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Javier-Lopez v. Bledsoe

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 30, 2015

CARLOS JAVIER-LOPEZ, Plaintiff
v.
BRIAN A. BLEDSOE, WARDEN, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

Background

This pro se civil rights action was filed by Carlos Javier-Lopez, an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute, Indiana. Named as Defendants are multiple officials at Javier-Lopez’s prior place of confinement, the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USP-Lewisburg). Service of the Complaint was previously ordered.

Named as Defendants are the following USP-Lewisburg officials: Warden Brian Bledsoe; Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO) A. Jordan; Associate Warden for Programs P. Frederick; Captain Brian Trate; Case Manager Bobbi Jo Hamilton; Unit Manager C. Knox; Counselor K.A. Metzger; and Correctional Officers T. Burns, Richard Hamilton, and John Does #1 and # 2. The Complaint initially contends that USP-Lewisburg staff were allowed and encouraged to instigate violence between active and non-active prison gang members. See Doc. 1-1, ¶ 7. Specifically, Javier-Lopez, who describes himself as being an ex-gang member, states that on the afternoon of February 21, 2012 the two John Doe Defendants deliberately and maliciously placed Inmate Turcios-Lazo in his USP-Lewisburg cell. It is alleged that “due to his active prison gang membership, ” Turcios-Lazo immediately began assaulting the Plaintiff. Id., ¶ 20. Plaintiff asserts that correctional officers responded to the incident by using stun guns.[1]Javier Lopez asserts that he was “brutally beaten” and thereafter “denied proper medical treatment.” Id.

The Complaint next asserts that beginning on March 13, 2012, Plaintiff filed multiple administrative complaints accusing Bledsoe, Frederick and unidentified supervisory guards with attempting to murder him by forcing active gang members to cell with him despite the knowledge that Javier-Lopez was an ex-gang member.[2] The grievances were allegedly confiscated and destroyed by Defendants Hamilton, Burns, Frederick, and Bledsoe.

On February 14, 2013, Defendants Burns, Metzger, Hamilton, Knox, Hamilton, Bledsoe, Trate, and Frederick and “other guards” allegedly “for the second time placed an active gang member, Inmate Victor Martinez, inside the same recreation cage with plaintiff instigating an immediate assault.” Id. at ¶ 22. When Plaintiff attempted to defend himself, the Complaint claims that he was severely beaten by correctional staff and denied medical treatment for his resulting injuries. In addition, Defendant Burns purportedly issued Plaintiff a misconduct charge which falsely accused him of fighting with Inmate Martinez in order to justify the use of force against the inmate by correctional officers. Javier-Lopez was found guilty of the charge following a disciplinary hearing before DHO Jordan, who allegedly refused to consider Plaintiff’s evidence. As a result of the finding of guilt, Plaintiff was issued multiple sanctions including a loss of good time credits. The Complaint seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Presently pending is Defendants’ motion seeking entry of summary judgment. See Doc. 10. The motion is unopposed.

Discussion

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if “the 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); See also Saldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is “material” if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is “genuine” only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; see also Reeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must “go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id. (internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party “fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. “‘Such affirmative evidence – regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial – must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.’” Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).

Administrative Exhaustion

Defendants’ initial argument contends that they are entitled to entry of summary judgment because the undisputed record shows that Plaintiff failed to exhaust all of his claims. See Doc. 13, p. 4. As ...


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