "than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id., 120 S. Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations and citations omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Further, a district court should provide leave to amend "when amendment could cure the deficiency and would not be inequitable." Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint that does not establish entitlement to relief under any reasonable interpretation is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Id.

B. Motion for Summary Judgment

Rule 56(a) provides that the court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.*fn4 A fact is "material" if it will "affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250 (1986). A dispute is "genuine" if it could lead a "reasonable jury [to] return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. at 250.

When deciding the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact, a court's role is not to weigh the evidence. All reasonable inferences are also to be resolved in favor of the moving party. Meyer v. Riegel Prods. Corp., 720 F.2d 303, 307 n.2 (3d Cir. 1983). However, "a mere scintilla of evidence," without more, will not give rise to a genuine dispute for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. In the face of such evidence, summary judgment is still appropriate "where the record . . . could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986). "Summary judgment motions thus require judges to 'assess how one-sided evidence is, or what a fair-minded jury could reasonably decide.'" Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 265).

The movant "always bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Then, "when a properly supported motion for summary judgment [has been] made, the adverse party 'must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250. The non-movant "must point to concrete evidence in the record"; mere allegations, conclusions, conjecture, and speculation will not defeat summary judgment. Orsatti v. N.J. State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir. 1995).

III. Discussion

A. Motion to Dismiss

1. Damages against Defendants in their official capacities

Sovereign immunity precludes Quijada from bringing a Bivens action for money damages against Defendants in their official capacity as federal agents. FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 475 (1994) ("Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal Government and its agencies from suit."); Lewal v. Ali, 289 F. App'x 515, 516 (3d Cir. 2008) (noting that claims against federal agents in their official capacities are claims against the United States and, as such, are barred by sovereign ...

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