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Jamie Lynn Tompkins v. County of Lackawanna

February 13, 2013


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


Jamie Lynn Tompkins ("Tompkins"), formerly an inmate confined at the Lackawanna County Prison ("LCP"), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are Lackawanna County, LCP, and Tina Cumber, a correctional officer at LCP. Tompkins challenges a strip search that took place during the course of a contact visit with her mother at LCP on November 21, 2010. Presently before the Court for consideration is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 24.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be deemed unopposed and granted.

I. Background

Tompkins alleges that on November 21, 2010, her mother came to the Lackawanna County Prison for a contact visit with her. During the visit, several officers responded to a "Code Blue to the multi-purpose room" where the visit was taking place. (Doc. No. 1, Compl. at 2.) Tompkins states that Defendant Cumber ordered her to go into the restroom and strip so that a search could be conducted. According to Tompkins, Cumber used vulgar language and excessive force. When Tompkins objected to the search as illegal, an unidentified officer told her that if she did not cooperate she could be x-rayed. Cumber continued to subdue Tompkins "spread eagle" while female officers opened and closed the restroom door. Tompkins challenges the search as excessive, embarrassing and humiliating. She believes that the search was conducted to harass her for testifying against the Lackawanna County Prison in previous years. She seeks monetary damages.

Service of the complaint was directed and an answer thereto filed by Defendants on October 10, 2011. (Doc. No. 16.) Thereafter, an order was issued imposing a discovery and dispositive motions deadline in this matter. (Doc. No. 17.) On May 11, 2012, Defendants filed a motion seeking summary judgment in this action. (Doc. No. 24.) A supporting brief, statement of materials facts and evidentiary materials were submitted. (Doc. Nos. 25, 26.) Because Tompkins failed to file any opposition to Defendants' motion, an order was issued on September 25, 2012, directing her to do so. (Doc. No. 27.) She was forewarned that the failure to file an opposing brief, a statement of facts and evidentiary materials would result in the motion being deemed unopposed.

On October 4, 2012, this order was returned to the Court marked as "Undeliverable" because Tompkins was released from prison. (Doc. No. 28.) On October 9, 2012, a copy of the 9/25/12 order was remailed to Tompkins at her current address as provided by her to Defendants at her deposition.*fn1 This is also the most current address that now appears on the docket in this action. Due to an oversight on the part of the Clerks Office, the wrong street address was typed on the envelope mailed by the Clerks Office on October 9, 2012, and it was returned to the Court. (Doc. No. 29.) The order was thereafter remailed to the correct address on October 24, 2012. Pursuant to the order, Tompkins was afforded fourteen (14) days within which to submit her opposition to Defendants' pending motion. The relevant time period has expired, and Tompkins has failed to file any opposition to the motion. As such, the motion for summary judgment will be deemed unopposed and addressed on the merits.

II. Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 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.*fn2 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 against the moving party. Meyer v. Riegel Products 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. Industrial 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)(quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)). 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 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e)). The non-movant "must point to concrete evidence in the record" in that mere allegations, conclusions, conjecture, and speculation will not defeat summary judgment. Orsatti v. New Jersey State Police, 71 F.3d 480, 484 (3d Cir. 1995).

III. Undisputed Facts

Along with their motion for summary judgment and brief, Defendants filed a Statement of Undisputed Facts and supporting evidentiary materials. (Doc. No. 25.) Because Tompkins has failed to file a Statement of Facts in response to Defendants' submission, the facts as set forth in Defendants' statement will be deemed admitted pursuant to M.D. Pa. Local Rule 56.1. The undisputed facts are as follows.

On November 21, 2010, Tompkins was an inmate at the Lackawanna County Prison and had a contact visit with her mother, Debra Hughes. (Doc. No. 1, Compl. at ¶3.) During the contact visit, a "Code Blue" was called, and Tompkins was strip searched by Defendant Cumber. (Id.) On March 26, 2012, Defendants conducted the deposition of Tompkins with respect to this incident. (Doc. No. 25-1, Ex. A, Tompkins Dep.) In her deposition, Tompkins states that she was visiting with her mother in the interview room when she heard a "Code Blue" alert. (Id. at 11.) Cumber entered the interview room and took Tompkins into the restroom, told her to strip and searched her. (Id.) Cumber touched her thigh, spread her legs apart and held her up against the wall. (Id.) When Cumber asked Tompkins to squat and cough, she complied. Tompkins was interviewed by Captain Chiarelli and asked if she had contraband. Tompkins admitted to having tobacco. (Id. at12.) Tompkins went back into the bathroom with Correctional Officer Bundi and gave her the tobacco. (Id. at 12-13.) She was then written up for possessing contraband. (Id. at 13.) Tompkins admitted to receiving contraband from her mother during her contact visit and that the contraband was tobacco. (Doc. No. 25-1, Ex. A at 15.) She further admitted to placing the contraband in her vagina. (Id.) Tompkins did not sustain any injuries as a result of the search. (Id. at 19.)

Tompkins believes that the search was conducted to harass her because she had previously testified against the Lackawanna County Prison with respect to harassment and drug issues at the prison. This testimony was given by Tompkins to the grand jury in 2002, eight years before the incident which is the subject of this action. The testimony provided had nothing to do with Defendant Cumber or anyone else ...

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