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Jose Navarrete v. United States of America

September 4, 2012

JOSE NAVARRETE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION

SIMANDLE, Chief Judge:

I. INTRODUCTION

This action is before the Court on the unopposed motion of the sole remaining Defendant in this action, former Warden Charles E. Samuels, Jr., for summary judgment. [Docket Item 65.] Plaintiff Jose Navarrete, an inmate confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Fort Dix, New Jersey, brought this action for damages to recover the cost of a correspondence course for which he registered but was unable to complete because he did not receive the course textbook and study guide in time to complete the course. Plaintiff's surviving claim alleges that Former Warden Samuels, who was Warden at FCI Fort Dix at the time of the events alleged in Plaintiff's Complaint, caused a violation of Plaintiff's constitutional rights under the First and Fifth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and is therefore liable to Plaintiff for damages caused by such violation pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Defendant Samuels now moves for summary judgment, arguing that the record is devoid of any evidence indicating that he was personally involved in the returning of Plaintiff's textbook and study guide, and that he therefore cannot be found liable under a Bivens claim. Because the Court agrees with Defendant that no dispute exists on the record over the Defendant's personal involvement in Plaintiff's injuries, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

II. BACKGROUND

The following facts are contained in Defendant's statement of uncontested facts, submitted pursuant to Local Civil Rule 56.1(a), and are deemed undisputed by the Court for purposes of this motion, as Plaintiff has not disputed any of the supported facts. See L. Civ. R. 56.1(a) ("any material fact not disputed shall be deemed undisputed for purposes of the summary judgment motion.").

Plaintiff, who was at all times relevant to this action an incarcerated prisoner at FCI Fort Dix, applied to participate in an accounting course through the Louisiana State University's Office of Independent Study in June of 2006. Pascal Decl. ¶ 2 and Ex. B. Plaintiff paid the $229 course fee and study guide fee out of his Federal Bureau of Prisons ("BOP") inmate account later that month. Id. ¶ 3. The course enrollment period was from June 19, 2006 to March 19, 2007. Id.

Toward the end of July of 2006, a friend and fellow inmate of Plaintiff ordered and paid for a textbook and study guide for Plaintiff to use in the accounting course from the LSU bookstore. Id. ¶ 2. Plaintiff did not request or complete a package authorization form to receive the package containing this textbook and study guide. Id. ¶ 3. The mailroom at FCI Fort Dix had a regular practice of requiring that inmates submit an approved a package authorization form for all packages, including packages containing textbooks and other educational materials, or the mailroom would return such package to the sender unopened. Rodriguez Decl. ¶¶ 4-6. When an unauthorized package was returned to the sender unopened, notification was not given to the inmate, but a notation to the sender would be included on the returned package. Id. ¶¶ 6, 14.

By September of 2006, Plaintiff had not received his textbook and study guide, so he began submitting inmate requests to the Education Department and the Associate Warden at FCI Fort Dix, asking after the missing package. Pascal Decl. ¶¶ 2-3. In October, he wrote to the LSU Independent and Distance Learning Department asking after the textbook and study guide and was informed that the package was returned by FCI Fort Dix, marked "refused." Id. ¶ 4. Plaintiff's friend received a refund for the books. Id.

On December 2, Plaintiff requested, for the first time, a package authorization form to receive the package containing the textbook and study guide. Id. He also, on that date submitted another inmate request to staff asking after his returned package, but for the first time directed such request to the mailroom and sent a copy of the request to Defendant Former Warden Samuels. Id. ¶¶ 2, 4. This was the first notice that Defendant was given regarding Plaintiff's textbook. Id.

On December 11, 2006, Plaintiff's friend ordered the textbook and study guide again from the LSU bookstore. Id. ¶ 4. On December 13, Plaintiff completed the proper authorization request forms to receive the textbook and study guide for the course, which was promptly approved. Id. Plaintiff received the textbook and study guide for the course on February 7, 2007. Id.

Plaintiff did not contact Defendant regarding the status of his textbook until after it had been returned. Shortly thereafter, Plaintiff received his textbook after he complied with the FCI Fort Dix procedures for receiving packages. Id. ¶ 2-4; Moran Decl. ¶ 4. During his time as Warden of FCI Fort Dix, Defendant did not have personal involvement with the day-to-day operations regarding delivery, rejection, or return of inmate mail. Samuels Decl. ¶¶ 2, 6. Nor was he involved in creating, applying, or interpreting BOP policies regarding the rejection of inmate mail or the training of mailroom staff. Id. ¶ 6.

Plaintiff initially filed his Complaint pro se in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. [Docket Item 1.] The action was subsequently transferred to this Court [Docket Item 4.], and on January 28, 2010, the Court completed its sua sponte review of Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1915(e) and 1915A(b). [Docket Items 9 & 10.] The Court dismissed all claims against all Defendants save Plaintiff's claim of a constitutional ...


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