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Bethune v. Owens

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

August 12, 2019

ANTWON A. BETHUNE, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID OWENS, as WARDEN AT CAMDEN COUNTY CORRECTIONAL FACILITY, Defendant.

          Antwon A. Bethune, Plaintiff Pro Se

          Stephanie C. Madden, Esquire Office of Camden County Counsel Attorney for Defendant David Owens

          OPINION

          NOEL L. HILLMAN U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE

         I.INTRODUCTION

         This matter comes before the Court on the motion for summary judgment (“the Motion”) of defendant Warden David Owens (“Defendant” or “Owens”). (D.E. 23.) Plaintiff Antwon A. Bethune (“Plaintiff”) filed an affidavit in response to the Motion (D.E. 24), to which Defendant filed a reply. (D.E. 25.) The Motion is being considered on the papers pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 78(b). For the reasons set forth below, the motion for summary judgment will be granted.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee at the Camden County Correctional Facility (“CCCF”) from September 11, 2015 through April 28, 2017. (D.E. 1 at 5; D.E. 23-1 at 10; D.E. 23-2 at ¶3.)[1] He is proceeding pro se with a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights complaint (“the Complaint”) against Defendant as CCCF's warden regarding the conditions of confinement during Plaintiff's incarceration. (D.E. 1.)

         Plaintiff contends that Defendant was “deliberately indifferent to my rights by continuing to house me in overcrowded housing units where I [was] forced to sleep on the floor.” (D.E. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff alleges that he “put grievances in [to CCCF personnel], [but] receiv[ed] no responses back[, ] with the highly overcrowded conditions going on for years.” (Id. at 5.) He contends that the allegedly overcrowded conditions “subjected me to unsanitary conditions which breed multiple different kinds of staff [sic] infections [and] incite violence in a[n] already unsafe environment.” (Id. at 5-6.)

         Plaintiff states that the alleged confinement conditions caused him to suffer “back pain, sore muscles, muscle spasms [and] effects [on] my sleep.” (Id. at 6.)

         Plaintiff seeks $1, 000, 000 in compensatory damages, $500, 000 in punitive damages, and $500, 000 for “mental and physical damage.” (Id. at 6-7.) He also asks that he and “all future inmates housed at CCCF never have to sleep on the floor.” (Id. at 6.)

         B. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On March 6, 2017, this Court granted Plaintiff's IFP Application and directed the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint. (D.E. 2.) After screening Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A, the Court ordered that the Complaint's Fourteenth Amendment conditions of confinement claim against Defendant be allowed to proceed. (D.E. 3.)

         Defendant filed an Answer to Plaintiff's Complaint on May 21, 2018. (D.E. 18.) On August 13, 2018, Magistrate Judge Ann Marie Donio issued a scheduling order requiring that all pretrial factual discovery be concluded by November 30, 2018. (D.E. 19.) Defendant served Plaintiff with his: (1) November 1, 2018 Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 Disclosures (D.E. 23-6 at 2-50); (2) November 1, 2018 document requests (D.E. 23-7 at 2-5); and (3) November 1, 2018 interrogatories. (D.E. 23-7 at 6-13.) Defendant's Motion states that Plaintiff had not, as of January 24, 2019, served Defendant with any discovery responses or disclosures. (D.E. 23-1 at 6.) Plaintiff's February 27, 2019 response to the Motion appended his responses to Defendant's interrogatories and document requests. (D.E. 24 at ¶3; D.E. 24 at 5-8.) Such measures are untimely under the Court's August 13, 2018 scheduling order that established a November 30, 2018 pretrial factual discovery deadline. (D.E. 19.) Plaintiff's February 27, 2019 response also appended document requests directed to Defendant. (D.E. 24 at 9-10.) Those discovery requests are also untimely under the scheduling order. (D.E. 19.)

         On January 24, 2019, Defendant filed the motion for summary judgment now pending before the Court. (D.E. 23.) On February 27, 2019, Plaintiff filed an affidavit in opposition to the Motion. (D.E. 24.) On March 11, 2019, Defendant filed a reply. (D.E. 25.)

         III. DISCUSSION

         Defendant moves for summary judgment on three grounds: (1) Plaintiff's failure to adduce evidence from which a reasonable fact finder could find unconstitutional conditions of confinement at CCCF (D.E. 23-1 at 8-12; D.E. 25 at 2-3); (2) the Complaint's mootness, in light of the Sixth and Amended Final Consent Decree in the class action Dittimus-Bey, et al. v. Camden Cty. Corr. Facility, et al., Docket No. 05-cv-0063 (D.N.J.) (“Dittimus-Bey”) (D.E. 23-1 at 13-14; D.E. 25 at 3-4); and (3) Defendant's entitlement to qualified immunity, based on Plaintiff's failure to show that Defendant was aware of purported risk of serious harm or that he individually participated or acquiesced in the alleged wrongs. (D.E. 23-1 at 13-14; D.E. 25 at 4.)

         This Court finds that: for reasons discussed in Part IV, the mootness doctrine does not apply to Plaintiff's claims for monetary relief; but for reasons discussed in Part V, Defendant is entitled to summary judgment by virtue of the lack of a genuine dispute of material fact. Given that summary judgment is proper, there being no ...


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