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Hooks v. Schultz

January 29, 2010


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


This action is presently before the Court on the second motion for summary judgment of the two remaining defendants, Warden Paul Schultz and Food Services Administrator Douglas McPhail [Docket Item 59]. This motion is unopposed. The case arises from an assault upon Plaintiff, Glen A. Hooks ("Plaintiff"), on January 10, 2007, at the Federal Correctional Institution in Fairton, New Jersey ("FCI Fairton"), at the hands of a fellow inmate*fn1 with a history of psychiatric illness, including incidents of violence at another institution.

As the Court will explain at greater length below, because it is undisputed that neither defendant knew of the risk the assailant posed to Plaintiff (or anyone else), the Court will grant Defendants' second motion for summary judgment.*fn2


A. Facts

The Court has already set forth, at length, the facts of this case, Hooks v. Schultz, No. 07-5627, 2009 WL 777394 (D.N.J. Mar. 19, 2009), and so that Court will only briefly outline the underlying incident giving rise to this claim. On January 10, 2007, while working in the Food Service Department at FCI Fairton, Plaintiff was attacked by the assailant inmate, also a Food Service inmate employee. Id. at *1-2. Plaintiff suffered a large, deep laceration on the left side of his forehead and a swollen left upper cheek. Id. at *2.

As outlined in the March 19th opinion, the assailant inmate arrived at FCI Fairton on February 6, 2006, having incurred five disciplinary violations (some violent) at his prior institution, and worked in the Fairton Food Services Department for almost ten consecutive months. Id. The inmate suffered from a mental health history of depression and schizophrenia. Id. When he arrived, the inmate's name was put on the Psychology Management List -- a list of inmates with extensive mental health issues that is distributed to executive staff, department heads, Lieutenants, and unit teams. (Defs. Statement of Material Facts ¶ 10.)*fn3

Starting from the inmate assailant's arrival at FCI Fairton, he was monitored and cared for by Dr. Claude Dennery, an FCI Fairton staff psychologist, and Dr. Julie Smith, the Chief Psychologist. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 18-25.) Dr. Dennery met with the inmate on February 6, 2006 and cleared him for placement in the general population, "because [the inmate] was taking his medications with reported success in managing his mental illness, had a bright affect, and denied distress and suicidal ideation or intent." (Id. ¶ 18.) Beginning in November, 2006, the inmate began to show some signs of instability, by refusing to work at one point (id. ¶ 19), sporadically taking his medication (id. ¶¶ 20, 23), and on at least on occasion "sitting for long periods and staring" (id. ¶ 2). Dr. Dennery reviewed each occurrence and determined that the inmate remained fit to return to work. (Id. ¶¶ 19-25.) Dr. Smith has reviewed Dr. Dennery's decision and determined that "[r]eturning the inmate to his work assignment was [] clinically appropriate." (Id. ¶ 29.) "Dr. Dennery never contacted Warden Schultz, Food Services Administrator McPhail, or any other staff member to report that the inmate was unstable, aggressive, assaultive or otherwise inappropriate for continued placement in the general population." (Id. ¶ 26.)

Defendant McPhail is responsible for managing the food program at FCI Fairton, but he does not determine whether inmates are sufficiently physically or mentally fit to work in Food Services. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Instead, that determination is made by health care professionals, because McPhail has no medical or psychological training. (Id. ¶ 8.) Defendant McPhail did not know that the assailant inmate posed any risk to Plaintiff or anyone else. (Id. ¶¶ 12-15.) Defendant McPhail never observed the inmate behave violently, erratically, or in any unusual manner, and instead found him to be "a good worker, [who] was quiet and kept to himself." (Id. ¶ 13-15.) No one on McPhail's staff told him of threatening behavior by the inmate, and no one from Psychology Services or Heath Services suggested that the inmate was unfit to work in Food Services. (Id. ¶ 14.)

Defendant Schultz manages the day to day operations of FCI Fairton and he relies on the Psychological Services staff to determine the appropriate placement for inmates with mental health problems. (Id. ¶ 16.) Prior to the January 10, 2007 attack, Defendant Schultz did not know that the inmate was dangerous or assaultive, as he did not access the inmate's psychological or disciplinary records nor was he warned of any such risk. (Id. ¶ 17.) "The Warden had no personal knowledge prior to January 10, 2007, of the inmate's institutional or psychological histories, and was unaware of any likelihood or propensity for assaultive behavior or the circumstances under which such might occur." (Id.)

B. Procedural History

On November 26, 2007, Plaintiff filed his complaint in this matter, along with several exhibits detailing the January 10, 2007 assault against him and requests he had made to FCI Fairton officials. In that complaint Plaintiff alleged that Defendants Schultz and McPhail, as well as Associate Warden Karl Belfonti, Captain Michael Ward, Assistant Administrator of Food Services Michael Howard, Chief Psychologist Dr. Julie Smith, and Clinical Director Dr. R. B. Morales, M.D., violated Plaintiff's Eight Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment.*fn4

On March 19, 2009, this Court granted summary judgment in favor of Defendants Belfonti, Ward, Howard, Smith, and Morales. The Court denied summary judgment to Schultz and McPhail, finding that a genuine dispute existed as to whether Defendants Schultz and McPhail knew that the assailant inmate presented a threat to Plaintiff and were deliberately indifferent to that risk. Hooks, 2009 WL 777394, at *13-14. The Court emphasized that summary judgment on this issue was premature, because there had been no opportunity for discovery. Id. at *13.

Following the March 19, 2009 Opinion, the Magistrate Judge entered a scheduling order, extending factual discovery to June 30, 2009 and making dispositive motions due by August 17, 2009. On July 17, 2009, Defendants Schultz and McPhail filed the instant second motion for summary judgment, arguing that there is now no genuine dispute that Defendants Schultz and McPhail ...

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