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Gregory Jordan v. Sergeant Matthews

December 6, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF No. 43


This case is before the Court on the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Sergeant Matthews (hereinafter "Defendant") (ECF No. 43). After careful consideration of the submissions of both parties, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted for the reasons that follow.

I.Procedural Background

Plaintiff Gregory Jordan (hereinafter "Plaintiff") is a former Pennsylvania state inmate. He initiated this matter in June 2011 pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 1) and his Complaint was docketed on July 1, 2011 (ECF No. 5). He later filed an Amended Complaint on November 16, 2011 (ECF No. 27). Defendant filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 28) and a Partial Answer to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (ECF No. 30). The Partial Motion to Dismiss was granted in part and denied as moot in part on March 8, 2012.*fn1 (ECF No. 38.)

Thereafter, Defendant filed the instant Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 43), a Brief in Support thereof (ECF No. 44), and a Concise Statement of Material Facts ("CSMF") (ECF No. 45). Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 64) along with a Responsive CSMF (ECF No. 63), to which Defendant opted by Reply (ECF Nos. 65, 67). Plaintiff was then granted leave to amend his responses and filed an Amended Response in Opposition to Summary Judgment (ECF No. 70), an Amended Responsive CSMF (ECF No. 69), and a Declaration in Opposition to Summary Judgment (ECF No. 71). Defendant thereafter filed a Response to Plaintiff's Amended CSMF (ECF No. 73).

II.Plaintiff's Allegations and Factual Background

While incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene ("SCI-Greene") on May 8, 2009, Plaintiff filed a grievance regarding the loss of his outside clearance and employment and increase in custody level. (Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, ECF No. 27 at ¶ 9; Exhibit A1 to Plaintiff's original Complaint, Grievance #272034, ECF No. 5-1.) Plaintiff alleges that he spoke with Defendant about his dilemma regarding the issues in his grievance and Defendant told him that the reason his clearance would not be restored was due to the fact that he was black. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff reported Defendant's comment in his grievance appeal dated June 5, 2009, and Plaintiff claims that it was shortly thereafter that Defendant started to harass, threaten and retaliate against him. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 13; Plaintiff's Amended CSMF, ECF No. 69 at 3.) He alleges that Defendant wrongly denied him commissary on June 22, 2009, and, after he reported the incident to Lt. Harvilla, he was confronted by Defendant who threatened and called Plaintiff a "bitch" and a "rat." (ECF No. 27 at ¶¶ 14-21.) He also alleges that, on August 8, 2009, and while in the presence of Lt. Armstrong, Defendant called him an "asshole" and threatened to issue him a fabricated misconduct; then, Defendant continued to harass him between September and November by making monkey sounds in front of Plaintiff's cell door. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-25.) When Plaintiff later informed his unit manager of the problems he was experiencing with Defendant, the unit manager allegedly told Plaintiff that he was paranoid. (Id. at ¶ 27.) When Plaintiff spoke to his counselor about the situation, he was told to just avoid Defendant. (Id. at ¶ 28.)

On June 9, 2010, Defendant issued Plaintiff misconduct number 231145 charging him with using abusive language, refusing to obey an order, unauthorized use of phone, and presence in an unauthorized area. (Exhibit A to Defendant's CSMF, ECF No. 45-1 at 3.) Plaintiff maintains that he was falsely accused by Defendant in retaliation for including him within his grievance appeal the previous year and that the security video footage would have proved his innocence. (ECF No. 27 at ¶¶ 30, 33-34, 36.) Defendant allegedly arranged for him to be placed in pre-hearing detention pending the resolution of the misconduct despite failing to abide by Pennsylvania DOC policy and report a reason for the placement. (ECF No. 27 at ¶¶ 31-32.) At his misconduct hearing on June 14, 2010, Plaintiff was found guilty of refusing to obey an order and sanctioned to 30 days disciplinary custody time by the hearing examiner. (ECF No. 45-1 at 4.) The hearing examiner dismissed the remaining charges. (Id.) Plaintiff claims that the hearing examiner refused to view the security video footage and refused to call his witness, Officer Eagle, who was listed on the misconduct report as being present. (ECF No. 69 at 2.) He also claims that Defendant's fabricated misconduct was the reason he was denied parole.*fn2 (ECF No. 69 at 4.)

On June 11, 2010, Plaintiff wrote to the Office of Professional Responsibility ("OPR") regarding Defendant's harassing and retaliatory behavior. (ECF No. 27 at ¶ 29; ECF No. 5-7.) An investigation into Plaintiff's allegations was conducted by James C. Barnacle, Director of Special Investigations and Intelligence. (Exhibit D to Plaintiff's Amended Responsive CSMF, Memorandum of Interview of Lt. Armstrong, ECF No. 69-4 at 2.) According to Lt. Armstrong and Captain Haywood, they remembered an incident that occurred sometime during the summer of 2009,*fn3 when Defendant wanted to issue Plaintiff a fabricated misconduct in order to have him "locked up." (Exhibit C to Plaintiff's Amended Responsive CSMF, Statement from Captain Haywood, ECF Nos. 69-3; 69-4.) Specifically, Lt. Armstrong was asked to speak to Defendant regarding personal issues he was having with Plaintiff. (ECF No. 69-4.) When Lt. Armstrong asked what the problem was, Defendant stated that he wanted to have Plaintiff taken to the RHU, and, when asked why, Defendant stated that he kept asking an officer about going to the commissary so he was going to charge Plaintiff with refusing to obey an order. (Id.) When Plaintiff reported to the office to be interviewed, Defendant became visibly upset and started yelling and pointing at Plaintiff. (Id.) After Plaintiff left, Defendant told Lt. Armstrong that he was going to write the misconduct in a way that would get Plaintiff "locked up." (Id.) Because of this, Lt. Armstrong called for Captain Haywood. (ECF No. 69-3.) Defendant told Captain

Haywood that he was going to write Plaintiff a misconduct for threatening and using abusive language. (Id.) When asked if it was true, Defendant stated that was what he was going to write in the misconduct. (Id.) Captain Haywood instructed Defendant that he was not to write a misconduct that was not true. (Id.) When he later interviewed Officer Chaney, Captain Haywood was informed that Plaintiff did not make any threats or use abusive language during the incident in question with Defendant on August 8, 2009. (Id.; Exhibit B to Plaintiff's Amended Responsive CSMF, Statement from Officer Chaney, ECF No. 69-2.) No misconduct was ever issued and Plaintiff was instructed to avoid Defendant. (ECF No. 69-3.)

Pursuant to the investigation conducted by Director Barnacle of Special Investigations and Intelligence, Officer Eagle was interviewed about the misconduct that was issued to Plaintiff by Defendant on June 9, 2010. (Exhibit C to Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Amended CSMF, ECF No. 73-1 at 2-4.) Officer Eagle recalled that when he entered the pod on June 9, 2010, Plaintiff was on the phone and he heard Defendant give a last order to get off the phone. (Id.) Plaintiff then got off the phone and said something foul but did not recall exactly what he said. (Id.) After that, he escorted Plaintiff to his cell and secured the door. (Id.)

III.Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, the record indicates that "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element to that party's case and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence or the lack thereof that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. National State Bank v. Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must set forth "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial" or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The inquiry, then, involves determining "whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). If a court, having reviewed the evidence with this standard in mind, concludes that "the ...

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