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Harris v. Ferguson

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 22, 2017

TAMMY FERGUSON, et al., Defendants


          Robert D. Mariani United States District Judge.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, Antoine Harris, an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Benner Township ("SCI-Benner Township"), in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, initiated the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). The named Defendants are Warden Ferguson, Prison Rape Elimination Act ("PREA") Coordinator Rossman, Lieutenant Hormburger, Lieutenant Wain, and Correctional Officer Stanley. (Doc. 1, p. 2). Harris alleges that Defendant Stanley verbally sexually harassed him in violation of the PREA and the cruel and unusual punishment clause of the Eighth Amendment. (Doc. 1, pp. 6-7, ¶¶ 13, 15, 22). Harris alleges that he reported this behavior, but Defendant Rossman failed to properly handle his complaint. (Doc. 1, p. 7, ¶ 18). He further asserts that he was issued a misconduct by Defendant Hormburger in retaliation for his complaint. (Doc. 1, p. 7, ¶¶ 19-20).

         Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 13). Despite being directed to file a brief in opposition to Defendants' motion, Harris failed to oppose the motion. (See Doc. 16). Consequently, the motion is deemed unopposed and ripe for disposition. See L.R. 7.6 ("Any party opposing any motion ... shall file a brief in opposition ... [or] shall be deemed not to oppose such motion"). For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion for summary judgment.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         Through summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine dispute as to any material fact." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). "As to materiality, ... [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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must offer specific facts contradicting those averred by the movant to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Lujan v. Nat'l Wildlife Fed'n, 497 U.S. 871, 888 (1990). Therefore, the non-moving party may not oppose summary judgment simply on the basis of the pleadings, or on conclusory statements that a factual issue exists. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. "A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by citing to particular parts of materials in the record ... or showing 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)(A)-(B). In evaluating whether summary judgment should be granted, "[t]he court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(3). "Inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true." Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir.1992), cert, denied 507 U.S. 912 (1993).

         However, "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, 127 S.Ct. 1769, 1776, 167 L.Ed.2d 686 (2007). If a party has carried its burden under the summary judgment rule,

its opponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts. 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. 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. When opposing parties tell two different stories, one of which is blatantly contradicted by the record, so that no reasonable jury could believe it, a court should not adopt that version of the facts for purposes of ruling on a motion for summary judgment.

Id. (internal quotations, citations, and alterations omitted).

         III. Statement of Undisputed Facts[1]

         The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") has an appeal process through which an inmate can appeal a finding of guilt at a misconduct hearing. (Doc. 14, ¶ 2; Doc 14-1, Declaration of Joseph Dupont ("Dupont Decl."), ¶ 5). Pursuant to Administrative Directive 801 ("DC-ADM 801"), once an inmate is found guilty of a misconduct charge, he may appeal the decision to the Program Review Committee ("PRC"). (Doc. 14, ¶ 3; Doc 14-1, Dupont Decl., ¶ 9). If the inmate is dissatisfied with the PRC's response, he may appeal to the Superintendent of the facility. (Doc. 14, ¶ 4; Doc 14-1, Dupont Decl., ¶ 10). The inmate may then file a further appeal to the Office of the Chief Hearing Examiner. (Doc. 14, ¶ 5; Doc 14-1, Dupont Decl., ¶ 11).

         Harris was issued misconduct number B997699 for lying to an employee. (Doc. 14, ¶ 6; Doc 14-1, Dupont Decl., ¶ 7; Doc. 14-1, p. 52). Harris did not appeal the misconduct to the Office of the Chief Hearing ...

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