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Davis v. Erfe

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 19, 2016

SAMUEL DAVIS, Plaintiff,
SCOTT ERFE, et al., Defendants.


          Stefan R. Underhill, United States District Judge.

         Samuel Davis commenced this action by complaint filed on March 30, 2015. The remaining defendants are Warden Scott Erfe, Deputy Warden Viger, Counselor Supervisor Jennifer Peterson, Captain Johnson, and Correctional Counselor Schepp. Davis alleges that the defendants retaliated against him for filing grievances and exercising his right of access to the courts. The defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment. Doc. #18. For the reasons that follow, the defendants' motion is granted.

         I. Standard of Review

         Summary judgment is appropriate when the record demonstrates 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 Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256 (1986) (plaintiff must present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion for summary judgment).

         When ruling on a summary judgment motion, the court must construe the facts of record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and must resolve all ambiguities and draw all reasonable inferences against the moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986); Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59 (1970); see also Aldrich v. Randolph Cent. Sch. Dist., 963 F.2d. 520, 523 (2d Cir. 1992) (court is required to “resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party”). When a motion for summary judgment is properly supported by documentary and testimonial evidence, however, the nonmoving party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the pleadings, but must present sufficient probative evidence to establish a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 327 (1986); Colon v. Coughlin, 58 F.3d 865, 872 (2d Cir. 1995).

         “Only when reasonable minds could not differ as to the import of the evidence is summary judgment proper.” Bryant v. Maffucci, 923 F.2d 979, 982 (2d Cir. 1991); see also Suburban Propane v. Proctor Gas, Inc., 953 F.2d 780, 788 (2d Cir. 1992). If the nonmoving party submits evidence that is “merely colorable, ” or is not “significantly probative, ” summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

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. As to materiality, the substantive law will identify which facts are material. Only disputes over facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will properly preclude the entry of summary judgment. Factual disputes that are irrelevant or unnecessary will not be counted.

Id. at 247-48. To present a “genuine” issue of material fact, there must be contradictory evidence “such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party.” Id. at 248. If the nonmoving party has failed to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof at trial, then summary judgment is appropriate. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. In such a situation, “there can be „no genuine issue as to any material fact, ' since a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 322-23; accord Goenaga v. March of Dimes Birth Defects Found., 51 F.3d 14, 18 (2d Cir. 1995) (movant's burden satisfied if he can point to an absence of evidence to support an essential element of nonmoving party's claim). In short, if there is no genuine issue of material fact, summary judgment may enter. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

         II. Facts[1]

         Davis first entered the custody of the Department of Correction in 1977. Since then, he has been discharged, readmitted to custody, and transferred among correctional facilities numerous times. During some of the readmissions and transfers, Davis would attend an inmate orientation, at which he would receive information on multiple topics including the Inmate Grievance Procedures set forth in Administrative Directive 9.6.

         On February 19, 2014, Davis was transferred to Cheshire Correctional Institution. He attended inmate orientation on February 21, 2014, and received an inmate handbook. Davis has filed inmate grievances in the past, demonstrating his understanding of the grievance procedures.

         On January 17, 2015, he filed an inmate grievance regarding cancellation of recreation. At that time, he was housed in North Block 6, where defendant Peterson was the unit manager. In February 2015, defendant Schepp became Davis' counselor. Both Peterson and Schepp are white-skinned females. Davis is a black-skinned male. About this same time, Davis applied for a prison job. Defendant Schepp told Davis that he could not apply for a job until he was disciplinary report free for one year. On February 6, 2015, Davis submitted an Inmate Request Form to defendant Peterson complaining that defendant Schepp had lied to him. He stated that he knew he could apply for a prison job as soon as he finished serving disciplinary sanctions. Davis also accused defendant Schepp of racism. The one-year waiting period to apply for a prison job is a policy of the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Davis had received a disciplinary report on November 12, 2014. Thus, under the facility policy, the earliest he would be eligible to be placed on the list for a prison job was November 13, 2015. About that same time, Davis asked defendant Schepp for a new mattress. Defendant Schepp did not give Davis a new mattress.

         On February 6, 2015, Davis spoke to defendant Peterson in the hallway. He complained that defendant Schepp spoke to him “like it was 1930 when white women talk to black men like he a little boy.” Doc. #18-15 at 3, ¶ 23. Davis based his characterization of defendant Schepp as a racist on the denial of the new mattress and other things. Defendant Peterson had spoken with defendant Schepp before her conversation with Davis and was aware of the situation.

         While returning from the dining hall, Davis approached defendant Captain Johnson, an African-American supervisor. Davis addressed his issues to defendant Johnson because defendant Peterson did not want to listen to his complaints. At the time, Defendant Peterson was standing behind defendant Johnson, and told him to leave.

         That same day, Davis submitted an Inmate Request Form to defendant Johnson complaining that defendant Johnson had permitted defendant Peterson to call him “boy” and to order him to stop speaking to Davis and leave the area. Doc. #18-15 at 4, ¶ 28. Later in the day, Davis submitted a second Inmate Request Form to defendant Johnson accusing him of being in love with a sixty-two-year-old woman. In his deposition, Davis identified the woman as defendant Peterson. Davis stated in the request form that he had informed defendant Deputy Warden Viger about an inappropriate relationship between defendants Peterson and Johnson.

         On February 24, 2015, at approximately 12:30 p.m., defendant Schepp attempted to deliver legal mail to Davis. Correctional Officer Barnes asked Davis to bring a pen from his cell to sign for the mail. Davis became disrespectful and demanded that defendant Schepp provide him with a pen. In response, defendant Schepp ordered Davis to enter his cell and lock up. Defendant Schepp left the housing unit for ten minutes and then returned to deliver Davis' legal mail to him. Davis signed for the mail and defendant Schepp opened the mail in his presence. The incident was recorded on the surveillance video. The following day, Davis submitted an Inmate Request ...

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