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Robinson v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 16, 2020

JOHN E. WETZEL, et al, Defendants



         I. Background

         Plaintiff, James Robinson, an inmate currently confined in the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Huntingdon”), filed the above captioned civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. (Doc. 1). The remaining Defendants are Kevin Kauffman and Ms. Sipple, both employees of SCI-Huntingdon.[1]

         On December 26, 2018, remaining Defendants filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that Plaintiff's action should be dismissed for Plaintiff's failure to properly exhaust his administrative remedies in accordance with the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 42 U.S.C. §1997e(a). (Doc. 16).

         On March 21, 2019, in accordance with Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2018), (holding that the District Court shall provide the parties notice that it will consider exhaustion in its role as fact finder under Small v. Camden Cty., 728 F.3d 265 (3d Cir. 2013)), this Court issued an Order, converting Defendants' motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and allowing the parties an opportunity to supplement the record with supporting evidence relevant to the exhaustion of administrative remedies. (Doc. 19).

         On April 3, 2019, Defendants filed a statement of material facts in support of their motion for summary judgment. (Doc. 21). Although the Plaintiff has had more than ample time to file a brief in opposition to Defendants' motion, he has failed to oppose the motion. As such, the Court will grant Defendants' motion as unopposed.

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) “[t]he court shall grant 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); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). “[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. 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 Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 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. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, parties may not rely on unsubstantiated allegations. Parties seeking to establish that a fact is or is not genuinely disputed must support such an assertion by “citing to particular parts of materials in the record, ” by showing that an adverse party's factual assertion lacks support from cited materials, or demonstrating that a factual assertion is unsupportable by admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (requiring evidentiary support for factual assertions made in response to summary judgment). The party opposing the motion “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Parties must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case that they bear 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.” Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323; see Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). Failure to properly support or contest an assertion of fact may result in the fact being considered undisputed for the purpose of the motion, although a court may also give parties an opportunity to properly provide support or opposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

         III. Statement of Facts

         On November 3, 2017, following a hearing on Misconduct No. 073690C, for possession or use of dangerous or controlled substance, possession of contraband, and unauthorized use of the mail or telephone, Robinson pled guilty to unauthorized use of the mail or telephone, and was sanctioned to a loss of privileges, as well as a loss of good conduct time. (Doc. 18-3 at 2, Disciplinary Hearing Report). On November 3, 2017, Robinson appealed the decision of his Misconduct hearing to the Program Review Committee. (Doc. 18- at 2, Misconduct Hearing Appeal).

         On November 15, 2017, the Program Review Committee denied Robinson's appeal and upheld the decision noting that the findings of fact were sufficient to support the decision and the punishment was proportionate to the offense. (Doc. 18-5 at 2, Decision).

         A review of the DOC records indicates that Robinson did not appeal the Program Review Committee decision for Misconduct No. 073690C to the Facility Manager or Chief Hearing Examiner's Office. (Doc. 18-6 at 2, Declaration of ...

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