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Dillard v. Talamantes

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 28, 2018

G. TALAMANTES, et al., Defendants


          Christopher C. Conner, United States District Court Chief Judge

         On March 12 2015 plaintiff Bruce Anthony Dillard (“Dillard”) an inmate formerly housed at the Federal Correctional Institution Schuylkill Pennsylvania (“FCI-Schuylkill”) commenced this action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Doc. 1) The action was transferred to this court on April 15 2015 (Doc. 6) The matter is proceeding via an amended complaint (Doc. 48) The amended complaint raises claims under Bivens[1] 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”) (Id.) Named as defendants are the United States of America Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) Northeast Regional Director Joseph L Norwood Counselor G Talamantes Unit Manager George Nye III former Lieutenant D Lentini Captain Hepner Case Manager Brad Haupt, former Associate Warden C. Entzel, former Warden Jeff Krueger, Warden Russell A. Purdue, and Lieutenant R. Raup.

         Presently ripe for disposition is defendants' amended motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b) or, in the alternative, for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. (Doc. 56). For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the motion for summary judgment.

         I. Legal Standard

         When a party moves to dismiss, but where “matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). Typically, when a court converts a motion to dismiss into a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56, notice must be given to all parties of the court's intent to do so. Id.; Garcia v. Newtown Twp., 2010 WL 785808, at *3 (E.D. Pa. 2010). However, if a motion to dismiss has been filed with an alternative request for summary judgment, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has found that the alternative filing is sufficient to “place the parties on notice that summary judgment might be entered.” Latham v. United States, 306 F. App'x 716, 718 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Hilfirty v. Shipman, 91 F.3d 573, 578-79 (3d Cir. 1996)). Accordingly, the court will treat defendants' filing as a motion for summary judgment.

         Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a “genuine issue as to any material fact” and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a), (c). The burden of proof is upon the nonmoving party to come forth with “affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings, ” in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the nonmoving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.

         II. Allegations of the Amended Complaint

         The allegations of the amended complaint stem from Dillard's incarceration at FCI-Schuylkill. (Doc. 48). Dillard alleges that his due process rights were violated when he was placed in the Special Housing Unit (“SHU”). He raises claims of cruel and unusual punishment, inadequate housing conditions, retaliation, and inadequate treatment for mental health issues. (Id.)

         According to Dillard, defendant Talamantes placed him in a ten-man cell on two (2) occasions-July 13, 2012 and August 29, 2012-and he was housed in a ten-man cell for a total of approximately ten (10) months. (Doc. 48 ¶¶ 1-2, 4). Dillard asserts that the cell was overcrowded, unsanitary, had inadequate cleaning supplies, and was not conducive to a good night's sleep. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-2, 4-5). He also asserts that in September 2012, Talamantes moved Dillard's legal property from a storage area in retaliation for filing a grievance. (Id. at ¶ 3).

         In 2013, Talamantes purportedly denied Dillard's request for a new cellmate or cell change. (Id. at ¶ 6). He further alleges that Talamantes placed erroneous information in “transfer forms” that the BOP utilized to transfer Dillard from FCI-Schuylkill to FCI-Gilmer, in order to defame and humiliate him, label him a snitch, and place his life in danger. (Id. at ¶ 11).

         Dillard alleges that defendant Nye also told inmates that Dillard wanted his cellmate moved, again causing rumors that Dillard was a snitch. (Id. at ¶ 7). Dillard further alleges that, on February 7, 2014, Nye ordered him to dismiss his grievance regarding a cell change and reassigned him to an eight-man cell. (Id.) Thereafter, Nye allegedly removed Dillard's personal property from the eight-man cell, stored it inside his office, and ignored Dillard's request for return of his property. (Id. at ¶ 7). According to Dillard, defendant Krueger ultimately responded to his grievance regarding placement in the ten-man cell, explaining that Dillard was placed in the cell for safety reasons. (Id. at ¶ 13).

         Dillard alleges that defendant Lentini verbally threatened him to dismiss his grievance about the room change “or he would discard it personally.” (Id. at ¶ 8). Dillard refused to drop his grievance. (Id.) On August 20, 2014, defendant Lentini allegedly ordered that Dillard be placed in the SHU. (Id.) Dillard suggests that his due process rights were violated because he was held in the SHU for one hundred twenty (120) days. (Id.) Defendant Hepner allegedly placed Dillard in the SHU as a safety precaution. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-9). Dillard claims that his safety was not at risk and that Hepner lied about the reasons for his placement in the SHU. (Id. at ¶ 9). Dillard further contends that Hepner denied him phone privileges and access to the courts in November 2014, in retaliation for filing grievances. (Id. at ¶ 10).

         Dillard avers that he spoke to defendant Entzel about a cell change, but Entzel failed to intervene in his request. (Id. at ¶ 12). Dillard further claims that defendant Entzel failed to respond to his concerns about his placement in the SHU, as well as his complaints regarding denial of writing paper and pencils. (Id.)

