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Seiler v. Semple

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 14, 2018

JONATHAN S. SEILER, Plaintiff,
v.
SCOTT SEMPLE, et al., Defendants.

          RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Alvin W. Thompson United States District Judge.

         The plaintiff, Jonathan S. Seiler, commenced this civil rights action pro se. The remaining named defendants are Lieutenant Donovan and Correctional Officer Pearson. The only remaining claim is an Eighth Amendment claim for use of excessive force. The defendants have moved for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the motion for summary judgment is being granted.

         I. LEGAL STANDARD

         A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there are no issues of material fact in dispute and the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(a), Fed. R. Civ. P.; Redd v. New York Div. of Parole, 678 F.3d 166, 173-74 (2d Cir. 2012). “When the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party can satisfy its burden at summary judgment by ‘pointing out to the district court' the absence of a genuine dispute with respect to any essential element of its opponent's case: ‘a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.'” Cohane v. National Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 612 Fed.Appx. 41, 43 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986)).

         Once the moving party meets this burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). He cannot “‘rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated speculation' but ‘must come forward with specific evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of material fact.'” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., 781 F.3d 42, 34 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). He must present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor in order to defeat the motion for summary judgment. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir. 2000). Although the court reads pro se papers liberally and interprets them to raise the strongest arguments they suggest, Willey v. Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015), “unsupported allegations do not create a material issue of fact” and are insufficient to oppose a properly supported motion for summary judgment. Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d Cir. 2000).

         II. FACTS[1]

         On August 2, 2016, Officer Pearson inspected the plaintiff's cell in the restrictive housing unit, RHU-101, and removed a second mattress from the cell. He then escorted the plaintiff from the recreation yard back to his cell.

         While being handcuffed to enter the restrictive housing unit from the recreation yard, the plaintiff pulled his hands back from the trap toward the recreation yard. During the escort to his cell, the plaintiff closed the distance between Officer Pearson and himself, despite verbal instructions not to do so. Officer Pearson used controlled contact to maintain a space between them.

         When they were directly in front of the plaintiff's cell, the plaintiff fell to the floor on his abdomen. The plaintiff acted alone without any involvement by Officer Pearson, who immediately stepped away from the plaintiff and made no contact with him.

         While on the ground, the plaintiff yelled “stop kicking me in the [groin], stop kicking my stomach, stop hurting me.” ECF No. 101-2, ¶ 6. In his original Complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he stated that “[i]t feels like you kicked me in the [groin].” Id., ¶ 7.

         Officer Pearson summoned assistance. Lieutenant Donovan responded to the call. After listening to Officer Pearson's description and viewing the situation upon her arrival, Lieutenant Donovan determined that the plaintiff had been actively resistant during the restraint application for his return from the recreation yard by pulling his hands away from the trap door. He also was actively resistant while being escorted to his call by deliberately closing the gap between Officer Pearson and himself and ignoring verbal instructions to stop doing so. Lieutenant Donovan determined that the plaintiff had intentionally fallen to the floor and falsely accused Officer Pearson of assaulting him. As she determined that the plaintiff had interfered with institutional safety and security, Lieutenant Donovan decided that use of in-cell restraints was warranted.

         At 8:37 p.m., Lieutenant Donovan ordered the plaintiff taken to cell RHU-112 and placed on in-cell restraints. The restraints were removed the following morning, at 4:05 a.m. At no time was the plaintiff placed on full stationary restraints, also known as four-point restraints.

         In late May 2016, the plaintiff filed eight inmate grievances during an eight-day period. The plaintiff was found to have abused the inmate grievance process and was placed on grievance restriction from June 2, 2016 through December 3, 2016. During that time, he was permitted to file only one grievance per month as long as that grievance related to a new issue not previously addressed through the grievance process.

         This incident occurred on August 2, 2016. The plaintiff had thirty days, or until September 2, 2016, to file a grievance. He did not do so. Instead, on August 10, ...


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