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Shepler v. Elbel

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 20, 2015



CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge


For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant Warden Thomas Elbel be granted.


A. Relevant and Material Facts

Plaintiff, Shane Lee Shepler ("Shepler"), an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institute in Albion, Pennsylvania, filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. The case stems from events which occurred while Shepler was incarcerated at the Jefferson County Jail.[1]

The case commenced on April 11, 2014, with the filing by Shepler of a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis. Attached to the motion was a civil rights complaint which named as Defendants (i) Jefferson County Jail Board Member, identified in the body of the Complaint as "Board Member Moon, "[2] and (ii) the Warden of the Jefferson County Jail, Thomas Elbel. Defendants filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss, which was granted in part and denied in part. Three claims survived the 12(b)(6) process.

Shepler's first claim is that in December 2011, Warden Elbel placed him in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") in retaliation for Shepler writing to government entities, including the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") and the Pennsylvania State Police.[3] Shepler's second claim is that in December 2012, he developed a staph infection as a result of using improperly sanitized razors and nail clippers. His final claim is that on October 25, 2011, he was denied water and the use of restroom facilities during mandatory time in the jail indoor recreation yard.

Presently before the Court is Warden Elbel's Motion for Summary Judgment, with Brief in Support (ECF Nos. 65 and 66), Shepler's Response in opposition (ECF No. 71), Warden Elbel's Reply Brief (ECF No. 72), and Shepler's Sur-Reply (ECF No. 73). The issues have been fully briefed and the factual record has been thoroughly developed via Warden Elbel's Concise Statement of Material Facts and Appendix. (ECF Nos. 67 and 68.)

C. Standard of Review for Motion for Summary Judgment

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment shall be granted 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." The moving party has the initial burden of proving to the district court the absence of evidence supporting the non-moving party's claims. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 330 (1986); Andreoli v. Gates, 482 F.3d 641, 647 (3d Cir. 2007); UPMC Health System v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 391 F.3d 497, 502 (3d Cir. 2004).

The burden then shifts to the non-movant to come forward with specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Williams v. Borough of West Chester, Pa., 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989) (the non-movant must present affirmative evidence-more than a scintilla but less than a preponderance-which supports each element of his claim to defeat a properly presented motion for summary judgment). The non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings and show specific facts by affidavit or by information contained in the filed documents (i.e., depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions) to meet his burden of proving elements essential to his claim. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3d Cir. 2001). The non-moving party "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions to show the existence of a genuine issue." Garcia v. Kimmell, 381 F.Appx. 211, 213 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Podobnik v. U.S. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005)).

When considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court is not permitted to weigh the evidence or to make credibility determinations, but is limited to deciding whether there are any disputed issues and, if there are, whether they are both genuine and material. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). The court must consider the evidence, and all reasonable inferences which may be drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). See also El v. SEPTA, 479 F.3d 232, 238 (3d Cir. 2007). Importantly, however, in a case such as this one where there is a video recording of the incidents in question, the Court need not adopt the non-movant's version of the facts if the recording "blatantly contradict[s]" the non-movant's version "so that no reasonable jury could believe it." Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007).

Because Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the Court is required to liberally construe his pleadings. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). Nonetheless, this does not require the Court to credit his "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997). Thus, for example, mere allegations, without support, are insufficient. Rather, the allegations must be supported by evidence, which ...

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