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Brian Edward Griffin v. Thomas Williams

July 20, 2012

BRIAN EDWARD GRIFFIN,
PLAINTIFF
v.
THOMAS WILLIAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Defendant T. Behney, (Doc. 40), seeking judgment in her favor for the claims against her alleged in a complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by Plaintiff Brian Edward Griffin ("Griffin"), an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Coal Township"). (Doc. 1.) Griffin has alleged that Defendant Behney retaliated against him for filing grievances by searching his cell while he was not present and, on separate occasions, denying him a shower, yard time, and a meal. For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment will be granted in favor of Defendant Behney.

I. Background

A. Facts

In support of her motion for summary judgment, Defendant Behney submitted a statement of material facts. (Doc. 42.) Because Griffin failed to file an opposing statement of material facts as required by Middle District Local Rule 56.1, the following facts submitted by Defendant Behney are deemed admitted unless the record demonstrates otherwise.*fn1

In the complaint, Griffin alleges that he submitted complaints about Defendant Behney and others in order to move off his assigned cell block. (Doc. 42 ¶ 5; Doc. 1 ¶ 7.) At his deposition taken for this suit, Griffin testified that at some time in July 2010, he wrote a grievance about Defendant Behney's handling of a laundry issue. (Doc. 42 ¶ 6; Doc. 43-1 at 8, Ex. A, Griffin Dep., Nov. 3, 2011.) Griffin identified this grievance as the motivating factor that led to Defendant Behney's retaliatory actions. (Doc. 42 ¶ 6; Doc. 43-1 at 10-11.) According to Griffin, the laundry grievance was opened and read by Unit Manager Williams, and resolved informally by Williams without further processing. (Doc. 42 ¶ 7; Doc. 43-1 at 10.)

On July 12, 2010, Griffin filed grievance number 326376 against Williams for reading the laundry grievance complaining about Defendant Behney.*fn2 (Doc. 42 ¶ 8; Doc. 43-4 at 1, Ex. C-1.) In this grievance, Griffin explained that after he wrote the laundry grievance about Defendant Behney, Williams read it and told him he was going to resolve his laundry issue by sending him to pick up his t-shirts. (Doc. 42 ¶ 10; Doc. 43-4 at 1.) Griffin then stated in his grievance, "I didn't want no trouble so I took the [laundry] grievance and disposed of it." (Doc. 42 ¶ 10; Doc. 43-4 at 1.) Further, at his deposition, Griffin stated that he did not have proof that Defendant Behney knew about the laundry grievance, but presumed that Williams had informed her of it. (Doc. 42 ¶ 11; Doc. 43-1 at 11.) Defendant Behney has declared that she was not aware of the laundry grievance, nor did she know that Griffin made any complaints about her until he filed the grievance related to the denial a shower. (Doc. 42 ¶ 12; Doc. 43-8 ¶ 33, Ex. D, Behney Decl.)

Despite not having proof that Defendant Behney knew about the laundry grievance, Griffin alleges that after he filed that grievance, she performed a number of retaliatory acts of harassment. (Doc. 1 ¶ 7.) The following facts relate to those alleged acts. On July 14, 2010, Griffin filed grievance number 326489 at the institutional level, accusing Defendant Behney of denying him a shower.*fn3 (Doc. 42 ¶¶ 16, 19; Doc. 43-5 at 2, Ex. C-2.) Specifically, Griffin alleged that he asked to take a shower at 10:03 a.m. after he got back from the gym, but Defendant Behney denied his request, stating that he had missed the last call for showers at that time. (Doc. 43-5 at 2.) Griffin had two other opportunities that day to shower.*fn4 (Doc. 42 ¶ 23.) However, instead of showering at the next appointed time of 3:00 p.m., Griffin chose to wash in his cell instead. (Id.; Doc. 43-1 at 19-20.)

