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Robinson v. Wall

United States District Court, D. Rhode Island

February 19, 2015

SHAWN L. ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ASHBEL T. WALL, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

WILLIAM E. SMITH, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Shawn L. Robinson has filed a wide-ranging pro se complaint against various employees of the Adult Correctional Institution ("ACI"), alleging several instances of mistreatment while he was an inmate at the prison. In June 2011, the Court granted Robinson permission to amend his Complaint. The ACI employees at issue (collectively, "Defendants") have filed a Motion for Dismissal and Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 117.) For the reasons set forth below, that motion is GRANTED.

I. Facts[1]

On April 30, 2009, Robinson was transferred from a prison in New Jersey to the ACI. (Am. Compl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 69.) From the very start, he felt aggrieved. Upon his arrival at the ACI, correctional officials placed Robinson into disciplinary segregation. (Id. at ¶ 7.) The cell was dirty and Robinson was not provided his personal property or legal papers. (Id. at ¶ 8.) ACI officials did not permit Robinson to clean the cell or sanitize the cell's mattress. (Id. at ¶ 9.)[2] Additionally, Robinson did not receive an evening meal that night. (Id. at ¶ 10.) A correctional officer explained that Robinson had just missed the meal, and staff had distributed all food trays already. (Id.)

Feeling wronged, Robinson requested he be placed into general population and given his property and legal materials. (Id. at ¶ 11.) After ACI officials refused, Robinson requested grievance forms from Defendant Correctional Officer Albert Normandin, Sr., [3] but Normandin Sr. refused. (Id. at ¶ 13.) Normandin Sr. informed Robinson that his complaints were not the proper basis for a grievance, and that Robinson could not have his legal materials because he had too much property. (Id. at ¶¶ 13-14.) A week later, Robinson obtained a grievance form and submitted it to Normandin Sr., who refused to sign it, but took it with him. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Apparently Normandin Sr. passed this grievance up the ranks, and Defendant David McCauley visited Robinson to discuss his issues. (Id. at ¶ 16.) McCauley explained that Robinson would stay in segregation until prison officials classified him under prison security guidelines, and stated that he would provide Robinson some of his property and legal materials. (Id. at ¶ 17.) Robinson never received these materials, nor did he receive hygiene materials or dietary supplements. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.)

On May 8, 2009, Normandin Sr. searched Robinson's cell. (Id. at ¶ 19.) Robinson claims Normandin Sr. searched for materials related to the present lawsuit. (Id.) Robinson asserts that prison staff repeatedly interfered with his legal papers. (See, e.g., id. at ¶¶ 37, 51.) On May 10, 2009, Normandin Sr. moved Robinson to another allegedly dirty and unsanitary cell. (Id. at ¶ 21.) A week later, Robinson claims Defendant Albert Normandin, Jr. physically assaulted him, while Robinson was handcuffed. (Id. at ¶ 23.) A prison doctor examined Robinson after he claimed he was involved in a physical altercation at that time. (Pauline Marcussen Decl. ¶ 2, ECF No. 117-2; Ex. A, ECF No. 117-2.) The medical report generated from this visit indicates that no signs of an altercation or bruising were found on Robinson's body. (Marcussen Decl. ¶ 2.)

Meanwhile, on May 14, 2009, correctional officers transported Robinson in restraints while other prisoners were without restraints. (Am. Compl. ¶ 26.) Robinson does not claim anything out of the ordinary happened during this transport. A short while later, Robinson was classified as high security despite having a score that would indicate he was a medium security inmate.[4] Thereafter, he was strip searched, and certain of his legal materials were reviewed by prison staff including by Correctional Officer Kevin Manning. (Id. at ¶¶ 27-30.) Once he arrived in high security, Robinson was placed on "cell restriction" and claims correctional officer Walter Duffy called him "boy" and threatened him with violence. (Id. at ¶¶ 31-33.)

