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Quiero v. Muniz

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 14, 2018

AVON C. QUIERO, JR., Plaintiff,
OFFICER MUNIZ, et al., Defendants.



          A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

         Presently before me are the Objections (Doc. 62) of Plaintiff Avon C. Quiero, Jr. (“Plaintiff” or “Quiero”) to the Report and Recommendation (Doc. 60) issued by Magistrate Judge William I. Arbuckle recommending that summary judgment be granted in favor of Defendants Robert Karnes (“Karnes”) and Michael Ott (“Ott”) (collectively, where appropriate, “Defendants”). Because Quiero was not retaliated against for engaging in protected First Amendment conduct, did not have his free exercise rights infringed upon, and was not denied due process, the Report and Recommendation will be adopted and summary judgment will be granted to Defendants on all claims.

         I. Background

         As set forth in the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the causes of action remaining in this case are Quiero's First Amendment retaliation, Fourteenth Amendment due process, and First Amendment free exercise claims against Karnes and Ott.[1] (See Doc. 60, 3).[2] These claims stem from events that occurred while Quiero was incarcerated at the Lebanon County Correctional Facility in the fall of 2013 as a sentenced state inmate on writ. (See Doc. 57, ¶ 1).[3]

         On October 22, 2013, Quiero stopped Officer Muniz during a scheduled block check to inform him that he was missing his mattress sheet. (See Doc. 58, Ex. “A”). Muniz returned later with a replacement sheet, but that sheet was covered with drawings of male genitals. (See id.). Despite Quiero's complaints, Muniz instructed him that he could either use that sheet or sleep on the mattress. (See id.). Quiero stated that he would be filing a grievance against Muniz for sexual harassment. (See id.).

         The next day, Quiero had a meeting with Ott about the allegation of sexual harassment. (See Doc. 57, ¶ 2; Doc. 62, Ex. “H”, ¶ 2). Ott instructed Quiero to raise his complaint of sexual harassment in accordance with prison policies for filing grievances and contacting outside law enforcement officials. (See Doc. 57, Ex. “B”, ¶ 5). After this meeting, Quiero attempted to contact outside agencies and also insisted that he should be provided a grievance form immediately without proceeding through the request slip process. (See Doc. 57, Ex. “B-2”; see also Doc. 62, Ex. “H”, ¶ 4).

         Quiero was again summoned to Ott's office for a meeting on October 28, 2013. (See Doc. 57, ¶ 5; Doc. 62., Ex. “H”, ¶ 5). After the meeting concluded and he was dismissed, Quiero slammed the door to Ott's office. (See Doc. 57, Ex. “B”, ¶¶ 12-13).[4]Ott determined after the meeting that Quiero created an improper grievance form by ripping a page from his inmate handbook. (See id. at Ex. “B”, ¶ 14).

         Quiero was subsequently issued a major misconduct and transferred to the restricted housing unit (“RHU”). (See id. at Ex. “B”, ¶¶ 15, 19). Ott informed other prison officials by email at 10:20 a.m. on October 28, 2013 that he would

be writing a misconduct on this inmate for disrespect and destruction of county property. Had this inmate in my office explaining to him the proper procedure on how to file a complaint to the authorities which of course he could not understand. Had Officer VanDusen with me again as a witness. Inmate Quiero then left and threw the office door open and slammed it against the outside wall. Also his original complaint was written on an inmate handbook.

(Doc. 57, Ex. “4”). Ott also prepared a misconduct report, which indicated that the incident occurred at “Approximately 10:30 a.m. 10-28-13.” (Id. at Ex. “3”).

         A hearing was held before the disciplinary board on the major misconduct charges on November 7, 2013. (See id. at Ex. “A”, ¶¶ 10-11). Quiero was found guilty of those misconducts and sentenced to time served in the RHU. (See id.; see also Doc. 57, Ex. “B-4”).

         While Quiero was in the RHU, he sent written requests to prison chaplains asking for them to visit him in the RHU and to help with his allegation of harassment. (See Doc. 58-1, Ex. “B”). In an email to Karnes (among others), the prison Chaplain Manager stated that Quiero “has been seeking the help of the chaplains with regard to his recent alleged ‘harassment.' I inadvertently became involved when Mr. Quiero was attending a Bible Study taught by Chaplain Mendez and asked to speak to me. Since that time, he has been writing requests to us, including asking Chaplain Newman or Chaplain Dobbs to visit him in RHU.” (Id.). Based on instructions that had been received in the past, the Chaplain Manager responded to Quiero's requests by informing him that chaplains “do not have a role in disciplinary matters and that his only option is the Prison's grievance process or the Prison Society.” (Id.). Chaplain services for inmates housed in the RHU are available after an inmate requests to see the chaplain and security concerns are reviewed, at which point visits are permitted with shackled inmates outside of earshot of correctional officers but within the view of video surveillance cameras. (See Doc. 57, Ex. “A-1”, ¶ 7). In order to request a meeting with a chaplain, an inmate housed in the RHU must submit an inmate request slip as instructed in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility inmate handbook. (See Doc. 57, ¶ 16; Doc. 62, Ex. “H”, ¶ 16). While Quiero wrote to the Chaplain Manager during his time in the RHU requesting to be visited by Chaplain Newman or Chaplain Dobbs, (see Doc. 58-1, Ex. “B”), Quiero never submitted an inmate request slip to request a visit with a chaplain while he was in the RHU. (See Doc. 57, Ex. “A-1”, ¶ 7). Quiero did not meet with a chaplain during this time. (See Doc. 57, ¶ 18; Doc. 62. Ex. “H”, ¶ 18).

         On May 24, 2017, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, supporting brief, and statement of undisputed facts. (See Docs. 55-57, generally). Quiero filed his opposition brief along with a Declaration and exhibits on June 14, 2017. (See Doc. 58, generally). Defendants filed a reply brief in further support of their motion on June 23, 2017. (See Doc. 59, generally).

         On March 13, 2018, Magistrate Judge Arbuckle issued the instant Report and Recommendation presently under review. (See Doc. 60, generally). Therein, the Magistrate Judge recommends that Defendants' motion for summary judgment be granted in its entirety and that judgment be entered in favor of Defendants on all claims remaining in this action. (See id.). Quiero timely objected to the Report and Recommendation. (See Doc. 62, generally). The Report and Recommendation and the objections thereto are now ripe for review.

         II. ...

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