Griffin's grievance was denied at the initial review level on July 21, 2010. (Doc. 42 ¶ 20; Doc. 43-5 at 3.) He filed an appeal to the Superintendent on July 22, 2010. (Doc. 42 ¶ 20; Doc. 43-5 at 4-5.) The Superintendent denied his appeal on July 26, 2010. (Doc. 42 ¶ 20; Doc. 43-5 at 6.) Griffin has not appealed the Superintendent's denial of his appeal to Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals, the final level of review. (Doc. 42 ¶ 21.) At his deposition, Griffin conceded that he did not complete the appeal process with respect to this grievance, stating that an appeal was "useless" and the only way to get relief was from a court. (Id. ¶ 22; Doc. 43-1 at 17-18.)

On July 16, 2010, Griffin filed grievance number 326677, again accusing Defendant Behney of denying him a shower on July 14, 2010. (Doc. 42 ¶ 16; Doc. 43-6 at 1.) The facility grievance coordinator rejected this grievance on July 19, 2010, as duplicative of grievance number 326489 filed on July 14, 2010. (Doc. 42 ¶ 17; Doc. 43-6 at 2.) Griffin did not appeal this rejection. (Doc. 42 ¶ 18.)

With respect to his allegations relating to a cell search, Griffin alleges that on December 19 and 20, 2010, Defendant Behney entered and searched his cell while he was not present. (Doc. 42 ¶¶ 31, 34; Doc. 1 ¶ 7; Doc. 43-1 at 22.) Griffin did not witness Defendant Behney enter the cell and did not know what she did in the cell, but a nearby fellow inmate has declared that he heard Griffin's cell door shut and heard Defendant Behney say that Griffin's cell smelled like a trailer. (Doc. 42 ¶¶ 35, 36; Doc. 47 at 3, Devenshire Decl.) However, Griffin stated that he knew someone was in his cell when he noticed that the sticks he made out of toilet paper were "messed up." (Doc. 42 ¶ 37; Doc. 43-1 at 23.) Other than this disturbance, there was nothing indicating anyone had been in his cell and nothing was missing. (Doc. 42 ¶¶ 38-39.) Griffin did not file a grievance about this alleged incident, and in fact, has never filed a grievance alleging Defendant Behney searched his cell at any time. (Doc. 42 ¶¶ 32, 40, 41; Doc. 43-1 at 25.)

With respect to his allegations relating to the denial of yard time, Griffin alleges that sometime during the summer of 2010, Defendant Behney ignored his requests for yard time on several occasions. (Doc. 42 ¶ 44; Doc. 1 ¶ 7.) According to Griffin, inmates do not sign up for yard; rather, officers come to the cells to ask which inmates are going to yard and then write down the names so they know who is leaving for yard. (Doc. 42 ¶ 46; Doc. 43-1 at 20.) To the contrary, according to Defendant Behney, the process of releasing inmates from their cells to go to yard requires the inmate to first press a call button indicating that he wishes to go to yard, followed by Defendant Behney pressing a general access button which opens the cell doors of all the inmates who pressed their call buttons. (Doc. 42 ¶ 51.) At his deposition, Griffin stated that he chose not to attempt to get Defendant Behney's attention to tell her he wanted to go to yard. (Doc. 42 ¶ 47; Doc. 43-1 at 21.) In fact, of Defendant Behney's ignoring his requests for yard time Griffin stated, "I ain't even worry about it because most of the time I didn't even go out in the afternoon [Defendant Behney's shift] anyway. I went out in the morning - - - and this was in the summer time - - - and at night. So it wasn't really like she was hurting me when she was doing that." (Doc. 43-1 at 21; see also Doc. 42 ¶¶ 48-50.) Griffin never filed a grievance about not being able to go to yard. (Doc. 42 ¶ 45; Doc. 43-1 at 21.)

Finally, with respect to his allegations relating to the denial of a meal, Griffin alleges that Defendant Behney refused to allow him out of his cell for breakfast on August 24, 2010, after he had told her to "stop harassing me" in response to an August 23, 2010 order to move to another cell.*fn5 (Doc. 42 ¶ 53; Doc. 1 ¶ 7.) According to Defendant Behney, general population inmates like Griffin are released for breakfast after they press the call button indicating they want breakfast and Defendant Behney presses the general access button opening the cell doors of all inmates who pressed their call buttons. (Doc. 42 ¶ ...


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