United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JONATHAN S. SEILER, Plaintiff,
SCOTT SEMPLE, et al. Defendants.
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
W. Thompson, United States District Judge.
19, 2017, the plaintiff, Jonathan S. Seiler, a former inmate
of the Connecticut Department of Correction
(“DOC”), filed a complaint pro se pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages and injunctive relief
against eight DOC officials. The plaintiff claimed that the
defendants violated his First Amendment rights under the
United States Constitution by denying him access to certain
periodicals and magazines while he was confined at Cheshire
Correctional Institution (“Cheshire”).
3, 2017, the court issued an Initial Review Order permitting
the plaintiff's First Amendment claim to proceed against
two defendants: Warden Scott Erfe and DOC Commissioner Scott
Semple. See Initial Review Order [Doc.#7]. The court limited
the action to the plaintiff's claim regarding the
rejection of the magazine “Easyrider, ” which he
had requested while he was confined at Cheshire. See
Id. at 4. The court dismissed the claims against all
other defendants. Defendants Erfe and Semple answered the
complaint on July 25, 2018.
October 23, 2018, the two remaining defendants filed the
instant motion for summary judgment on the plaintiff's
sole remaining claim regarding the denial of the
“Easyrider” magazine. They contend that summary
judgment is warranted because the plaintiff has failed (1) to
establish the defendants' personal involvement in the
alleged constitutional deprivation, and (2) to exhaust his
administrative remedies before commencing suit. See
Defs.' Mem. of Law in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J.
(“Defs.' Mem.”) [Doc.#41-1] at 1. In the
alternative, the defendants argue that they are shielded from
liability by the doctrine of qualified immunity. The
plaintiff has not responded to the defendants' motion.
For the following reasons, the defendants' motion is
motion for summary judgment, the burden is on the moving
party to establish that there are no genuine issues of
material fact in dispute and that it is “entitled to
judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). A
fact is “material” if it “might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law” and is
“genuine” if “a reasonable jury could
return a verdict for the nonmoving party” based on it.
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248
(1986); see also Dister v. Continental Group, Inc.,
859 F.2d 1108, 1114 (2d Cir. 1988) (mere existence of alleged
factual dispute will not defeat summary judgment motion). The
moving party may satisfy this burden “by showing - that
is pointing out to the district court - that there is an
absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party's
case.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315
F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curium) (internal
quotations omitted; citations omitted).
motion for summary judgment is supported by documentary
evidence and sworn affidavits and “demonstrates the
absence of a genuine issue of material fact, ” the
nonmoving party must do more than vaguely assert the
existence of some unspecified disputed material facts or
“rely on conclusory allegations or unsubstantiated
speculation.” Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs.,
Inc., 781 F.3d 42, 44 (2d Cir. 2015) (citation omitted).
The nonmoving party “must come forward with specific
evidence demonstrating the existence of a genuine dispute of
material fact.” Id.; see also First Nat.
Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Service Co., 391 U.S. 253, 289
(1968) (nonmoving party must submit sufficient evidence
supporting factual dispute that will require factfinder to
resolve differing versions of truth at trial).
reviewing the record, the court must “construe the
evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party
and to draw all reasonable inferences in its favor.”
Gary Friedrich Enters., L.L.C. v. Marvel Characters,
Inc., 716 F.3d 302, 312 (2d Cir. 2013) (citation
omitted). If there is any evidence from which a reasonable
factual inference could be drawn in favor of the non-moving
party for the issue on which summary judgment is sought, then
summary judgment is improper. See Security Ins. Co. of
Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., 391 F.3d 77,
83 (2d Cir. 2004).
one party is proceeding pro se, the court must read his
papers liberally and interpret them “to raise the
strongest arguments that they suggest.” Willey v.
Kirkpatrick, 801 F.3d 51, 62 (2d Cir. 2015) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). Despite this liberal
interpretation, however, “[u]nsupported allegations do
not create a material issue of fact” and cannot
overcome a properly supported motion for summary judgment.
See Weinstock v. Columbia Univ., 224 F.3d 33, 41 (2d
Cir. 2000), cert. denied, 540 U.S. 811 (2003).
court draws the following facts from the defendants'
Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement (“Defs.'
Stmt.”) [Doc.#41-3], which the plaintiff has not
contested,  and the supporting exhibits.
plaintiff was confined at Cheshire from October 21, 2016
until June 1, 2017. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 1; Aff. of
Boyd-Carter (“Boyd-Carter Aff.”), Defs.' Ex.
C [Doc.#41-6] ¶ 7. He was released from DOC custody on
September 29, 2017. See Notice of Change of Address
Erfe was the warden at Cheshire during the time the plaintiff
was confined there. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 2; Aff. of Scott
Erfe (“Erfe Aff.”), Defs.' Ex. A [Doc.#41-4]
¶ 3. Neither Erfe nor Commissioner Semple review mail or
periodicals received by inmates at Cheshire. Defs.' Stmt.
¶¶ 3, 12; Erfe Aff. ¶ 6. Pursuant to DOC
Administrative Directive (“Admin. Dir.”) 10.7,
“the Unit Administrator or designee shall review the
individual publication prior to the rejection of that
publication.” Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 5; Erfe Aff.
¶ 5; DOC Admin. Dir. 10.7, Defs.' Ex. C, p.2.
Cheshire has mail officers who review incoming periodicals.
Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 6; Erfe Aff. ¶ 5.
policy provides that no incoming periodical can be rejected
without individual review. Defs.' Stmt. ¶ 16; Erfe
Aff. ¶ 14; DOC Admin. Dir. 10.7, Defs.' Ex. C, p.32.
“The Unit Administrator or designee may not establish
an excluded list of publications.” DOC Admin. Dir.
10.7(4)(N)(2), Defs.' Ex. C, p.32. Thus, there is no list
of periodicals to be rejected without review at Cheshire,
Defs.' Stmt. ¶¶ 13-14, ...