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Robins v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 6, 2015



EDWIN M. KOSIK, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Johnathan Robins, an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Rockview (SCI-Rockview), Pennsylvania, filed this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. He challenges the classification recommendation that he be required to complete Batterer's Group, and claims that the recommendation was based on false information. Before the court is a motion for summary judgment filed by Wendy Depew, a Classification Staff Member at SCI-Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 64.) For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Background and Procedural History

This action proceeds on an amended complaint. (Doc. 10, Am. Compl.) The only remaining defendant is Wendy Depew, Classification Staff Member.[1] Plaintiff alleges that in August of 2010, while confined at SCI-Camp Hill, he met with Depew for the purpose of classification and to determine program participation. Plaintiff claims that participation in a "Batterer's Group" was never discussed, and that at no time did he ever inform Defendant that he ever assaulted anyone physically or verbally. (Id. at 2.)

Plaintiff never learned of the "Batterer's Group" recommendation until after his transfer to SCI-Smithfield in October of 2010. Depew had placed him in this group and stated that Plaintiff informed her that he had verbal and physical fights with his wife. Plaintiff denies ever making such statements to Depew, and claims that the Batterer's Group has no relation to his underlying conviction.

Grievances and appeals therefrom seeking to be removed from the recommendation/requirement that he participate in a Batterer's Group were unsuccessful. Plaintiff claims the denial of due process by not being permitted to challenge the false information in his record. He further claims that his failure to participate in the group will harm his chances for parole and impact his ability to seek custody of his son and find a job once he is released from prison. He asserts a liberty interest in not being falsely labeled since he has not been convicted on any type of assault charge. Plaintiff only seeks injunctive relief in the form of the removal of the false information in his record and the recommendation/requirement that he participate in a Batterer's Group. Following the conclusion of discovery, Depew filed the pending motion for summary judgment.

II. Legal Standard

Defendant moved for summary judgment under Rule 56(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material facts and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a genuine dispute as to any material fact' and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality." Goudy-Bachman v. U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, 811 F.Supp.2d 1086, 1091 (M.D. Pa. 2011)(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)).

The moving party bears the initial responsibility of informing the court of the basis for its motion and identifying those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). With respect to an issue on which the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof, the moving party may discharge that burden by "showing'-that is, pointing out to the district court-that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's case." Id. at 325.

Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of its pleading; rather, the nonmoving party must show a genuine dispute by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials" or "showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). If the nonmoving 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, " summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Summary judgment is also appropriate if the nonmoving party provides merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative evidence. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). "Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986).

The substantive law identifies which facts are material, and "[o]nly disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. A dispute about a material fact 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 248-49. When "faced with a summary judgment motion, the court must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.'" N.A.A.C.P. v. N. Hudson Reg'l Fire & Rescue, 665 F.3d 464, 475 (3d Cir. 2011)(quoting Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007)).

At the summary judgment stage, the judge's function is not to weigh the evidence or to determine the truth of the matter; rather, it is to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. "[S]ummary judgment is essentially put up or shut up' time for the non-moving party: the non-moving party must rebut the motion with facts in the record and cannot rest solely on assertions made in the pleadings, legal memoranda, or oral argument." Berckeley Inv. Group, Ltd. v. Colkitt, 455 F.3d 195, 201 (3d Cir. 2006).

III. Material Facts

In accordance with M.D. Pa. Local Rule 56.1, Defendant has submitted a statement of material facts in support of her motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 65.) Plaintiff has filed an opposing statement of material facts wherein he agrees with all of the facts as set forth and supported by Defendant, with the exception of two paragraphs. The ...

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