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Segura v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 12, 2018

SECRETARY JOHN WETZEL, et al., Defendants



         I. Introduction

         Presently pending before the Court are the following motions: (1) Mr. Segura's motion to compel discovery (ECF No. 53); (2) Plaintiff's motion for a “status update” concerning his motion to compel (ECF No. 69); (3) the parties' independent motions to extend the discovery period (ECF Nos. 68 and 71); (4) Defendants' motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 72); (5) Plaintiff's motion for enlargement pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) (ECF No. 75); and (6) Plaintiff's motion for counsel (ECF No. 76). For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for counsel will be conditionally granted, the discovery period in this matter extended, and Defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissed without prejudice.

         II. Relevant Factual and Procedural Background

         Mr. Segura, a state inmate presently housed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) at the Smithfield State Correctional Institution (SCI-Smithfield), in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, initiated this civil rights action on May 18, 2017. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) He presently proceeds pro se and in forma pauperis. Mr. Segura has a Mental Health Stability Score of D and challenges his placement in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) on Administrative Custody Status on March 16, 2017, and his April 2017 placement on the Restricted Release List (RRL).[1] He claims Defendants (Secretary John Wetzel, Executive Deputy Secretary Shirley Moore-Smeal and Middle District Regional Deputy Secretary Tabb Bickle) violated his Eighth Amendment and Due Process rights by subjecting him to prolonged isolation and denying him proper mental health treatment by improperly housing him given his serious mental health history and needs. He also claims Defendants violated his Due Process rights by denying him the opportunity to challenge his initial, and continued, RRL designation. As relief, Segura seeks to return to general population, greater programming opportunities and monetary damages. (Id.)

         On October 16, 2017, the Defendants filed an Answer to the Complaint. (ECF No. 42.) The close of discovery was set for April 17, 2018, and dispositive motions were due by May 17, 2018. (ECF No. 44.) Since then the parties engaged in what Defendants refer to as “robust” discovery. Mr. Segura has served Defendants with four requests for production of documents and five sets of interrogatories. Mr. Segura's motion to compel seeks documents that overlap requests posed in his first three requests for production of documents. See ECF Nos. 53 and 60. Plaintiff seeks all of his mental health treatment records concerning his mental health and emotion problems from July 2016 through December 2017; all records concerning his placement and continued status on RRL; all documents concerning the management of the RRL between February and December 2017; all documents relevant to Plaintiff's July 2016 - February 2017 placement in the Special Management Unit (SMU); and photographs of his present day Diversionary Treatment Unit (DTU) cell and programming area. (ECF No. 60, Mot. to Compel Reply Br.) Defendants oppose the motion citing the deliberative process privilege and security concerns consistent with their objections noted in their to producing documents specific to Mr. Segura's placement and continued status on the RRL. (ECF No. 63, Br. in Opp'n Pl.'s Mot. to Compel.) These documents include vote sheets, Integrated Case Summary, annual psychological evaluations, the RRL checklist and other documents prepared at the institutional level and then provided to Secretary Wetzel, the individual responsible for making the decision concerning an inmate's placement on or removal from the RRL. In support of their assertion of privilege, Defendants provide the declaration of Secretary Wetzel who enumerates the documents Defendants seek to protect from disclosure as well as his rationale for protecting them. (ECF No. 63-1, Wetzel Decl.) Defendants also note their production of hundreds of pages of the non-confidential portions of Mr. Segura's institutional file and medical/mental health records. (ECF No. 63, Br. in Opp'n Pl.'s Mot. to Compel.)

         Additionally the Court notes that Defendants took Mr. Segura's deposition on March 20, 2018. (ECF No. 74-4, Segura Dep.) As of May 15, 2018, Defendants admitted to “ow[ing] Mr. Segura two responses to interrogatory requests”. (ECF No. 71.) Based on the outstanding motion to compel and discovery requests, both parties independently sought an enlargement of the discovery period and dispositive motion deadline. See ECF Nos. 68 and 71.

         Two days after filing their motion for enlargement of the discovery period, Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, supporting brief, statement of undisputed facts and supporting exhibits. (ECF Nos. 72 - 74.) Mr. Segura responded with a motion for extension of time under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d) urging the Court to grant him additional time to obtain disputed discovery as well as responses to his properly served interrogatories prior to filing his response to Defendants' motion. (ECF No. 75.) Mr. Segura also seeks appointment of counsel based on the complexities of issues involved in this action, his limited access to the law library and limited knowledge of the law, and lack of comprehension of his legal research efforts. (ECF No. 76, Mot. for Counsel.)

         III. Discussion

         A. Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment will be granted “if 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.” The trial court's function is not “to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986). 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)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). “[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, 477 U.S. at 247 - 48, 106 S.Ct. at 2510.

         To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record that 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). “Rule 56(c) mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322, 106 S.Ct. at 2552.

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil 56(d),

[i]f a nonmovant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to ...

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