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Brown v. Hill

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 5, 2017

CAMP HILL, et al., Defendants



         I. Introduction

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion for summary judgment based on Mr. Brown's failure to properly exhaust his available administrative remedies concerning his retaliatory transfer from SCI-Dallas to SCI-Smithfield. (ECF No. 81.) In lieu of an opposition brief, Plaintiff has filed a cross motion for summary judgment alleging that prison officials interfered with his exhaustion efforts. (ECF No. 87.)

         For the following reasons, both motions for summary judgment will be denied. This matter will be set for trial at the convenience of the Court.

         II. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is proper where “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). The court must determine “whether the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, admissions on file, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and whether the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” MacFarlan v. Ivy Hill SNF, LLC, 675 F.3d 266, 271 (3d Cir. 2012)(citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986)). “[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, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2509 - 10, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986).

         “A genuine issue is present when a reasonable trier of fact, viewing all of the record evidence, could rationally find in favor of the non-moving party in light of his burden of proof.” Doe v. Abington Friends Sch., 480 F.3d 252, 256 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal citations omitted). Material facts are those which “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing substantive law.” Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d 535, 538 (3d Cir. 2006). Where contradictory facts exist, the court may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 - 51, 120 S.Ct. 2097, 2110, 147 L.Ed.2d 105 (2000) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted); Paradisis v. Englewood Hosp. Med. Ctr., 680 F. App'x 131, 135 (3d Cir. Feb. 24, 2017). In reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must view all facts and draw all reasonable inferences “in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Blunt v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 767 F.3d 247, 265 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323, 106 S.Ct. 2553). “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). To withstand summary judgment, the non-moving party must “go beyond the pleadings” and “designate ‘specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324, 106 S.Ct. at 2553 (citation omitted). The non-moving party “may not rest on speculation and conjecture in opposing a motion for summary judgment.” Ramara, Inc. V. Westfield Ins. Co., 814 F.3d 660, 666 (3d Cir. 2016). In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249, 106 S.Ct. at 2511. Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of N. Am., Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

         III. Statement of Undisputed Facts

         From the pleadings, declarations and exhibits submitted therewith, the following facts are ascertained as undisputed or, where disputed, reflect Mr. Brown's version of the facts, pursuant to this Court's duty to view all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. at 2510.

         Plaintiff Charles E. Brown is a state inmate presently housed at the Smithfield State Correctional Institution (SCI-Smithfield), in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 82, Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (DSMF), ¶ 1.) The Defendants are the following Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees: William Sprenkle, Lori Lyons, Tanya Brandt, Michael Klopotoski, Jerome Walsh and Vincent Mooney. (Id., ¶ 2.) The sole issue presented in this action is whether Mr. Brown was transferred from SCI-Dallas to SCI-Smithfield on December 16, 2008, in retaliation for his filing of grievances and complaints. (ECF No. 66, Am. Compl.)

         A. DOC's Grievance Process

         The DOC's Administrative Directive DC-ADM 804 (DC-ADM 804) is known as the Inmate Grievance System. See, DOC Policies, DC-ADM 804, Inmate Grievance System Policy; see also DSMF ¶ 5. Pursuant to DC-ADM 804, inmates must first file a grievance with the Facility Grievance Coordinator at the facility where the events giving rise to the grievance occurred. The grievance must be filed within fifteen (15) working days of the event upon which the grievance is based. (DSMF ¶¶ 6 - 7.) If unsatisfied with the initial review of his grievance, the inmate may appeal the decision to the Facility Manager. (Id., ¶ 10.) If dissatisfied with the response from the Facility Manager, the inmate may appeal that decision to Final Review by the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievance Appeals (SOIGA). (Id., ¶ 11.)

         B. ...

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