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Cadet v. The Owners of Berks County Jail

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 13, 2017



          GERALD J. PAPPERT, J

         Plaintiff Jerry Cadet, a pro se inmate at Berks County Jail, sued Warden Janine Quigley, C. Deputy Smith, Captain Torres, Christian Leinbach, Kevin Barnhardt, Mark Scott and Sandy Graffius, claiming sleep deprivation and related injury from constant illumination of lights in his cell. Mr. Cadet, a frequent resident of the Berks County Jail, views his time there as a limitless opportunity to file one lawsuit after another, each as frivolous as its predecessor.

         This is the sixth case Cadet has filed for alleged constitutional violations while incarcerated in Berks County. See Cadet v. The Owners of Berks County Jail, et. al., No. 16-cv-03804 (E.D. Pa. July 25, 2016) (dismissing Cadet's complaint as legally frivolous for allegations that prison officials violated his rights under § 1983 by raising the price of telephone calls without giving him advance notice); Cadet v. Quigley, et. al., No. 16-cv-03025 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 6, 2016) (dismissing Cadet's complaint as legally frivolous for allegations that being forced to eat close to an open toilet violated his constitutional rights); Cadet v. The Owners of the Berks County Jail, et. al., No. 16-cv- 03805 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 6, 2016) (dismissing Cadet's complaint because it is duplicative of his claims in civil action number 16-3025); Cadet v. Quigley, et. al., 2017 WL 660849 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2017) (dismissing Cadet's claim alleging that his Eighth Amendment rights were violated because the “Thursday ham slice” served in prison prevented him from maintaining an adequate diet); Cadet v. The Owners of Berks County Jail, et. al., 2017 WL 660847 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2017) (dismissing Cadet's claims alleging that his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated because he was allegedly subject to unconstitutional conditions of confinement during a 10-day stay in the disciplinary unit).

         Cadet's latest, but undoubtedly not final, misuse of the civil justice system fares no better. Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment which the Court grants for the reasons that follow.


         Cadet alleges that the jail keeps the lights on in his cell twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. (Pl.'s Compl., at 3, ECF No. 5.) According to Cadet, Warden Quigley, C. Deputy Smith and Captain Torres have the authority to order that the lights be turned off at night but refuse to do so. (Id.) Cadet alleges that as a result, he suffers daily from severe migraine headaches and a “light-induced suppression of melatonin” which impedes his ability to sleep, causing pain throughout his whole body. (Id.) He states that as of the May 28, 2016 signing of his complaint, the lights had been on since February 13, 2016 and that he was unable to sleep for several months. (Id.)

         Cadet allegedly filed, to no avail, several grievances regarding the problem. (Id. at 4.) He states that “different levels of officers including the Warden” “answered some forms” but “the grievances were never answered.” (Id.) He also claims that “Captain Torres spoke to [him] once and denied [his] request to have the light off sometimes even as [he] sat before him in pain from the situation with the lights.” (Id.)

         Cadet filed his complaint on July 11, 2016, asserting claims against Quigley, Smith, Torres and “the owners of Berks County Jail.” (ECF No. 5.) On July 20 Cadet wrote a letter to the Clerk of the Court naming Leinbach, Barnhardt, Scott and Graffius as the jail's purported owners.[1] (ECF No. 8.) These individuals were substituted as defendants in the case on July 28, (ECF No. 9), and on February 15, 2017, the Court granted in part the Defendants' motion to dismiss and dismissed Cadet's claims against the jail's “owners” based on a lack of sufficient personal involvement in any alleged wrongdoing. (ECF Nos. 23, 24.) The Court denied the motion to dismiss with respect to Defendants Quigley, Smith, and Torres. (Id.) The Court held a Rule 16 Conference on April 4, 2017 which Cadet participated in through videoconference. (ECF No. 30.) Following the conference, the Court issued a scheduling order permitting Defendants to file their motion for summary judgment on or before May 19, 2017. (ECF No. 32.)

         Defendants filed their Motion for Summary Judgment and Statement of Uncontested Material Facts on May 17, 2017. (ECF Nos. 33, 34.) The Court held an additional telephone conference on May 30, 2017 to assess Cadet's discovery needs, (ECF No. 38), and ordered the Clerk to refer Cadet's case to the prisoner Civil Rights Panel for a possible appointment of counsel, (ECF No. 39). Cadet sent several responses to Defendants' motion, including letters dated June 27, 2017 and July 27, 2017. (ECF. Nos. 44, 47.) Cadet asked the Court to “[p]lease allow [him] just a few weeks [for him to] send in some information from research[] conducted at universities on the negative effects of not only constant exposure to fluorescence light but many more details also.” (ECF No. 47.) The Court permitted Cadet to do so and he submitted two letters including an article on lighting in English prisons, Wikipedia research on over-illumination and health effects, a printout from with no author, an article about fluorescent lighting in schools, a brief article on the impact of constant exposure to light on mice, an article about the health effects of fluorescent lights, and four articles on the effect of sleeping with the lights on. (ECF Nos. 52, 53.) Defendants replied. (ECF Nos. 46, 54.) Despite his numerous submissions, Cadet never responded to the Defendants' Statement of Uncontested Material Facts, particularly the information pertaining to the wattage of the bulbs in the prison lights in the Affidavit submitted by Jeffrey Smith, the Chief Deputy Warden at Berks County Jail System.


         Summary judgment is proper if there is no genuine issue of material fact and if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Smathers v. Multi-Tool, Inc./Multi-Plastics, Inc. Emp. Health & Welfare Plan, 298 F.3d 191, 194 (3d Cir. 2002); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A genuine issue of material fact exists when “a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A mere scintilla of evidence in support of the non-moving party will not suffice; there must be evidence by which a jury could reasonably find for the non-moving party. Id. at 252. Summary judgment is appropriate where “the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of her case with respect to which she has the burden of proof.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). “If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted.” Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50 (citations omitted). This requirement upholds the “underlying purpose of summary judgment [which] is to avoid a pointless trial in cases where it is unnecessary and would only cause delay and expense.” Walden v. Saint Gobain Corp., 323 F.Supp.2d 637, 642 (E.D. Pa. 2004) (citing Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976)).” Benckini v. Hawk, 654 F.Supp.2d 310, 315 (E.D. Pa. 2009).

         In reviewing the record, a court “must view the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all inferences in that party's favor.” Prowel v. Wise Bus. Forms, 579 F.3d 285, 286 (3d Cir. 2009). The court may not, however, make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence in considering motions for summary judgment. See Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000); see also Goodman v. Pa. Tpk. Comm'n, 293 F.3d 655, 665 (3d Cir. 2002).

         Because Cadet filed his complaint pro se, the Court “must liberally construe his pleadings.” Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003) (citation omitted); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972) (holding that pro se pleadings, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers”). Moreover, in a § 1983 action, the Court must “apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.” Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veteran Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)); see also Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (“Since this is a § 1983 action, the [pro se] plaintiffs are entitled to relief if their complaint sufficiently alleges deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution.” (quoting Higgins, 293 F.3d at 688)). On a motion for summary judgment, although the court will liberally construe a pro se plaintiff's complaint, the plaintiff ‚Äústill has ...

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