United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. Pratter United States District Judge.
Andrews claims that Gerald May, Warden of the Curran-Fromhold
Correctional Facility ("CFCF"), violated his
constitutional rights by subjecting him to unsanitary,
unsafe, and inadequate prison conditions-namely, housing
three inmates in a cell built for two, a practice also known
as "triple-celling." In addition to this §
1983 prison conditions claim, Mr. Andrews asserts a claim of
civil contempt against Warden May, alleging violations of a
settlement agreement between a former class of prisoners
challenging the constitutionality of triple-celling and the
City of Philadelphia.
May moves for summary judgment and Mr. Andrews opposes. For
the reasons below, the Court grants Warden May's motion
for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim but denies the
motion on the civil contempt claim.
Andrews was an inmate at CFCF from August 2015 until May
2017, when he was released into state custody. See
Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. C (Doc. No. 59-4). Mr. Andrews alleges
that throughout his time at CFCF, he spent at least 264 days
in a triple cell. See Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Ex.
H (Doc. No. 60). While subject to this triple-celling, Mr.
Andrews slept on a "boat"-a type of plastic
bed-next to the cell's toilet, where he was allegedly
exposed to urine and fecal matter. See Compl. at 10
(Doc. No. 5).
maintains a grievance procedure through which inmates can
seek "administrative resolution of complaints arising
from [CFCF's] administration or operation." Mot. for
Summ. J. Ex. A at 1 (Doc. No. 59-2). The CFCF grievance
procedure entitles inmates to file grievances and appeal any
responses thereto. See generally Mot. for Summ. J.
Ex. A (Doc. No. 59-2).
Andrews claims that he filed his first grievance complaining
of triple-celling on March 27, 2016. See Resp. to
Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. A (Doc. No. 60). In response to that
grievance, Mr. Andrews allegedly had an oral hearing with two
prison officials, Lieutenant Lynn and Sergeant Roney, during
which "they basically just told [him] to go back to
[his] block and deal with it." See Mot. for
Summ. J. Ex. F 22:3-12 (Doc. No. 59-7).
Andrews then turned to the judicial system for relief. After
applying to proceed in forma pauperis in April 2016,
Mr. Andrews filed his complaint on June 8, 2016. See
Compl. (Doc. No. 5). Therein he asserted claims for
violations of his constitutional rights against the
Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney, former Mayor Michael Nutter,
Prison Commissioner Blanche Carney, former Prison
Commissioner Michael Resnick, and CFCF Warden Gerald May.
January 12, 2017, the Court granted the defendants' first
motion to dismiss without prejudice, finding Mr. Andrews had
failed to allege the defendants were personally involved in
the deprivations of his constitutional rights. See
Jan. 12, 2017 Order (Doc. No. 13). Mr. Andrews filed an
amended complaint in February 2017, which was met with a
subsequent motion to dismiss. See Am. Compl. (Doc.
No. 14); Mot. to Dismiss (Doc. No. 15). The Court dismissed
all claims asserted against Defendants James Kenney, Michael
Nutter, Blanche Carney, and Michael Resnick. See
June 14, 2017 Order (Doc. No. 20). As to Warden May, however,
the Court found that Mr. Andrews had sufficiently set forth
allegations that could plausibly support a finding of
personal involvement, and Mr. Andrews' § 1983 claim
against Warden May survived. See June 14, 2017 Mem.
(Doc. No. 19).
Andrews later requested leave to amend his complaint again to
add a claim against all five original defendants for civil
contempt, which the Court granted. See Mot. to Amend
Compl. (Doc. No. 33); Feb. 20, 2018 Order (Doc. No. 34). With
his civil contempt claim, Mr. Andrews alleged that the
defendants had violated a class action settlement agreement
regarding prison conditions. See Second Am. Compl.
(Doc. No. 37). Following another motion to dismiss, the Court
dismissed with prejudice the claims against Defendants James
Kenney, Michael Nutter, Blanche Carney, and Michael Resnick.
See July 30, 2018 Order n.1 (Doc. No. 43). Finding
that Warden May had not moved to dismiss the civil contempt
claim, the Court permitted the claim to proceed against him,
expressing no view on its viability. Id.
May now moves for summary judgment on both the § 1983
claim and the claim for civil contempt. Mr. Andrews opposes.
shall grant a motion for 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). An issue is
"genuine" if there is a sufficient evidentiary
basis on which a reasonable fact finder could return a
verdict for the non-moving party. Kaucher v. Cnty. of
Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986)). A factual dispute is "material" if it
might affect the outcome of the case under governing law.
Id. (citing Anderson, Ml U.S. at 248).
Under Rule 56, the Court must view the evidence presented on
the motion in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. However,
"[u]nsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or
mere suspicions are insufficient to overcome a motion for
summary judgment." Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev.
