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Faggins v. Flemmings

February 5, 2007

JONATHAN FAGGINS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SGT. FLEMMINGS, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



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

HON. JEROME B. SIMANDLE

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court on the motion of Defendants Yacovelli and Dice ("Defendants") to dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6)*fn1, and/or for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56.*fn2 For the reasons explained below, the Court shall grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn3

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, Jonathan Faggins, was incarcerated at South Woods State Prison ("South Woods") in Bridgeton, New Jersey from December 31, 2002 to November 15, 2004. Plaintiff claims that in March 2004, Defendant Yacovelli, a guard at the prison, asaulted him by stomping on his feet, head-butting him, and threatening to kill him, without provocation. (Compl. at 6, 7.) Plaintiff also alleges that on October 26, 2004, Defendant Dice, without provocation, dragged him down a stairwell, slammed his face into a brick wall -- breaking Plaintiff's tooth -- and held him down while several other officers beat him. (Compl. at 6a, 7.)

Plaintiff was disciplined as a result of the encounter with Defendant Dice. According to Defendants' version of events, Defendant Dice told Plaintiff to come down a stairwell to where Dice was standing and to tuck his shirt in. Plaintiff allegedly retorted with a threat to Dice. Subsequently, Defendants claim, Dice and other officers restrained Plaintiff in handcuffs and placed him in administrative segregation.

Indisputably, South Woods charged Plaintiff with threatening another with bodily harm in violation of N.J.A.C. 10A:4-4.4(a)(*.005), an institutional infraction. A prison hearing officer found Plaintiff guilty of the charge and sanctioned him to fifteen days of detention, 240 days lost commutation time, and 240 days in administrative segregation. Plaintiff appealed this finding and in November 2004 Assistant Superintendent Andrea Kinchen upheld the hearing officer's determination of guilt but reduced Plaintiff's punishment. At some point, both parties allege, Plaintiff appealed this finding to the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, which rejected it. The Court has no record of that appeal.

Plaintiff filed this action on October 7, 2005. As an inmate at South Woods, Plaintiff had received a copy of the inmate handbook, which describes the four-step process "for inmates to make the Administration aware of their problems and concerns [and to] allow the Administration to effect timely and appropriate responses to these problems and concerns... ." (Villar Aff. Ex. C, South Woods Inmate Handbook at 96.) Step one requires inmates to file an inmate request form; step two requires inmates to file an interview request form; step three requires inmates to file an administrative remedy form; and step four permits inmates to file a form entitled "Administrative Remedy Form -- Appeal."

In this case, Defendants claim - and the record shows - that Plaintiff completed only step one with regard to the October 26, 2004 incident. There is no record of any administrative complaint form filed by Plaintiff with regard to an incident in March 2004. Plaintiff claims that he has done more than file that one complaint, including writing letters to the Governor and the President, however he does not provide the Court with any record that he exhausted the available prison remedies for either incident.

III. MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

A. Rule 56 Standard

Summary judgment is only appropriate when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). A dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable rule of law. Id. Disputes over irrelevant or unnecessary facts will not preclude a grant of summary judgment. Id.

In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the Court must view the evidence in favor of the nonmoving party by extending any reasonable favorable inference to that party; in other words, "the nonmoving party's evidence 'is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in [that party's] favor.'" Hunt v. Cromartie, 526 U.S. 541, 552 (1999) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255). The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be ...


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