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Patterson v. Quigley

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 6, 2019

FLOYD E. PATTERSON, JR.
v.
JANINE L. QUIGLEY, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          Juan R. Sánchez, C.J.

         Pro se Plaintiff Floyd E. Patterson, Jr., an inmate in the State Correctional Institute at Somerset, brings claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Warden Janine L. Quigley, Lieutenant Miguel Castro, and Correctional Officers Cunningham, Dew, and Gurry for constitutional violations that occurred while he was incarcerated at Berks County Jail. Warden Quigley and Lieutenant Castro (collectively, the Administrative Defendants) and Correctional Officers Cunningham, Dew, and Gurry (collectively, the Correctional Officer Defendants) move for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 56. Because Patterson's claims against the Correctional Officer Defendants are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and because Patterson failed to exhaust his administrative remedies with regard to his claim against the Administrative Defendants, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

         BACKGROUND [1]

         Patterson asserts various constitutional violations that occurred while he was incarcerated at Berks County Jail (BCJ). Patterson's only remaining claims in this action include a Free Exercise claim against the Administrative Defendants, a Free Exercise claim against Officers Gurry and Dew, and an Eighth Amendment Claim against Officer Cunningham.

         Patterson's Free Exercise claims are based upon his allegation that he, as a Muslim, was prevented from exercising his right to practice his religion. Specifically, Officer Gurry, on or before June 6, 2014, threatened Patterson and told him to shut-up during religious services. See Patterson Dep. 48:2-48:13; Defs.' Ex. C. Patterson subsequently submitted a grievance form complaining of Officer Gurry's conduct on June 6, 2014. See Defs.' Ex. C. Similarly, Patterson's Free Exercise claim against Officer Dew is based on one occasion when Officer Dew intentionally removed Patterson from a list of inmates who were permitted to leave their block to attend religious services. See Id. 81:23-83:10. Officer Dew then refused to allow Patterson to attend his religious services. See Id. Patterson testified that this single incident occurred sometime in 2014. See Id. 83:11-83:21.

         Patterson's Free Exercise claim against Warden Quigley and Lieutenant Castro is based on their knowledge and acquiescence of the Correctional Officer Defendants' conduct and other conditions or incidents that deprived Patterson of his right to exercise his Muslin religion. Aside from the individual incidents discussed above, on at least two occasions, Patterson was kicked out of religious services and banned from attending for periods of one-to-four weeks by other correctional officers. See Id. 90:11-94:18; 100:2-102:3. Patterson filed grievances and spoke about these issues with Lieutenant Castro. See Id. 88:23-90:10. Despite disagreeing with Lieutenant Castro's responses to his grievances, Patterson never appealed any of the responses to Warden Quigley. See Defs.' Ex. C & D; Patterson Dep. 76:25-77:7; 116:19-117:2 120:4-120:17; 127:5-128:2. He also wrote and spoke to Warden Quigley about the ban on him attending religious services. See Id. 94:19-97:16. Warden Quigley informed Patterson he needed to use the grievance procedures to have her address the issues. See Id. 95:20-95:24. Subsequently, Patterson submitted an “inmate communication form” rather than a grievance form. See Id. 96:13-96:23; Defs.' Ex. E.

         Also underlying his Free Exercise claim, Patterson testified that the Special Operation Group (SOG) officers hold guns during his Islam religious services and it makes it difficult for him to focus on his religious practice. See Id. 106:19-106:22; 125:24-126:21. He also testified that the SOG officers do not always carry guns around Berks and they especially do not carry guns during other religious services. See Id. 107:2-110:6. Patterson filed at least one grievance regarding this practice in 2014. See Defs.' Ex. C (BERKS136). Although Lieutenant Castro stated in a response to Patterson's grievance on this issue that “custody personnel are at all major religious services, ” Patterson, again, did not appeal to Warden Quigley. See Id. 111:8-114:20.

         Patterson's Eighth Amendment Claim is based on multiple incidents which all occurred before May 2014. See Id. 136:3-145:5; 148:12-148:17. Officer Cunningham strip searched Patterson multiple times, made sexually inappropriate comments, and on at least occasion, forced Patterson to “jerk him off.” See id.

         Based on the above facts, on April 4, 2016, Patterson filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Administrative Defendants and three Berks County Commissioners. See Compl., ECF No. 3. On June 6, 2017, Patterson filed an Amended Complaint in which he dropped his claims against the Commissioners and asserted new claims against the Correctional Officer Defendants. See Am. Compl., ECF No. 36. The Administrative and Correctional Officer Defendants separately filed Motions to Dismiss all of Patterson's claims. See Mot. to Dismiss, June 20, 2017, ECF No. 43; Mot. to Dismiss, Aug. 15, 2017, ECF No. 47. Patterson submitted a response to the Administrative Defendants' Motion but did not submit a response to the Correctional Officer Defendants' Motion. The Court granted in part and denied in part both motions, leaving only the claims listed above. See Mem. and Order, Mar. 30, 2018, ECF Nos. 50-51. The Court then ordered Defendants to file an answer to the Amended Complaint. See Order, Apr. 26, 2017, ECF No. 52.

         On November 15, 2018, Defendants timely filed this Motion for Summary Judgment seeking judgment in their favor on all remaining claims in the Amended Complaint. Patterson did not file a response to Defendants' Motion.[2] The Court heard oral argument on the Motion on February 5, 2019. Defendants' Motion is now ripe for disposition.

         DISCUSSION

         A motion for summary judgment shall 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A fact is “material” if it “might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A “genuine” dispute is one where “the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the [non-moving] party.” Id. “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of the [record] which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To defeat summary judgment, “the non-moving party must present more than a mere scintilla of evidence; there must be evidence on which the jury could reasonably find for the [non-movant].” Burton v. Teleflex, Inc., 707 F.3d 417, 425 (3d Cir. 2013) (alteration in original) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “Where the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no ‘genuine issue for trial.'” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986) (citation omitted). The Court first turns to Patterson's claims against the Correctional Officer Defendants.

         The Correctional Officer Defendants argue they are entitled to summary judgment because Patterson's claims are time-barred. They argue the statute of limitations for § 1983 claims in Pennsylvania is two years, and the claims against them are predicated on events that occurred between May and August 2014. Because Patterson did not file his Amended Complaint against them until June 2017, they assert it is untimely.[3]

         Section 1983 does not provide its own statute of limitations. See Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007). Rather, “[t]he length of the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim is governed by the personal injury tort law of the state where the cause of action arose.” Kach v. Hose, 589 F.3d 626, 634 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Wallace, 549 U.S. at 387). Under Pennsylvania law, the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim is two years. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง 5524(2). ...


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