United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
N. O'NEILL, JR., J.
prisoner plaintiff Siddeeq Basil Henry brings § 1983
claims against defendant prison officials Arthur Johnson and
L. Williams. Am. Compl., Dkt. No. 34. He claims their actions
violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and
unusual punishment and First Amendment right to free
speech. Defendants filed a motion for summary
judgment, Dkt. No. 52, to which plaintiff responded, Dkt. No.
58. For the following reasons, I will grant defendants'
judgment will be granted “against a party who 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 of proof at trial.”
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of
demonstrating 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); see
Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. If the movant sustains its
burden, the nonmovant must set forth facts demonstrating the
existence of a genuine dispute. See Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A dispute as to a
material fact is genuine if “the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Id. A fact is “material”
if it might affect the outcome of the case under governing
establish “that a fact cannot be or is genuinely
disputed, ” a party must:
(A) cit[e] 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
(B) show[ ] that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse
party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1). The adverse party must raise
“more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its
favor” in order to overcome a summary judgment motion
and cannot survive by relying on unsupported assertions,
conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions. Williams v.
Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989).
“At the summary judgment stage, facts must be viewed in
the light most favorable to the nonmoving party only if there
is a ‘genuine' dispute as to those facts.”
Scott v. Harris, 550 U.S. 372, 380 (2007),
quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). “Where the record
taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to
find for the nonmoving party, there is no ‘genuine
issue for trial.'” Id., quoting
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475
U.S. 574, 586-87 (1986).
Excessive Force Claim Against Johnson
claims Corrections Officer Johnson used excessive force
against him when he choked, elbowed and tightly handcuffed
plaintiff. However, because Johnson's actions followed
plaintiff's aggressive assault of Johnson in a prison
hallway-punching him in the head four times-and because
plaintiff did not suffer serious injuries, no reasonable jury
could conclude, on the evidence before me, that officer
Johnson acted “maliciously and sadistically to cause
harm” rather than “in a good-faith effort to
maintain or restore discipline, ” as required to
establish an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive force.
Hudson v. McMillian, 503 U.S. 1, 7 (1992). I will
therefore grant defendants' motion for summary judgment
with respect to plaintiff's claim against Johnson.
was heading toward the prison yard when Johnson confronted
him and asked where he was going. Henry Dep. at 9:19-24. They
began to argue, and Johnson told plaintiff “they
didn't call the F-ing yard yet, go back to [your] housing
unit.” Id. at 10:4-7. Plaintiff then assaulted
Johnson, punching him in the head at least four times.
Id. at 10:8-10; Dkt. No. 52, Ex. 2 (Video, 9
Corridor A, July 24, 2013) at 00:19-24. Immediately, Johnson
and a guard standing with him began to struggle to restrain
plaintiff and pin him against the wall. Id. at
00:22-28. Multiple guards emerged and attempted to restrain
plaintiff, who struggled with them. Id. at 00:25-54;
Henry Dep. at 10:10-14. Portions of the video are dark and
plaintiff's body is out of view behind the swarm of
officers around him. Plaintiff appears to be resisting the
officers for at least twenty seconds. Video at 00:25-45. It
is not clear from the video when plaintiff ceases to struggle
against the officers. Id. at 00:48-1:57. It is also
not clear from the video at what point plaintiff was securely
handcuffed. Id. at 00:29-1:05. Plaintiff was on the
ground for about a minute and half. Id. 00:31-1:57;
Henry Dep. at 27:20-22.
testified that Johnson put him in tight handcuffs that cut
his wrists, only taking them off twenty minutes later.
Id. at 11:23-12:3. He also testified that, during
the take-down but after he was handcuffed, on the ground and
subdued, Johnson choked him for approximately five seconds
and elbowed him twice in the nose. Id. at 11:1-20.
The video shows that while plaintiff is on the floor,
Johnson, who unlike the other officers in the area is wearing
a white shirt, placed his hands beside or around
plaintiff's neck and kept them there for approximately
ten seconds. Video at 1:36-1:46. Shortly after he removed
them, the officers lifted plaintiff into a standing position
and moved him to a standing position against the wall.
Id. at 1:46-2:11. They then escorted him through a
door and out of the hallway. Id. at 2:14-19.
Plaintiff was taken to the prison's medical facility,
where pictures were taken of his injuries and blood was
cleaned from his face. Henry Dep. at 13:16-22.
order to establish an Eighth Amendment claim for excessive or
unjustified force, a plaintiff must show that the force was
not “applied in a good-faith effort to maintain or
restore discipline” but rather was used
“maliciously and sadistically to cause harm.”
Hudson, 503 U.S. at 7. “[C]orrections officers
must balance the need to maintain or restore discipline
through force against the risk of injury to inmates. Both
situations may require prison officials to act quickly and
decisively. Likewise, both implicate the principle that
‘prison administrators . . . should be accorded
wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of
policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to
preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain
institutional security.'” Id. at 6,
quoting Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 321-22
(1986). In determining whether force is excessive in
violation of the Eighth Amendment, a court must consider the
(1) the need for the application of the force; (2) the
relationship between the need and the amount of force that
was used; (3) the extent of injury inflicted; (4) the extent
of the threat to the safety of staff and inmates, as
reasonably perceived by responsible officials on the basis of
the facts known to them; and (5) any efforts made to temper
the severity of a forceful response.
Brooks v. Kyler, 204 F.3d 102, 106 (3d Cir. 2000),
quoting Whitley, 475 U.S. at 321.
the evidence in the light most favorable to plaintiff and
take as true that plaintiff was choked, elbowed in the face,
and cut by the handcuffs. See McDowell v. Sheerer,
374 F. App'x 288, 292-93 (3d Cir. 2010) (taking
plaintiff's testimony as true where the court was
“unable to determine from the videos whether [the
plaintiff] is resisting the officers or to determine the
amount of force used on him. We cannot make this
determination because [the plaintiff] is forced to the ground
early in the confrontation, and the view of his body is
completely obstructed by the bodies of at least five officers
while they handcuff and shackle him”). The video does
not contradict plaintiff's testimony, as plaintiff is
largely obscured during parts of the incident. I therefore
take plaintiff's testimony as true for the purposes of
I conclude that no reasonable jury could find that
Johnson's conduct was sadistic and malicious rather than
taken in a good-faith effort to restore discipline. Each of