Robinson's litany of complaints goes on and on. In June 2009, he was placed in disciplinary segregation for allegedly complaining that he was groped during a strip search. (Id. at ¶ 35.) It is unclear how long Robinson remained in segregation, but he claims he was held there for 20 days longer than what prison policy dictates. (Id. at ¶ 38.) Robinson argues he was improperly placed in segregation on other occasions as well. (Id. at ¶ 50.)

During one strip search Robinson claims that he injured his back and that prison staff refused him medical treatment. (Id. at ¶¶ 36, 39-40.) At some point, he claims he contracted a bacterial infection, and says he was not provided adequate healthcare. (Id. at ¶¶ 42-43.)[5]

Robinson further asserts that, since his arrival at the ACI, he has not been provided sufficient food and has been unable to buy additional food. (Id. at ¶¶ 45-46.) In addition, officers did not permit Robinson to receive a holiday food package from his family. (Id. at ¶ 47.) Robinson filed a grievance related to his not obtaining his holiday basket. (Robert McCutcheon Decl. ¶ 6, ECF No. 117-1.) The prison denied this grievance because prisoners in segregation, as Robinson was, are not permitted to receive holiday gift packages. (Id. at ¶ 7.)

Robinson also claims that Correctional Officer Aceto put him in danger by stating that he was a child molester in front of other inmates. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 53-54.) Robinson states that as a result he was attacked, although he does not indicate the date of this incident, what occurred, or if he was injured. Robinson also claims Correctional Officers Duffy, Sayles and Manning put a sticker on his cell indicating he was a sex offender. (Id. at ¶ 61.)

Robinson claims that eventually, ACI officials stopped accepting grievance forms from him. (Id. at ¶ 67.) In addition, Robinson claims that prison officials falsified disciplinary reports about him. (Id. at ¶ 69.)

In June 2009, Robinson filed a Complaint in this Court related to his alleged mistreatment at the ACI. In August 2010, Robinson requested permission to file an amended complaint, which this Court granted. Now, the Defendants have moved to dismiss some of the allegations and for summary judgment on others.

II. Standard of Review

The majority of Defendants' motion argues that Robinson's Amended Complaint should be dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) because it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). A complaint containing only "labels and conclusions" or "naked assertion[s]" will not do. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Instead, a complaint must be facially plausible, which requires that a plaintiff "plead[] factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Defendants' motion to dismiss is unopposed. When deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, "the mere fact that a motion to dismiss is unopposed does not relieve the district court of the obligation to examine the complaint itself to see whether it is formally sufficient to state a claim." Pomerleau v. W. Springfield Pub. Sch., 362 F.3d 143, 145 (1st Cir. 2004) (internal citations and quotations omitted). Still, "it is within the district court's discretion to dismiss an action based on a party's unexcused failure to respond to a dispositive motion when such response is required by local rule, at least when the result does not clearly offend equity." NEPSK, Inc. v. Town of Houlton, 283 F.3d 1, 7 (1st Cir. 2002). Here, because there is no local rule specifically requiring a response, the Court may not grant dismissal merely because Robinson has failed to respond.[6]

Meanwhile, summary judgment is proper where "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). In deciding whether summary judgment should be granted, the court must review evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and must draw all favorable inferences in the non-moving party's favor. DeLia v. Verizon Commc'ns Inc., 656 F.3d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 2011). The moving party bears the initial burden of demonstrating a lack of a genuine issue of material fact, which shifts the burden to the non-moving party, who then must show that the trier of fact could rule in his favor with respect to each issue. Borges ex rel. S.M.B.W. v. Serrano-Isern, 605 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir. 2010).

Defendants are not entitled to summary judgment simply because their application is unopposed. "In the First Circuit... the Court must make a determination that entry of summary judgment is appropriate." United States v. Giordano, 898 F.Supp.2d 440, 446 n.2 (D.R.I. 2012). In fact, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that the movant show an entitlement to summary judgment even when unopposed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(3) (noting that if party fails to respond, ...


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