United States District Court, D. New Jersey
TORMU E. PRALL, Plaintiff,
SUPREME COURT, et al., Defendants.
E. PRALL, Plaintiff pro se 700294B/650734 New Jersey State
Prison P.O. Box 861 Trenton, New Jersey 08625
GREWAL, Attorney General for the State of New Jersey BY:
MARVIN FREEMAN, Deputy Attorney General Office of the
Attorney General 25 Market Street Trenton, New Jersey 08625
Attorneys for Defendants Sgt. Stanley Judson, SCO Daniel
Witzel, and SCO Edward Santiago
B. SIMANDLE U.S. District Judge.
a prisoner confined at New Jersey State Prison, brought this
suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that various
officers of the New Jersey Department of Corrections'
Special Operations Group used excessive force to remove him
from a courtroom and return him to prison following a court
appearance while he was shackled.
matter comes before the Court on Defendants' Sgt. Stanley
Judson, SCO Daniel Witzel, and SCO Edward Santiago motion for
summary judgment. [Docket Entry 57]. Plaintiff Tormu Prall
opposes the motion. [Docket Entry 60]. The motion is being
considered on the papers pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b).
principal issues to be decided are (1) whether Plaintiff
exhausted his administrative remedies under the Prison
Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”) prior to
filing his complaint in federal court; (2) whether Defendants
are entitled to summary judgment on Plaintiff's claims
that they used excessive force in violation of the Eighth
Amendment when removing him from a state courtroom, and (3)
to the extent there may have been a violation, whether
Defendants are entitled to qualified immunity.
Court finds that Plaintiff did not exhaust his administrative
remedies under the PLRA and is therefore precluded from
filing suit. Alternatively, the Court determines that no
reasonable jury could conclude Defendants used excessive
force against Plaintiff on the record before the Court.
Therefore, the Court will grant the summary judgment motion
for the reasons stated below.
December 1, 2011, Plaintiff filed a complaint against
numerous state officials based on his “conscientious
object[ion] to New Jersey[‘s] criminal injustice
system.” [Docket Entry 1 ¶ 26]. The Court granted
Plaintiff's in forma pauperis
application and permitted the complaint to
proceed on his claims of excessive force and failure to
intervene in an alleged attack by corrections officers on
April 4, 2013. [Docket Entries 7 & 8]. On November 25,
2014, the Court granted Plaintiff's motion to amend the
complaint. [Docket Entry 25].
filed their motion for summary judgment on March 23, 2018.
[Docket Entry 57]. Plaintiff filed opposition on April 9,
2018. [Docket Entry 60]. On October 26, 2018, the Court gave
notice to the parties that it may resolve factual disputes
regarding Plaintiff's exhaustion of administrative
remedies as part of Defendants' summary judgment motion
pursuant to Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203 (3d
Cir. 2018) and Small v. Camden County, 728 F.3d 265
(3d Cir. 2013). [Docket Entry 62].
Allegations in Pleadings
Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was transported to
state court proceedings in Mercer County Superior Court on
April 19, 2011 by Defendants Judson, Witzel, Delvalle,
Santiago. [Amended Complaint, Docket Entry 26 ¶ 10]. He
alleges he was restrained through steel leg shackles, steel
hand shackles, a belly chain, “and a black box through
which the belly chain and hand shackles were bound.”
appeared before the Honorable Edward M. Neafsey, J.S.C.
[Id. ¶ 11]. At some point, Judge Neafsey
ordered Plaintiff to be removed from the courtroom.
[Id. ¶ 12]. According to the complaint,
“[d]efendants Judson, Witzel, Delvalle, and Santiago
pulled Prall out of his chair, kicked his shoes off, stepped
on his leg restraints and made him walk so fast that it
caused him to fall to the ground, hit, slammed and pressed
his head into the courthouse walls . . . .”
[Id.]. Plaintiff further alleges he was made to walk
in the rain with bare feet and that his face was scraped
along the fence in the court parking lot. [Id.].
Plaintiff states that the shackles cut off circulation in his
hands, arms, and legs. [Id. ¶ 13]. He reported
the use of force to the New Jersey Department of Corrections
and was informed an investigation would occur.
[Id.]; see also [Docket Entry 1-2].
Plaintiff alleges no investigation ever took place. [Docket
Entry 26 ¶ 13].
Defendants' Statement of Material Facts
state that Plaintiff was transported to the Mercer County
Courthouse from New Jersey State Prison (“NJSP”)
on April 19, 2011. [Defendants' Statement of Facts
(“DSOF”), Docket Entry 57-1 ¶ 1]. At that
time, Plaintiff was confined in NJSP's Management Control
Unit. [Id. ¶ 2]. He was restrained using
handcuffs, a black box, belly chains, and leg irons.
[Id. ¶ 3].
Superior Court judge ordered Plaintiff from the courtroom.
Plaintiff alleges that Defendants pulled him out of his chair
by his chains. [Id. ¶ 4]. Plaintiff alleged
that the leg irons cut off his circulation. [Id.
¶ 5]. He further alleged that an unknown officer stepped
on his ankle chain, causing him to trip. [Id.
¶¶ 6-7]. He asserts “when Defendants stepped
on his chains it was intentional because it happened more
than once.” [Id. ¶ 8]. The officers were
walking close to Plaintiff and “were physically holding
him up as he walked at a fast pace.” [Id.
¶ 9]. Plaintiff alleges Defendants bumped his head
against the elevator wall. [Id. ¶ 10].
argues that he lost one shoe when they got outside due to the
fast pace and had to continue walking with only one shoe and
one sock. [Id. ¶ 12]. He claims that when he
was put in the transport van, the officers told him
“‘wait until we get back. You are going to see
what is going to happen.'” [Id. ¶
13]. When they arrived at NJSP, Defendants placed Plaintiff
in a holding pen before taking him to his unit and leaving.
[Id. ¶ 14]. The restraints were removed, and
the numbness left Plaintiff's limbs. [Id. ¶
15]. “Plaintiff stated that the physical injuries were
temporary.” [Id. ¶ 16].
was examined by Registered Nurse Bernice Anene immediately
upon his return from Mercer County Courthouse. [Id.
¶ 17]. His medical records for that examination state
that he was “‘seen on return from court trip.
Denies any medical ...