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Alonzo Hill v. J.D. Fisher

June 14, 2012

ALONZO HILL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
J.D. FISHER, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

(MAGISTRATE JUDGE SMYSER)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 87.) Magistrate Judge Smyser recommends granting Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 76) because Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies before commencing this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R & R. Because Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative remedies when he failed to appeal the denial of his inmate grievance to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals, the R & R will be adopted in its entirety and Defendants' motion will be granted.

I. Background

Plaintiff, a pro-se prisoner incarcerated by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections at SCI-Smithfield, brings this action against ten Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants removed funds from his prison account without a hearing in violation of his procedural due process rights guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. (Defs.' Statement of Material Facts "SMF", ¶¶ 1, 7.) On April 13, 2009, Plaintiff was found guilty of misconduct at the prison for assaulting another inmate. (Id. at ¶ 4.) Although Plaintiff pled not guilty, he admitted to all charges. (Id.) The Hearing Examiner subsequently concluded that Plaintiff's account should be assessed for all medical costs associated with this assault, and fifty percent (50%) of the funds in Plaintiff's account were placed on hold. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6.)

On November 11, 2009, Plaintiff filed Grievance No. 296511 in response to Defendants placing a hold on the funds in his account. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Plaintiff's grievance was denied on November 20, 2009. (Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff then appealed the denial of his grievance to the SCI-Smithfield Superintendent, but the grievance was again denied. (Id. at ¶¶ 19-20.) After the appeal was denied by the SCI-Smithfield Superintendent, Plaintiff did not file an appeal with the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals ("SOIGA"). (Id. at ¶ 21.) Instead, Plaintiff commenced the present action. (Doc. 1.)

On July 1, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Third Amended Complaint against all Defendants. (Doc. 72.) Defendants filed an Answer to the Third Amended Complaint on July 13, 2011. (Doc. 73.) And, on October 3, 2011, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 76.) On March 3, 2012, Magistrate Judge Smyser recommended granting Defendants' motion for summary judgment due to Plaintiff's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act. (Doc. 87.) Plaintiff filed timely objections to the R & R. (Doc. 92.)

II. Legal Standards

A. Standard for Reviewing a Report and Recommendation

Where objections to the Magistrate Judge's report are filed, the court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report. Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n. 3 (3d Cir.1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)). However, this only applies to the extent that a party's objections are both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6--7 (3d Cir.1984) (emphasis added). In conducting a de novo review, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D.Pa.1993). Although the review is de novo, the law permits the court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675--76, 100 S. Ct. 2406, 65 L. Ed. 2d 424 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F.Supp. 328, 330 (M. D. Pa.1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154, 106 S. Ct. 466, 88 L. Ed. 2d 435 (1985);

Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 376--77 (M.D. Pa.1998).

B. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate "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) (2). A fact is material if proof of its existence or nonexistence might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable substantive law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986).

Where there is no material fact in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(2). Where, however, there is a disputed issue of material fact, summary judgment is appropriate only if the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is genuine if "a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Where there is a material fact in dispute, the moving party has the initial burden of proving that: (1) there is no genuine issue of material fact; and (2) the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See 2D Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 2727 (2d ed.1983). The moving party may present its own evidence or, where the nonmoving party has the burden of proof, ...


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