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Johnson v. BSP Administrator Sullivan

August 5, 2009

RALPH WILLIAM JOHNSON, JR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
BSP ADMINISTRATOR SULLIVAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This matter is before the Court upon Defendants' unopposed motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment [Docket Item 28]. Plaintiff Ralph William Johnson, Jr., proceeding pro se, is an inmate who, at the time the events underlying this lawsuit transpired, was confined at Bayside State Prison ("BSP") in Leesburg, New Jersey. On the morning of March 31, 2008, Plaintiff refused to comply with the orders of Defendant Officer Anthony Kohanski requiring that Plaintiff exit his residential unit. Plaintiff elected instead to punch Officer Kohanski in the face and to violently resist the efforts of Officer Kohanski, Defendant Officer Daniel Hayes, and other officers restrain him, and he was injured during the course of the officers' efforts to subdue him.

Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the officers used excessive force upon him in violation of his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. Defendants moved to dismiss and/or for summary judgment [Docket Item 28], and Plaintiff failed to oppose Defendants' motion. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion in its entirety.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff, who is presently incarcerated at Southern State Correctional Facility ("SSCF"), was incarcerated at BSP when the events at issue in this lawsuit took place. (Gentilini Decl. Ex. A at 10.) At approximately 7:50 a.m. on the morning of March 31, 2008, Defendant Kohanski, a corrections officer at BSP, was conducting a "routine wing search" of the "A" wing at BSP, the wing in which Plaintiff was at the time confined. (Maginnis Decl. Ex. A at 19.) During wing searches, inmates are required to vacate the wing and report to the "dayroom." (Id. at 17.) As the inmates were exiting, Defendant Kohanski walked to the back of the wing. (Id. at 19.) When Defendant Kohanski reached the rear of the wing, he turned around and observed that Plaintiff had not vacated the wing in accordance with his previous order. (Id.) Defendant Kohanski ordered Plaintiff to exit the wing, and Plaintiff again refused to comply. (Id.) For the third time, Defendant Kohanski ordered Plaintiff to leave the wing. (Id.) Plaintiff again refused to comply, and instead said, "[f]uck you, [b]itch," approached Officer Kohanski, and punched him in the face with a closed fist. (Id.)

A struggle ensued. Defendant Kohanski first called for assistance, and then grabbed Plaintiff around the waist and attempted to pull him to the ground. (Id. at 21.) Plaintiff resisted Officer Kohanski's efforts to restrain him by "swinging his arms and kicking" Kohanski. (Id.) Defendant Hayes, the first officer to respond to Defendant Kohanksi's call, arrived at the scene, and, to assist Kohanski's efforts to bring Plaintiff to the ground, grabbed Plaintiff's ankles and pulled his feet out from under him. (Id. at 22.) Plaintiff fell, landing face-first on the floor. (Id.) Defendant Hayes then ordered Plaintiff to cease struggling and put his hands behind his back, but Plaintiff "would not comply and kept punching and kicking" the officers. (Id.) By this time, multiple corrections officers had arrived on the scene, and numerous officers ordered Plaintiff "to stop resisting and put his hands behind his back." (Id. at 12.) Plaintiff refused to comply, continuing "to swing and kick at the responding Officers." (Id.)

Ultimately, using what Sergeant Parsons described as "the minimum amount of force necessary" to control Plaintiff, (id. at 17), the officers were able to restrain and handcuff Plaintiff, who continued to struggle and fight with the officers as they attempted to subdue him. (Id. at 23.) As the officers attempted to escort Plaintiff to the infirmary to treat the injuries he had sustained during the fracas, Plaintiff remained "combative and uncooperative," making "several attempts to break free of the escorts by dropping to the ground and attempting to kick at the Officers." (Id. at 31.)

At the prison infirmary, Plaintiff was evaluated by Dr. Briglia. (Gentilini Decl. Ex. C at 2.) Plaintiff complained to Dr. Briglia of pain in his face and his left ankle. (Id.) Dr. Briglia observed swelling above Plaintiff's left eye, multiple facial contusions with swelling, and found that Plaintiff had difficulty bearing weight upon his left ankle, which was tender and slightly swollen.*fn1 (Id. at 2-3.) Plaintiff was taken to South Jersey Regional Medical Center ("SJRMC") for a full evaluation. (Maginnis Decl. Ex. A at 125.) Physicians at SJRMC performed a CAT scan and took multiple x-rays, which revealed mild soft tissue swelling above Plaintiff's eye and around his left ankle, but no fractures, displacement, or spinal compression. (Id. at 129-35.) Upon his release from SRJMC, Plaintiff was taken to New Jersey State Prison for observation. (Gentilini Decl. Ex. C at 10.) By April 2, 2008 -- two days after the incident -- Plaintiff's facial contusions and ankle sprain were noted to be "improving," (id. at 32), and there is no suggestion from the record that Plaintiff sustained lasting injuries.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed this action on July 7, 2008 [Docket Item 1], complaining that Defendants*fn2 used excessive force upon him in violation of the Eighth Amendment's proscription against cruel and unusual punishment.*fn3 Defendants thereafter filed the motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment presently under consideration [Docket Item 28], which Plaintiff did not oppose.*fn4

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of ...


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