The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
Joseph Laurensau ("Plaintiff") is a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), who is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution ("SCI") at Graterford. Plaintiff brings this civil rights suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that Defendants violated his rights under the First, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution while he was incarcerated at SCI Greene. ECF No. 5.
Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment ("the Motion") submitted by Defendants. ECF No. 55. For the reasons that follow, the Motion will be granted.
Plaintiff initiated this action on January 9, 2010, bringing a myriad of claims against thirteen Defendants, all of whom were employed at SCI Greene. ECF Nos. 1, 5. On October 29, 2010, Defendants filed a partial Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 9, which the Court granted in part and denied in part. As a result, five of the Defendants and many of Plaintiff's claims were dismissed from the case. The claims that remain are a Fourteenth Amendment due process claim brought against Defendant Nunez; First Amendment retaliation claims brought against Defendants Smith, Cramer, Fleming, Pluck and Younkin; and Eighth Amendment claims for use of excessive force and for "conspiring to segregate" him brought against Defendants Smith, Cramer, McGrane, Mega and Nunez.
On February 19, 2012, Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment with respect to these claims, ECF No. 55, to which Plaintiff responded on April 30, 2012, ECF No. 65. As such, Defendant's Motion is now ripe for review.
Summary judgment is warranted only where Athe 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 a judgment as a matter of law.@ Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating to the court that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party=s case. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). See Conoshenti v. Public Service Electric & Gas Company, 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004). When the moving party has met this burden, the burden then shifts to the non-moving party to Aset forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.@ Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e) (2). The mere existence of some evidence favoring the non-moving party, however, will not defeat the motion. There must be enough evidence with respect to a particular issue to enable a reasonable jury to find in favor of the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). See McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363-64 (3d Cir. 2005). In evaluating the evidence at the summary judgment stage, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draw all reasonable inferences in its favor. Matreale v. New Jersey Dep't of Military & Veterans Affairs, 487 F.3d 150, 152 (3d Cir. 2007).
Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), which provides that:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress
42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Section 1983 provides remedies for deprivations of rights established in the Constitution or federal laws. It does not, by its own terms, create substantive rights." Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006), citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 n. 3 (1979) (footnote omitted). Thus, in order to state a claim for relief under Section 1983, the plaintiff must allege facts from which it could be inferred that "the defendant, acting under color of state law, deprived him or her of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States." Id. at 423
A. Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Claim
Plaintiff contends that Defendant Nunez, the hearing officer who presided over Plaintiff's misconduct hearings, denied him a liberty interest without procedural due process by finding him guilty of disciplinary infractions and sanctioning him to spend time in disciplinary custody. Defendants argue that Plaintiff is unable to succeed on his claim against Nunez because he is unable to establish the he has a protected liberty interest in the first instance. Alternatively, Defendants contend that, even if Plaintiff could show that he had a protected liberty interest, Plaintiff was provided all the process that he was due.
The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no State shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. Amend. XIV, § 1. To establish a claim under the Due Process Clause, a plaintiff must show that he had a protected liberty or property interest of which he has been deprived, and that the process afforded him did ...