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Baker v. Brown

March 13, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Joseph E. Irenas


IRENAS, Senior District Judge

Plaintiff commenced this action on October 7, 2004, against 24 employees of the New Jersey Department of Corrections (the "DOC") in their personal and official capacities, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on June 13, 2006. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant the motion in part, and deny the motion in part.


Plaintiff, James Baker, is a former New Jersey inmate who was incarcerated from December 4, 1987 through October 8, 2004 for robbery, criminal attempt, and kidnaping.*fn1 (Hardrick Aff.). During the period of his incarceration, Plaintiff was housed at various institutions throughout the State. (Id.)

This action is brought against 24 different Defendants, all of whom are sued in their individual and official capacities. (Compl. at ¶¶ 3-12). Defendant Devon Brown is the former Commissioner of the DOC. Defendant James Barbo is the Director of the DOC. Defendants Jack Osvart and Kathy Ireland are Disciplinary Hearing Officers, and are employees of the DOC.

Defendant Kathy MacFarland is the Administrator of Southwoods State Prison ("Southwoods"). Defendants Keith Arch and John Mourovich are the Superintendents of the same facility. Defendants Sgt. John Dempsey, Sgt. Jennifer Watson, Correction Officer ("CO") Casey Piatt, CO Michael Gallagher, CO Joseph Mott, and CO Michael Williams are officers at Southwoods. Defendant Sue Dolbow is the librarian at Southwoods and a DOC employee.

Defendant Sally Scheidemental is the Superintendent of Riverfront State Prison ("Riverfront"). Defendants Sgt. Aaron Johnson, CO Michael Sanders, and CO Andrew Fulton are officers at Riverfront. Defendant Ellen Hodges is a teacher at Riverfront and is an employee of the DOC.*fn2

Throughout Plaintiff's incarceration, he was transferred numerous times. In March 2001,*fn3 Plaintiff was transferred from Northern State Prison to Riverfront.*fn4 (Baker Dep., at 14:3-7). On April 19, 2002, Plaintiff was issued a disciplinary infraction for indecent exposure, being in an unauthorized area, and disruptive conduct. (Id. at 31:10-19).

Plaintiff was found guilty of these charges by Defendant Osvart. He appealed to Defendant Sally Scheidemental, who upheld the guilty charge. (Baker Dep., at 31:24-32:10). Plaintiff subsequently appealed to the Appellate Court, which also upheld the charges. (Id. at 33:4-7). Plaintiff claims that Defendants Osvart and Scheidemental denied his right to due process because certain (unidentified) documents were not considered during the hearing or submitted on appeal. (Id. at 31:2-5, 56:4-58:8). Plaintiff did not file an Administrative Remedy Form ("ARF") against Defendants Osvart and Scheidemental. (Id. at 79:12-15).

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Johnson, who filed the indecent exposure charge against Plaintiff on April 19, 2002, falsified the charge to retaliate against him for complaining. (Baker Dep., at 41:5-19). Plaintiff did not file an ARF against Defendant Johnson. (Id. at 41:20-23).

Plaintiff claims that Defendant Fulton, who charged him for being in an unauthorized area, falsified the charge to retaliate against him for complaining. (Baker Dep., at 48:4-10). Plaintiff did not file an ARF against Defendant Fulton. (Id. at 49:15-17). Plaintiff also claims that Defendant Sanders engaged in similar retaliation, but did not file an ARF against him either. (Id. at 50:2-4, 14-16).

Plaintiff claims that he had requested to enroll in a computer class taught by Defendant Hodges, but was denied enrollment. (Baker Dep., at 54:13-17). He subsequently filed a complaint against her. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Hodges retaliated against him for the complaint by falsely reporting to Defendant Johnson regarding the indecent exposure charge. (Id. at 54:7-11). Plaintiff wrote a complaint about this alleged retaliation, but was unsure whether he filed an ARF against Defendant Hodges. (Id. at 54:9-12).

Plaintiff was transferred from Riverfront to East Jersey State Prison in April, 2002, and from East Jersey State Prison to Southwoods in June, 2002. (Baker Dep., at 14:11-23).

Plaintiff sent a letter to Defendant Barbo sometime before July 28, 2003,*fn5 regarding the alleged assault of another inmate, Eric Patterson, by Defendants Dempsey and Gallagher. (Id. at 22:17-21, 25:7-11).

According to Plaintiff, Defendant Dempsey retaliated against him because of the letter. Plaintiff claims that on June 1, 2003, Defendant Dempsey went to Plaintiff's cell, screamed at him for no reason, and then, with the help of Defendant Piatt and another officer, took him to the social worker's office. (Baker Dep., at 34:11-16). In the office, Defendants Dempsey and Gallagher allegedly threatened Plaintiff not to reveal any information about Eric Patterson. (Id. at 34:19-24). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Defendant Gallagher told him that he would not be able to receive parole in 2004. (Id. at 42:12-17). Plaintiff submitted an ARF against Defendants Dempsey, Gallagher and Piatt. (Id. at 79:16-22).

About June 2, 2003, Plaintiff claims that Defendants Dempsey and Piatt went into his cell and stole legal documents. (Baker Dep., at 38:10-15). Subsequently, he was moved to a different cell. While there, Defendants Watson and Williams allegedly planted a weapon in his cell. (Id. at 39:10-18). He also claims that Defendant Williams tampered with his mail, opened his remedy forms and the answers to his remedy forms. (Id. at 69:17-24).

After the weapon was found in his cell, Plaintiff was handcuffed by Defendant Mott. He claims that Mott applied excessive force by cuffing him too tightly. (Baker Dep., at 60:20-21). Plaintiff did not file an ARF against Defendant Mott (Id. at 81:11-14), but did file it against Defendant Watson. (Id. at 79:22-25). Plaintiff complained to Internal Affairs about Defendants Piatt and Williams, but it was unclear whether he filed an ARF. (Id. at 43:21-44:4, 46:13-17).

On August 3, 2003, Plaintiff was charged with possessing a weapon (a "shank"). (Id. at 60:6-8). He was initially found guilty by Defendant Ireland. (Id., at 58:11-20). The guilty finding was ...

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