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Sears v. McCoy

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2019

RICHARD SEARS, Plaintiff
v.
DANTE MCCOY, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Kane Judge.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Pro se Plaintiff Richard Sears, an individual currently confined at the State Correctional Institution in Albion, Pennsylvania (“SCI Albion”), initiated the above-captioned action by filing a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on May 16, 2017, against Defendants Dante McCoy (“McCoy”), Lieutenants A. Peters (“Peters”), J. Eveland (“Eveland”), and Brian Carpentier (“Carpentier”), Captain Sciochitana (“Sciochitana”), Deputy Superintendent Facility Manager E. Baumbach (“Baumbach”), Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services Anthony Luscavage (“Luscavage”), Superintendent Vincent Mooney (“Mooney”), and Chief Grievance Officer Dorina Varner (“Varner”). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff claims that after he filed grievances against Defendant McCoy, Defendant McCoy verbally abused and harassed him by calling him a “rat” in front of other inmates and made a number of sexually explicit comments to him. (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant McCoy retaliated against him for filing grievances by throwing out Plaintiff's commissary purchase slips, placing a “dark brown foreign object” in his meal, and stealing and destroying a photograph of Plaintiff's father. (Id.) Plaintiff also avers that Defendants Peters, Eveland, Mooney, Varner, Scicchitano, and Carpentier had an “opportunity to do something meaningful and positive for Mr. Sears and curb or deter any future forms of such behavior by defendant McCoy[, ]” but they “did nothing, causing Mr. Sears to be further subjected to such behavior [by McCoy].” (Id.) Plaintiff did not assert any allegations against Defendants Baumbach or Luscavage.

         In a Memorandum and Order dated September 12, 2017, the Court granted Plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauperis and screened Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). (Doc. Nos. 5, 6.) Specifically, the Court: (1) dismissed Plaintiff's claims of verbal abuse against Defendant McCoy; (2) dismissed his claims against Defendants Peters, Eveland, Carpentier, Sciochitana, and Varner because he could not maintain a claim based upon their handling of his grievances and appeals; (3) dismissed Defendants Baumbach and Luscavage without prejudice because Plaintiff had failed to make any allegations against them; and (4) noted that Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant McCoy could proceed. (Doc. No. 5.) The Court granted Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days so that he could set forth allegations against Defendants Baumbach and Luscavage. (Id.)

         Plaintiff did not file an amended complaint. Accordingly, by Order dated October 31, 2017, the Court directed service of Plaintiff's complaint upon Defendant McCoy. (Doc. No. 7.) Defendant McCoy filed his answer on December 5, 2017. (Doc. No. 10.) After the parties engaged in discovery, Defendant McCoy filed a motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 20) and supporting materials (Doc. Nos. 21, 22). After receiving an extension of time, Plaintiff filed a response in opposition. (Doc. No. 26.) After being granted leave to do so (Doc. Nos. 25, 27), Defendant McCoy filed a supplemental declaration in support of his motion for summary judgment on February 19, 2019. (Doc. No. 28.)

         On March 1, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of time to fully respond to Defendant McCoy's motion for summary judgment, noting that he had not received Defendant McCoy's statement of material facts. (Doc. No. 29.) In an Order dated March 4, 2019, Magistrate Judge Carlson granted Plaintiff's motion and directed him to file his response on or before April 1, 2019. (Doc. No. 30.) Plaintiff subsequently filed a motion to strike the motion for summary judgment and supporting materials (Doc. No. 31), brief in support of his motion to strike (Doc. No. 32), and motion for an extension of time to file a response (Doc. No. 33). In an Order dated May 2, 2019, the Court denied Plaintiff's motion to strike, directed the Clerk of Court to send Plaintiff a copy of Defendant McCoy's statement of facts, and granted Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time to the extent that Plaintiff was directed to file his brief in opposition within thirty (30) days. (Doc. No. 34.) To date, Plaintiff has neither filed a brief in opposition nor requested a second extension of time in which to do so.

         On May 20, 2019, observing that Defendant McCoy raised the issue of whether Plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to his claims in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), the Court issued a Paladino Order informing the parties that it would consider the exhaustion issue in the context of summary judgment and, by doing so, would consider matters outside the pleadings in its role as factfinder.[1] (Doc. No. 35.) The Court provided Defendant McCoy fourteen (14) days to “amend or supplement his materials to further address the issue of whether Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies.” (Id.) The Court further noted that Plaintiff should file a brief in opposition addressing the issue of administrative exhaustion, as well as a statement of material facts specifically responding to Defendant McCoy's statement, within twenty-one (21) days from the date that Defendant McCoy filed any amended or supplemental materials. (Id.) Despite receiving an extension of time (Doc. Nos. 36, 37), Defendant McCoy has not filed any supplemental materials regarding the issue of administrative exhaustion. Accordingly, because there are no supplemental materials to which Plaintiff can respond, Defendant McCoy's motion for summary judgment is ripe for resolution.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the Court to render summary judgment “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.” See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “[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 (1986).

         A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. See id. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Bhd. of Carpenters & Joiners of Am., 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the Court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. See Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Elec. Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party may not rest on the unsubstantiated allegations of his or her pleadings. When the party seeking summary judgment satisfies its burden under Rule 56 of identifying evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party is required to go beyond his pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts that give rise to a genuine issue. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). The party opposing the motion “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). When Rule 56 shifts the burden of production to the nonmoving party, that party must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case that it bears the burden of proving at trial, for “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see also Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992).

         In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the Court must consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. See White, 862 F.2d at 59. In doing so, the Court must accept the nonmovant's allegations as true and resolve any conflicts in his favor. See id. (citations omitted). However, a party opposing a summary judgment motion must comply with Local Rule 56.1, which specifically directs the oppositional party to submit a “statement of the material facts, responding to the numbered paragraphs set forth in the statement required [to be filed by the movant], as to which it is contended that there exists a genuine issue to be tried”; if the nonmovant fails to do so, “[a]ll material facts set forth in the statement required to be served by the moving party will be deemed to be admitted.” See L.R. 56.1. A party cannot evade these litigation responsibilities in this regard simply by citing the fact that he is a pro se litigant. These rules apply with equal force to all parties. See Sanders v. Beard, Civ. No. 09-1384, 2010 WL 2853261, at *5 (M.D. Pa. July 20, 2010) (stating that pro se parties “are not excused from complying with court orders and the local rules of court”); Thomas v. Norris, Civ. No. 02-01854, 2006 WL 2590488, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2006) (explaining that pro se parties must follow the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Defendant McCoy's Statement of ...


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