         Around August 7, 2014, defendant Haupt allegedly threatened to issue a false disciplinary write-up against Dillard in the presence of other inmates. (Id. at ¶ 11). Dillard alleges that Haupt failed to respond to his request for a copy of his trust fund account, denying him access to the courts. (Id.) Dillard also alleges that Haupt falsified his custody scorings sometime in 2013. (Id.) He asserts that Haupt was fueled by retaliatory motives and intended to defame and humiliate him, label him a snitch, and place his life in danger. (Id.)

         In November 2014, Dillard requested documents from defendant Raup concerning his placement in the SHU. (Id. at ¶ 10). Dillard avers that Raup failed to respond to the requests. (Id.)

         On October 20, 2014 and November 16, 2014, Dillard submitted two (2) requests for administrative remedies to the regional office. (Id. at ¶ 15). On December 10, 2014, Dillard purportedly handed a request to defendant Purdue for placement back into general population. (Id. at ¶ 14). Dillard claims that Purdue failed to respond to his request. (Id.) On December 22, 2014, defendant Norwood rejected Dillard's October and November requests for administrative remedies because they were not sensitive issues. (Id. at ¶ 15).

         As a result of defendants' alleged actions, Dillard asserts that he suffered mental, emotional, and physical harm, including sleepless days and nights, “fatigue of mind and body”, headaches, and minor cold symptoms. (Id. at 3, 5, 8, 12-13). For relief, Dillard seeks monetary damages. (Id. at 16-17).

         III. Statement of Material Facts[2]

         In the ordinary course of business, computerized indices are kept of requests for administrative review filed by inmates. (Doc. 63, Statement of Material Facts (“SMF”), ¶ 12). A search of BOP records was conducted to determine whether Dillard exhausted the administrative process as to his Bivens claims. (Id. at ¶ 13). This review revealed that Dillard filed fifty-nine (59) administrative remedies during his incarceration with the BOP. (Id. at ¶ 13). Of the fifty-nine (59) administrative requests for relief, twenty-four (24) are related to FCI-Schuylkill. (Id. at ¶ 14). Of those twenty-four (24) filings, sixteen (16) pertain to issues raised in the amended complaint, and only three (3) of the remedies were fully exhausted: administrative remedies 557280, 703008, and 767827. (Id. at ¶ 15-16).

         In 2009, Dillard exhausted administrative remedy 557280 on the issue of “unprofessional conduct.” (Id. at ¶¶ 17-24). The details of the administrative remedy are unavailable, as administrative remedies are only maintained for three (3) years. (Id. at ¶ 17, n. 2).

         In 2012, Dillard exhausted administrative remedy 703008 regarding claims of retaliation, cell assignments, and legal materials. (Id. at ¶¶ 25-33). Specifically, Dillard complained that defendant Talamantes removed him from a two-man cell and placed him in a ten-man cell, and then removed his legal property from a storage area in September 2012 in retaliation for filing a grievance. (Id. at ¶¶ 25, 29).

         In 2014, Dillard exhausted administrative remedy 767827 wherein he complained that, on or about January 16, 2014, when he submitted a request for a new cellmate or cell change, defendants Talamantes and Nye (in retaliation for Dillard filing remedy 703008), told other prisoners that Dillard wanted his cellmate moved, resulting in rumors that Dillard was a snitch. (Id. at ¶¶ 34-39). Dillard also alleged that defendant Nye refused to process one of his filings for this remedy despite his ultimate exhaustion, and that Nye and Talamantes retaliated against him by moving him to a common area cell. (Id.)

         Dillard failed to exhaust his administrative remedies concerning any other Bivens issues in his amended complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 40-52).

         For purposes of the FTCA claim, Dillard was required to file an administrative tort claim with the Regional Office and receive a final decision by the agency before filing his action in federal court. (Id. at ¶¶ 53-55). BOP records reveal that Dillard filed four (4) tort claim remedies, none of which concern the issues of the amended complaint. (Id. at ¶¶ 56-58).

         Defendant Nye was Dillard's Unit Manager and his duty was to supervise unit staff (Id. at ¶¶ 59-61) Defendant Nye denies disposing of Dillard's legal materials at any time speaking to other inmates about Dillard and denying any of Dillard's constitutional rights (Id. at ¶¶ 63-64) Defendant Nye acted within the scope of his employment and in accordance with prison policies and procedures (Id. at ¶ 65)

         Defendant Talamantes is a Unit Counselor at FCI-Schuylkill (Id. at ¶ 66) His duties include authorizing cell changes at times with guidance from other unit staff (Id. at ¶ 67) On July 9 2012 upon Dillard's placement in the SHU Talamantes maintained Dillard's legal property in his office due to the volume of legal materials (Id. at ΒΆ 69) When Dillard was released from the SHU on July 19 2012 all of his legal property was ...

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