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Milton v. United States Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2017

GREGORY A. MILTON, Plaintiff
v.
UNITED STATES BUREAU OF PRISONS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Kane Judge.

         Before the Court are Plaintiff Gregory A. Milton's motion for reconsideration of this Court's December 21, 2015 Order dismissing the complaint for failure to prosecute (Doc. No. 61) and Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment (Doc. No. 33). For the following reasons, the Court will grant Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration as unopposed and grant Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On January 18, 2013, Plaintiff Gregory A. Milton, an inmate at the United States Penitentiary at Beaumont, Texas, filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”), and several individuals employed by that agency pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1977). (Doc. No. 1.) The individuals named as defendants are as follows: (1) Charles L. Samuels, Jr., former Director of the BOP; (2) John Doe, Internal Affairs Director of the BOP; (3) John/Jane Does, Internal Affairs Staff;[1] (4) N.L. Norwood, former Director of the Northeast Regional Office of the BOP; (5) Michael Nalley, former Director of the North Central Regional Office of the BOP; (6) Todd W. Cerney, Disciplinary Hearing Officer (“DHO”) at the United States Penitentiary at Allenwood, White Deer, Pennsylvania (“USP-Allenwood”); (7) Carl M. Miedich, DHO at the United States Penitentiary at Florence, Colorado (“USP-Florence”); (8) George Nye, Lieutenant at USP-Allenwood; (9) Craig Johnson, Correctional Officer at USP-Allenwood; (10) M. Reeves, Correctional Officer at USP-Allenwood; (11) T. Boatman, Correctional Officer at USP-Allenwood; and (12) C. Duran-Poland, Correctional Officer at USP-Florence. (Id.)

         The complaint asserts claims of denial of due process arising out of three disciplinary proceedings held at USP-Allenwood and one rehearing proceeding held at USP-Florence. (Id. at 3-8.) (citing Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539 (1974)). First, in January 2011, Plaintiff was charged with prohibited acts 297 (use of the telephone for abuses other than illegal activity) and 305[2] (possession of anything not authorized for retention or receipt by the inmate) (“January 2011 charges”). (Id. at 3.) During the February 22, 2011 disciplinary hearing before Defendant Cerney on the January 2011 charges, Plaintiff alleges that he was denied the right to call several witnesses, denied the ability to present evidence, subjected to charges that were enhanced without notice, and informed that his staff representative, Defendant Johnson, was chastised by Defendant Nye for providing “too much” assistance as a staff representative. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff was sanctioned based on the January 2011 charges. (Id.)

         Second, Plaintiff was charged on March 3, 2011 with prohibited act 297 (use of the telephone for abuses other than illegal activity) (“March 2011 charge”). (Id.) Prior to the corresponding disciplinary hearing before Defendant Cerney, Plaintiff allegedly requested that certain evidence be presented but his staff representative Defendant Reeves did not respond to the request and Plaintiff was found to have committed the charge. (Id. at 5.) Third, on June 9, 2011, [3]Plaintiff was charged with prohibited acts 299/203 (conduct which disrupts or interferes with the security or orderly running of the institution) and 305 (possession of anything not authorized for retention or receipt by the inmate, and not issued to him through regular channels) (“June 2011 charges”). (Id. at 5-6.) As to the June 2011 charges, Plaintiff claims, inter alia, that his staff representative, Defendant Boatman, failed to obtain most of the evidence he requested in advance of the disciplinary hearing. (Id.) Plaintiff was found to have committed the 299/203 charge. Subsequently, after Plaintiff was transferred from USP-Allenwood to USP-Florence, Plaintiff was granted a rehearing on the June 2011 charges. During the rehearing at USP-Florence before Defendant Miedich, staff representative Defendant Duran-Poland allegedly failed to obtain evidence in advance of the rehearing at USP-Florence and Plaintiff was again found to have committed the 299/203 charge. (See id. at 6; see also Doc. Nos. 40 ¶ 208; 56 at 7.)

         In his complaint, Plaintiff also alleges that: (1) Defendant Nye initially hindered his attempt to file a complaint with the Office of Inspector General and prevented the mailing of a letter to former United States Attorney General Eric Holder; and (2) Defendants Samuels, Norwood and Nalley violated his rights by failing to “formally train” staff representatives. (Id. at 3, 5-6.) Plaintiff requests nominal and punitive damages from the BOP[4] and the individual defendants. (Id.) He also requests injunctive relief, including the expungement of his disciplinary record.

         On April 4, 2013, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia transferred the above-captioned action to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 13.) On January 15, 2015, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss and for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 33.) A brief in support of that motion, a statement of material facts, and accompanying evidentiary materials were filed on January 29, 2015. (Doc. Nos. 40, 41.) After granting Plaintiff two extensions of time to respond to Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment (Doc. No. 48; see Doc. No. 51), this Court dismissed Plaintiff's complaint for failure to prosecute and for failure to comply with a court order on December 21, 2015 (Doc. Nos. 53, 54).

         Thereafter, on December 22, 2015, Plaintiff filed a declaration in opposition and a “counterstatement of material facts.” (Doc. Nos. 55, 56.) On December 23, 2015, the Court granted Plaintiff 28 days to file a motion for reconsideration of the Dismissal Order. (Doc. No. 60.) On January 19, 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion for reconsideration. (Doc. No. 61.) Plaintiff was subsequently granted additional time to file a brief in support on or before June 6, 2016. (Doc. No. 63.) On June 2, 2016, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of his motion for reconsideration. (Doc. No. 64.) Defendants have not filed a brief in opposition to Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration. Accordingly, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration will be granted as unopposed pursuant to Local Rule 7.6. The Court limits its analysis to the merits of Defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires “only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” a complaint may nevertheless be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it “fail[s] to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

         To survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). “A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 663 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). A court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010).

         All civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible, or they risk dismissal. See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To determine the sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         B. Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the court to enter 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original). A factual dispute is material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law, and 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. Thus, where no material fact is in dispute, the moving party need only establish that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Id. at 248. Conversely, where there is a dispute as to an issue of material fact, the moving party must establish that the factual dispute is not a genuine one. Id.

         The party moving for summary judgment bears an initial burden of identifying evidence that it believes demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Pub. Serv. Elec. & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 145-46 (3d Cir. 2004). Once the moving party has carried this initial burden, “the nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986) (internal quotation marks omitted). If the non-moving 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 warranted. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. With respect to the sufficiency of the evidence that the non-moving party must provide, a court should grant summary judgment where the non-movant's evidence is merely colorable, conclusory, or speculative. Anderson, ...


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