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Hairston v. Samuels

December 4, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jerome B. Simandle


Plaintiff Arthur L. Hairston, Sr. ("Plaintiff" or "Mr. Hairston"), an inmate at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey ("F.C.I. Fort Dix"), brings this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and under the authority of Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), for civil damages against the defendant, Charles Samuels ("Defendant" or "Mr. Samuels"), the former warden of F.C.I. Fort Dix. Plaintiff alleges that the Defendant violated his First Amendment rights to privacy and to petition the courts for legal redress by instituting a policy at F.C.I. Fort Dix that required all inmates to turn over outgoing special mail*fn1 to a unit team member for further processing. Presently before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment [Docket Item 25]. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Defendant's motion for summary judgment.


A. Facts

At issue in this case is the procedure for collection of special mail from inmates put into place by the Defendant in his capacity as warden of F.C.I. Fort Dix. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3(3).)

On February 16, 2006, the Defendant issued a memorandum to his staff and inmates at F.C.I. Fort Dix eliminating the "special mail drop-box" and establishing a procedure whereby "all special mail for general population inmates must be hand delivered to a unit team staff member for further processing." (Decl. of J. Andrew Ruymann, Ex. 2.) This memo was issued in response to a February 1, 2006 memorandum from John M. Vanyun, Assistant Director of the Correctional Programs Division for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, to the regional directors of the Bureau. (Id. at Ex. 3.) The memo from Mr. Vanyun mandated the same procedures that the Mr. Samuels set forth in his later memo. (Id.) Mr. Vanyun's memo simply elaborated on the details and reasons for the procedures. (Id.) As a result of the procedures established by Mr. Samuels' memo, the special mail box was removed from the premises at F.C.I. Fort Dix and all prisoners were required to submit their special mail to unit team personnel. (Am. Compl. ¶ 3(3).)

According to the Amended Complaint, the policy promulgated by the Defendant requires the Plaintiff to wait until 3:30 p.m. every day to hand over any special mail to the unit team leaders, a restriction that the Plaintiff has characterized as "a nightmare and very challenging." (Id.) According to Mr. Hairston, this restriction has caused him to feel that he "doesn't even want to deal with the unreasonable situation of having to wait until 3:30 throughout the week to mail properly marked legal mail, special inmates grievances through a partial [u]nit [t]eam." (Id. ¶ 3(6).)

Plaintiff states that the policy described above varies to a great degree from the previous policy in existence at F.C.I. Fort Dix and throughout the Federal Bureau of Prisons ("B.O.P.") of allowing inmates to place special mail at any time of day in a separate mailbox specifically set up for that purpose. (Id. ¶ 3(3).) The Plaintiff urges that this previous policy allowed inmates to "drop properly marked legal mail in the [b]ox and not have to be subjected to the unit team[']s unprofessional conduct." (Id.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the instant case on October 12, 2006 and filed an Amended Complaint on July 11, 2007 [Docket Item 7]. The Plaintiff did not complete service on the United States as required under Rule 4(i) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure until January 2, 2008 [Docket Item 18]. The Defendant filed the motion at issue in this case in lieu of an Answer, to the merits of which the Court now turns*fn2 [Docket Item 25].


A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate when the materials of record "show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law."

Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In deciding whether there is a disputed issue of material fact, the court must view the evidence in favor of the non-moving 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 v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986)). The threshold inquiry is whether there are "any genuine factual issues that properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because they may reasonably be ...

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