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Toolasprashad v. Wright

August 8, 2006

LATCHMIE TOOLASPRASHAD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROBERT WRIGHT, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simandle, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff brought this action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging that Defendants, all present or former employees of the Federal Bureaus of Prisons ("BOP") at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey ("FCI Fort Dix"), violated Plaintiff's constitutional rights. Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the Complaint, which motion this Court granted in its entirety in an Opinion and Order filed on December 22, 2005. Plaintiff and Defendants filed motions for reconsideration of that decision under Local Civil Rule 7.1(i). Plaintiff also filed a motion for recusal of the undersigned on May 31, 2006. For the reasons expressed below, Plaintiff's motion for reconsideration will be granted as to his claim of exhaustion of administrative remedies of his retaliation and conspiracy claims, and denied with respect to all other arguments. Defendants' motion for reconsideration will be granted, vacating the Court's finding on December 22, 2005 that Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies upon his claims of conspiracy and retaliatory firing, and the Court will reach the merits of these claims and find, upon reconsideration, that the Defendants are entitled to summary judgment upon the merits thereof, see Parts III. A. 1 and 2, below. Plaintiff's motion for recusal will be denied, see Part IV, below.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff Latchmie Toolasprashad is an inmate presently serving a life sentence at FCI Fort Dix. As early as April 1, 2002, Plaintiff was an inmate worker in the commissary on the west side of FCI Fort Dix ("Commissary West"). According to the Complaint, while Plaintiff was working in the commissary, three of his supervisors, Defendants Wright, Kneiblher, and Cremer, harassed and threatened him without cause. (Compl. at. ¶ 2.) In particular, Plaintiff alleges Defendants denied him access to the commissary restroom and water fountain. Plaintiff also claims that no chairs were made available to him while working in the commissary, despite a medical condition preventing him from standing continuously. (Compl. at ¶ 40-42.) Additionally, Plaintiff alleges that around April 29, 2002, he was removed from his position at the commissary, along with three other inmates, in retaliation for his complaints. (Compl. at 34.)

Plaintiff submitted his Complaint on November 14, 2002, and it was partially dismissed and otherwise permitted to go forward past initial screening under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 by Opinion and Order filed June 4, 2003. Defendants subsequently moved for summary judgment on April 20, 2005, seeking dismissal of the Complaint in its entirety. By Opinion and Order dated December 22, 2005, this Court granted Defendants' motion. Defendants filed a motion for reconsideration on January 9, 2006, and Plaintiff filed a reconsideration motion on January 11, 2006. The parties have made written submissions in connection with these motions which the Court has considered.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Local Civil Rule 7.1(i) of the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, governs the instant motion for reconsideration. That rule requires that the moving party set forth the factual matters or controlling legal authority that it believes the court overlooked when rendering its initial decision. L. Civ. R. 7.1(i). Whether to grant reconsideration is a matter within the district court's discretion, but it should only be granted where such facts or legal authority were indeed presented but overlooked. DeLong Corp. v. Raymond Int'l, Inc., 622 F.2d 1135, 1140 (3d Cir. 1980), overruled on other grounds by Croker v. Boeing Co., 662 F.2d 975 (3d Cir. 1981); Williams v. Sullivan, 818 F. Supp 92, 93 (D.N.J. 1993).

A "motion for reconsideration is not a vehicle to reargue the motion or to present evidence which should have been raised before." Bermingham v. Sony Corp. of America, Inc., 820 F. Supp. 834, 856-67 (D.N.J. 1992), aff'd, 37 F.3d 1485 (3d Cir. 1994). A motion for reconsideration is improper when it is used solely to ask the court to rethink what it has already thought through rightly or wrongly. Oritani Savings & Loan Assoc. v. Fidelity & Deposit Co., 744 F. Supp. 1311, 1314 (D.N.J. 1990) (citations omitted). Finally, a motion for reconsideration does not allow a party to "simply change [] theories and [try] again," thus giving that party "a second bite at the apple." Bhatnagar v. Surrendra Overseas Ltd., 52 F.3d 1220, 1231 (3d Cir. 1995).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies Regarding Plaintiff's Retaliation and Conspiracy Claims

Defendants argue that the Court overlooked the Declaration of Roberta Truman dated April 20, 2005, detailing the administrative remedy requests filed by the Plaintiff while at FCI Fort Dix between September 2000 and March 2005.*fn3 (Defs.' Br. at 3.) Plaintiff similarly argues that the Court overlooked various documents in concluding that the administrative remedies regarding his retaliation and conspiracy claims were not exhausted. (Pl.'s Br. at 1.)

A review of Roberta Truman's Declaration indicates that Plaintiff did exhaust his retaliation and conspiracy claims. An inmate has not exhausted his available administrative remedies until he has properly submitted his complaints and been denied at three levels. Following an informal request (BP-8), an inmate may submit an Administrative Remedy Request (BP-9) to the warden. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15. An inmate who is not satisfied with the Warden's response may submit an Appeal to the Regional Director (BP-10). 28 C.F.R. § 542.15. An inmate who is not satisfied with the response from the Regional Director may submit an Appeal to the General Counsel (BP-11). 28 C.F.R. § 542.15.

Here, Plaintiff properly submitted his complaints and was denied at all three levels. Plaintiff filed an informal request on May 10, 2002 and subsequently filed a BP-9 with the warden on May 21, 2002. (Truman Decl., April 20, 2005, Ex. 16.) The request was rejected for exceeding the page limit (id. at Ex. 17) and Plaintiff re-filed the BP-9 on June 18, 2002 (Id. at Ex. 18). Plaintiff's request was denied on July 16, 2002 (id. at Ex. 19) and he appealed by filing a BP-10 on July 18, 2002 (Id. at Ex. 20). Plaintiff's appeal to the Regional Director was denied on August 23, 2002 (id.) and he appealed to the General Counsel (BP-11) on August 30, 2002 (Id. at Ex. 21). The appeal was denied on October 24, 2002.

Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff did in fact exhaust his administrative remedies as to his claims for retaliation and conspiracy.*fn4 The Court must now evaluate whether summary judgment is appropriate on the merits. The Court will discuss the retaliation and conspiracy claims separately. For the ...


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