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Brown v. Sprenkle

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 27, 2019

CHARLES EDWARD BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
WILLIAM D. SPRENKLE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         In December 2010, Plaintiff Charles Edward Brown, a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed this civil rights lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Mr. Brown claims various DOC employees (William D. Sprenkle, Tanya Brandt, Superintendent Michael Klopotoski; Vincent Mooney, Jerome Walsh and Lori Lyons) transferred him to a different facility in retaliation for his filing of institutional grievances. (ECF No. 66, Am. Compl.) Presently before the Court are cross motions for summary judgment limited to the issue of Mr. Brown's exhaustion of Grievance 259990. (ECF Nos. 137 and 141).

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' second motion for summary judgment and deny Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. All other pending motions, except for Plaintiff's motion to file a response to Defendants' summary judgment motion (ECF No. 148), will be denied as moot. The Court will accept Mr. Brown's opposition materials as timely filed.

         I. Summary Judgment Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate if, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Forrest v. Parry, 930 F.3d 93 (3d Cir. 2019); Fed R. Civ. P. 56(a).

         To prevail on summary judgment, the moving party must affirmatively identify those portions of the record which demonstrate the absence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410 (3d Cir. 2015); Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). If this burden is met, the nonmoving party “may not rest on speculation and conjecture in opposing a summary judgment motion.” Ramara, Inc. v. Westfied Ins. Co., 814 F.3d 660, 666 (3d Cir. 2016). Rather, the nonmovant must demonstrate, from more than the pleadings alone, the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 2553, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986).

         A dispute of fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Baloga v. Pittston Area Sch. Dist., 927 F.3d 742, 752 (3d Cir. 2019) (citing Santini v. Fuentes, 795 F.3d 410, 416 (3d Cir. 2015)). “[A] fact is only material if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing [substantive] law.” Forrest, 930 F.3d at 105 (citing Scheidemantle v. Slippery Rock Univ. State Sys. of Higher Educ., 470 F.3d 535, 538 (3d Cir. 2006.))

         In deciding the merits of a party's motion for summary judgment, the court's role is not to evaluate the evidence and decide the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. Baloga, 927 F.3d at 752 (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 2511, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Pearson v. Prison Health Serv., 850 F.3d 526, 533-34 (3d Cir. 2017)). Credibility determinations are the province of the factfinder. Carvalho-Grevious v. Del. State Univ., 851 F.3d 249, 262 (3d Cir. 2017).

         II. Relevant Procedural History

         Mr. Brown initiated this action on December 17, 2010. (ECF No. 1.) The DOC Defendants then filed a motion to dismiss the Complaint. The Court granted Defendants' motion in part and denied it in part, allowing Mr. Brown to file an amended complaint. Brown v. Camp Hill, No. 3:CV-10-2612, 2015 WL 5675575 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 25, 2015).

         On October 9, 2015, Mr. Brown filed an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 66.) Defendants again sought dismissal of the action. (ECF No. 68.) On September 29, 2016, the Court denied Defendants' motion finding Mr. Brown had plead a viable retaliation claim. Brown v. Camp Hill, No. 3:CV-10-2612, 2016 WL 5461986 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 29, 2016).

         Shortly after Defendants filed an Answer to the Amended Complaint (ECF No. 80) they filed a motion for summary judgment based on Mr. Brown's failure to exhaust his administrative remedies with respect to his retaliatory transfer claim. Specifically, Defendants alleged Mr. Brown failed to properly exhaust Grievance 282036. (ECF No. 81.) On September 5, 2017, the Court denied the motion finding that while Grievance 282036 was not properly exhausted, the record demonstrated Mr. Brown had filed another administrative remedy, Grievance 259990, concerning his alleged retaliatory transfer which Defendants had not challenged. Brown v. Camp Hill, 3:CV-No. 10-2612, 2017 WL 3872399 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 5, 2017). Defendants then sought leave to challenge Mr. Brown's exhaustion of Grievance 259990. (ECF No. 126.) The Court granted Defendants' request on August 16, 2018. (ECF No. 134.)

         On November 2, 2018, Defendants filed a second motion for summary judgment as to Mr. Brown's failure to exhaust Grievance 259990. (ECF No. 137.) Defendants filed a statement of material facts (ECF No. 138), supporting brief (ECF No. 139) and exhibits (ECF No. 140). On November 2, 2018, in lieu of a response, Mr. Brown initially filed his own motion for summary judgment asserting that Defendants impeded his ability to complete the administrative remedy process with respect to Grievance 259990. (ECF No. 141.) He also filed a statement of material facts, supporting brief and exhibits. (ECF Nos. 142, 143, 144 and 145.) Mr. Brown then sought an enlargement of time to respond to Defendants' second motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 148.) Defendants filed a timely response to Mr. Brown's motion for summary judgment which included a response to his statement of material facts and opposition brief. (ECF Nos. 149 and 150.) On December 7, 2018, Mr. Brown filed exhibits and a brief in opposition to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. However, he did not address Defendants' statement of material facts. (ECF No. 156.)

         In the interim, Mr. Brown filed multiple motions for sanctions. (ECF Nos. 146, 152, 158 and 160.) He seeks sanctions against defense counsel for his failing to mark their litigation correspondence as “legal mail” under the DOC's new mailing system which results in his delayed receipt of such mailings, [1] and because of his dissatisfaction with Defendants' response to his request for production of documents.[2] He also sought sanctions against Chief Grievance Coordinator Dorina Varner for misrepresenting to the Court that Grievance 282036 was the “sole” administrative remedy he filed concerning his retaliatory transfer.[3]

         III. Statement of Undisputed Facts [4]

         Plaintiff Charles E. Brown is presently housed at the Smithfield State Correctional Institution (SCI-Smithfield), in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. (ECF No. 138, Defs.' Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 1; ECF No. 142, Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts, ¶ 1; and ECF No. 149, Defs.' Answer to Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts.) The following DOC employees are named as defendants: William Sprenkle, Lori Lyons, Tanya Brandt, Michael Klopotoski, Jerome Walsh and Vincent Mooney. (ECF No. 138 at ¶ 2; ECF No. 149 at ¶ 2 and ECF No. 149 at ¶ 2.) The sole issue presented in this action is whether Defendants transferred Mr. Brown from SCI-Dallas to SCI-Smithfield on December 16, ...


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