Ctr., 621 F.3d 249, 252 (3d Cir. 2010).
movant bears the initial responsibility for informing the
Court of the basis for the motion for summary judgment and
identifying those portions of the record that demonstrate the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex
Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). Where the
non-moving party bears the burden of proof on a particular
issue, the moving party's initial burden can be met
simply by "pointing out to the district court that there
is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving
party's case." Id. at 325.
the moving party has met the initial burden, the non-moving
party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuinely disputed factual issue for trial by "citing to
particular parts of materials in the record, including
depositions, documents, electronically stored information,
affidavits or declarations, stipulations..., admissions,
interrogatory answers, or other materials" or by
"showing that the materials cited do not establish the
absence or presence of a genuine dispute." Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c). "Merely because a non-moving party is proceeding
pro se does not relieve him of the obligation under Rule
56(e) to produce evidence that raises a genuine issue of
material fact." Dawson v. Cook, 238 F.Supp.3d
712, 717 (E.D. Pa. 2017) (quoting Boykins v. Lucent
Techs., Inc., 78 F.Supp.2d 402, 408 (E.D. Pa. 2000)).
Summary judgment is appropriate if the non-moving party fails
to rebut by making a factual 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
motion for summary judgment, Warden May argues that he is
entitled to summary judgment on Mr. Andrews' § 1983
claim because Mr. Andrews (1) did not exhaust his
administrative remedies before filing this lawsuit and (2)
failed to demonstrate Warden May's personal involvement
in any alleged wrongdoing. As to the civil contempt claim,
Warden May asserts that he is entitled to summary judgment
because there is no supporting evidence in the record.
explained in detail below, the Court grants Warden May's
motion for summary judgment on the § 1983 claim because
Mr. Andrews failed to exhaust his administrative remedies,
but the Court denies his motion on the civil contempt claim
because Mr. Andrews has set forth sufficient evidence to
support a finding that Warden May disobeyed a valid court
Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA") commands that
a prisoner cannot bring an action "with respect to
prison conditions under section 1983 ... or any other Federal
law.. . until such administrative remedies as are available
are exhausted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). The
PLRA's "exhaustion requirement applies to all
prisoners seeking redress for prison circumstances or
occurrences." Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516,
520 (2002). "[E]xhaustion in cases covered by §
1997e(a) is ... mandatory." Id. at 524 (citing
Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 739 (2001)).
burden is on Warden May to prove that Mr. Andrews failed to
exhaust his administrative remedies. See Small v. Camden
Cty., 728 F.3d 265, 271 (3d Cir. 2013) ("The Court
correctly placed the burden on Defendants to prove
non-exhaustion."). The parties do not dispute that CFCF
maintains a grievance system or that Mr. Andrews was aware of
the system. They do dispute, however, whether Mr.
Andrews exhausted that system's available
May first asserts that Mr. Andrews never filed a grievance
related to his complaints of triple-celling. In support,
Warden May points to the Philadelphia Prison System's
electronic records, which purport to list all grievances
filed by Mr. Andrews since he was admitted to CFCF in 2015.
See Mot. for Summ. J. Ex. B (Doc. No. 59-3).
According to these records, Mr. Andrews filed only four
grievances while incarcerated: (1) a 2015 grievance claiming
that items were missing from his commissary; (2) a 2015
grievance claiming a correctional officer denied him time out
for recreation; (3) a 2016 grievance requesting to see a
social worker; and (4) a 2016 grievance claiming that $7.00
was taken from his account without permission. See
Id. These are the only four grievances recorded in
CFCF's official system, and none of them complains of
triple-celling or its related conditions. Warden May argues
that this proves Mr. Andrews failed to exhaust his
administrative remedies by not first seeking redress through
the grievance system.
Andrews responds that he filed three grievances complaining
of his triple-celling and asking to be moved to a normal
cell. In support, Mr. Andrews directs the Court to three
completed grievance forms that he contends were properly
submitted: (1) a March 27, 2016 grievance; (2) a June 10,
2016 grievance; and (3) a June 24, 2016 grievance.
See Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. Exs. A-C (Doc. No.
60). All three complain of his confinement to a triple cell.
May contends that even if Mr. Andrews did file these
grievances, he still failed to exhaust his administrative
remedies by never appealing them. In opposition, Mr. Andrews
asserts that he could not start the appeal process because he
never received a response to any of his grievances.
Andrews' argument, however, is contradicted by his own
briefing as well as his deposition testimony. Mr. Andrews
alleges he submitted his first grievance about triple-celling
to CFCF on March 27, 2016. See Resp. to Mot. for
Summ. J. Ex. A (Doc. No. 60). He then received "an
unprofessional inappropriate] verbal response" from
Lieutenant Lynn and Sergeant Roney to this grievance
"[a] few days later." Resp. to Mot. for Summ. J. 2
(Doc. No. 60). Consistent with this recitation of events, Mr.
Andrews testified during his deposition as follows:
Q. Were any of your grievances ever responded to?
A. One was.
Q. And which one was that?
A. It was for [constant lockdowns, the ...