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Preacher v. Overmyer

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

January 3, 2020

JOHN DALE PREACHER, Plaintiff
v.
MICHAEL D. OVERMYER, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM OPINION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT [ECF No. 90]

          RICHARD A. LANZILLO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. Introduction

         Plaintiff John Dale Preacher has asserted claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against a multitude of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) personnel at the State Correctional Institution at Forest, Pennsylvania (SCI-Forest). He alleges that the defendants violated his rights under the First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution at various times between May, 2015 and October, 2016. All defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant defendants' motion.[1]

         II. Relevant Procedural History

         Preacher commenced this §1983 action by filing a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and a pro se Complaint on January 20, 2017. ECF No. 1. Preacher named the following thirty-five DOC employees as defendants: SCI Forest Superintendent Michael D. Overmyer ("Overmyer"); Deputy Superintendent Derek F. Oberlander ("Oberlander"); Captain Ernesto J. Mongelluzzo ("Mongelluzzo"); Program Manager Erin Ireland ("Ireland"); Major Paul A. Ennis ("Ennis"); Captain C. Carter ("Carter"); Lieutenant Justin Davis ("Davis"); Lieutenant Douglas Dickey ("Dickey"); Chief Psychologist Bruce Simon ("Simon"); Unit Manager Matthew J. Blicha ("Blicha"); Counselor Sharon Price ("Price"); Lieutenant Heffernan ("Heffernan"); Registered Nurse Kathleen Hill ("Hill"); Psychology employee Kevin C. Cowan ("Cowan"); Sergeant J.H. Culver ("Culver"); Lieutenant Richard Wonderling ("Wonderling"); Sergeant Shawn Fredrickson ("Fredrickson"); Corrections Officers B.J. Long ("Long"), B.J. Boddorf ("Boddorf), C.J. Frey ("Frey"), Smalls ("Smalls"), Barnes ("Barnes"), R.P. Smith ("Smith"), J.D. Reddick ("Reddick"), M. Booher ("Booher"), G.W. Hiler ("Hiler"), Weiss ("Weiss"), J.E. Coleman ("Coleman"), Farcus ("Farcus"), and Termine ("Termine"); Food Service Manager Kevin Dittman ("Dittman"); Food Service Instructor L. Whisner ("Whisner"); Sergeant M. Gilara ("Gilara"); Psychiatrist Craig Hasper ("Hasper"); and Food Service Supervisor Holloway ("Holloway").

         On August 2, 2017, Preacher filed a 52-page, 231 paragraph Amended Complaint. See ECF No. 23. The Amended Complaint is not divided into counts or otherwise organized to allow the defendants or the Court to readily identify the claims he asserts or the defendant or defendants against whom he asserts each claim. The Amended Complaint makes only passing reference to certain defendants. Recognizing Preacher's pro se status, the Court has endeavored to identify any potential claim or claims against each defendant. After careful review of the Amended Complaint, the Court has identified the following claims:

1. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Holloway, Dittman, and Whisner arising from the termination of his prison job on or about May 29, 2015 (ECF No. 23, Amended Complaint, at ¶¶ 23-35);
2. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Long, Farcus, Smalls, Termine, Heffernan, Fredrickson, and Overmyer arising from alleged abuses during Preacher's confinement in disciplinary custody from early June to July 25, 2015 (Id. at ¶¶ 36-62);
3. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Long, Boddorf, Termine, Barnes, Smalls, Culver, Heffernan, and Mongelluzzo arising from abuses that allegedly occurred during Preacher's confinement in the RHU from January 18, 2016 to March 28, 2016 (Id. at ¶¶ 64-106, 108-111);
4. An Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference and Fourteenth Amendment due process claims against Defendant Cowan based upon the alleged denial of adequate mental health care (Id. at ¶¶ 80-81, 88-89, 107);
5. An Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference to serious medical needs claim against Defendant Hill (Id. at ¶¶ 112-117);
6. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Long, Heffernan, and Termine arising from the confiscation and alleged destruction of rusted metal pieces that were allegedly placed in Preacher's food (Id. at ¶¶ 118-122);
7. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Barnes and Smalls regarding alleged abuses that occurred while Preacher was confined in a hard cell in April and May of 2016 (Id. at ¶¶ 123-148);
8. A First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Booher (Id. at ¶¶ 142-143, 149);
9. A First Amendment denial of access to courts claim against Defendant Smith (Id. at ¶¶ 145-146, 150);
10. First Amendment retaliation and denial of access to courts claims against Defendant Reddick arising from his confiscation and copying of Preacher's legal mail on May 19, 2016 (Id. at ¶ 151);
11. An Eight Amendment failure to protect claim against Defendant Overmyer (Id. at ¶¶ 156-157);
12. First Amendment retaliation and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claims against Defendant Hiler for denying Preacher a towel to cover himself on the way to the shower and sexually harassing him (Id. at ¶¶ 161, 205);
13. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendant Gilara for recording Preacher going to the showers without a towel (Id. at ¶¶ 161, 206);
14. First Amendment retaliation and Fourteenth Amendment equal protection claims against Defendant Price for removing Preacher's daughter and her mother from his visitation list and discriminating against him on the basis of his Muslim religion (Id. at ¶¶ 189-196, 207);
15. An Eighth Amendment claim against Defendant Frey for writing a false misconduct (Id. at ¶¶ 163, 200-203, 208);
16. First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendants Coleman and Weiss for sexually harassing Preacher (Id. at ¶¶ 169, 172, 209);
17. Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment claims against Defendant Blicha for failing to take remedial action against subordinates to stop continual harassment and retaliation (Id. at ¶¶ 171, 174-175, 193, 210);
18. First Amendment retaliation claim against Defendant Dickey (Id. at ¶¶ 164-167, 176, 179, 211);
19. An Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants Davis and Ireland (Id. at ¶¶); and,
20. An Eighth Amendment failure to protect claim against Defendants Carter, Ennis, Davis, Ireland, and Oberlander arising from their failure to prevent continual harassment and retaliation by their subordinates (Id. at ¶¶ 160, 167, 173, 212, 167, 213, 177, 188, 191, 204, 214).

         On January 8, 2018, the Court denied Defendants' motion to dismiss, which requested that the claims of the Amended Complaint be severed into multiple lawsuits or, alternatively, that Preacner be ordered to file a more definite statement of his claims. After discovery, the Defendants moved for summary judgment arguing alternatively that (1) Preacher failed to exhaust his administrative remedies regarding many of his claims; (2) many of the claims of Preacher's Amended Complaint are legally deficient on their face; and (3) the record is insufficient to support any remaining claims. The matter has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.

         III. Factual Background

         Because the Amended Complaint is not organized into counts and covers many ostensibly unrelated events, the Court will not attempt to provide a chronological statement of the material facts. Instead, the Court will discuss the record evidence as relevant to the analysis of each of Preacher's claims.

         IV. Standard of Review

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the court to enter 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). Under this standard "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. Anderson, 477 U.S. 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. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Bhd. of Carpenters and Joiners of Am., 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact remains for trial, the court must view the record and all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consol Rail Corp., 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Co., 862 F.2d 56? 59 (3d Cir. 1988). To avoid summary judgment, however, the nonmoving party may not rest on the unsubstantiated allegations of his or her pleadings. Instead, once the movant satisfies its burden of identifying evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the nonmoving party must to go beyond his pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or other record evidence to demonstrate specific material facts that give rise to a genuine issue. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986).

         Further, under Rule 56, a defendant may seek summary judgment by pointing to the absence of a genuine fact issue on one or more essential claim elements. The Rule mandates summary judgment if the plaintiff then fails to make a sufficient showing on each of those elements. When Rule 56 shifts the burden of production to the nonmoving party, "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. See Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992).

         V. Discussion

         A. Claims Against Whisner, Holloway and Dittman Arising Out of the Allegedly False Misconduct Report and the Loss of Preacher's Employment in the Dietary Department

         i. The Record Does Not Support Any Claim Against Whisner.

         Whisner is a DOC employee who also worked in the Dietary Department. Against her Preacher asserts a Fourteenth Amendment discrimination claim, a First Amendment claim for both retaliation and access to courts, and an Eighth Amendment conditions of confinement claim. All these claims relate to an allegedly false misconduct charge he asserts Whisner submitted against him that resulted ...


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