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Rucker v. Gilmore

United States District Court, D. Kansas

February 6, 2015

MATTHEW RUCKER, Plaintiff,
v.
JASON GILMORE, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JULIE A. ROBINSON, District Judge.

Plaintiff Matthew Rucker, proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, filed a complaint against Sergeant Jason Gilmore, Lieutenant Tracy McCulloch, Warden Jeffrey Fewell, Sheriff Don Ash, Sergeant Robert Rome, Major James Eickhoff, and Captain John Russell.[1] Plaintiff seeks to hold Defendants liable under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 for violating his constitutional rights while Plaintiff was an inmate at the Wyandotte County Detention Center ("Detention Center"). Plaintiff alleges that Defendants retaliated against him for exercising his freedom of speech by subjecting him to inhumane conditions of confinement. This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 38) pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).[2] For the reasons explained in detail below, Defendants' motion is granted.

I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

Summary judgment is appropriate if the moving party demonstrates "that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact" and that it is "entitled to judgment as a matter of law."[3] In applying this standard, the court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[4] "There is no genuine issue of material fact unless the evidence, construed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party."[5] A fact is "material" if, under the applicable substantive law, it is "essential to the proper disposition of the claim."[6] An issue of fact is "genuine" if "there is sufficient evidence on each side so that a rational trier of fact could resolve the issue either way."[7]

The moving party initially must show the absence of a genuine issue of material fact and entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.[8] In attempting to meet this standard, a movant that does not bear the ultimate burden of persuasion at trial need not negate the nonmovant's claim; rather, the movant need simply point out to the court a lack of evidence for the nonmovant on an essential element of the nonmovant's claim.[9]

Once the movant has met the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial."[10] The nonmoving party may not simply rest upon its pleadings to satisfy its burden.[11] Rather, the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts that would be admissible in evidence in the event of trial from which a rational trier of fact could find for the nonmovant."[12]

The defendant has the burden of proof on the affirmative defense, and thus in moving for summary judgment on the affirmative defense, "[t]he defendant... must demonstrate that no disputed material fact exists regarding the affirmative defense asserted."[13] Once the defendant makes this initial showing, "the plaintiff must then demonstrate with specificity the existence of a disputed material fact."[14] If after the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the plaintiff cannot meet this burden, "the affirmative defense bars his claim, and the defendant is then entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law."[15]

Finally, summary judgment is not a "disfavored procedural shortcut"; on the contrary, it is an important procedure "designed to secure the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action."[16] In responding to a motion for summary judgment, "a party cannot rest on ignorance of facts, on speculation, or on suspicion and may not escape summary judgment in the mere hope that something will turn up at trial."[17] When examining the underlying facts of the case, the Court is cognizant that it may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence.[18]

II. UNCONTROVERTED FACTS

The following facts are uncontroverted and all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Plaintiff as the non-movant.[19] While Plaintiff was an inmate at the Detention Center he requested an envelope and the addresses for the Call newspaper and the Kansas City Star newspaper on February 4, 2011. Detention Center Standing Operation Policy F-115 (postcard-only policy) requires that inmates send all non-official mail on 5x7 postcards; mail to the media is not official mail as defined by the policy. Defendant Fewell denied Plaintiff's request for the addresses, because the Detention Center does not typically provide addresses or other mailing information for prisoners. Plaintiff then filed an internal grievance with Fewell.

After Plaintiff filed a grievance on February 7, 2011, Fewell responded that "upon review, we will authorize release of address. We will not pay or provide envelopes. Media is not privileged."[20] Also on February 7, 2011, Plaintiff sent a grievance to "Programs." A response was noted on the Inmate Communication Form ("ICF") that "[p]er administration media addresses may be provided; however, correspondence is not privileged. Thus, correspondence will be via postcard only as we will not provide envelopes or pay postage."[21] Plaintiff then wrote letters to the media in a sealed envelope in violation of the prison's postcard-only policy. Defendant Gilmore issued a disciplinary citation to Plaintiff for the violation. Defendant McCulloch then placed Plaintiff's letters to the media in his central property file to be returned to him upon his release from the prison. The letters, however, were not returned to Plaintiff when he was transferred to another facility. Plaintiff was found guilty of the violation and sentenced to disciplinary segregation.

Plaintiff, upset by what he perceived to be a violation of his rights, informed Defendant Ash that Plaintiff was on a hunger strike. Ash told Plaintiff that if he wanted non-official mail to be sent in an envelope he must send the mail to his attorney. Otherwise, all non-official mail had to comply with the policy and be sent on a 5x7 postcard. Plaintiff wrote the media again, this time complying with the policy. Plaintiff wrote KCTV-5 on a series of five postcards. In the postcards, he complained that the prison had violated his constitutional rights, and he asked the station for help. Plaintiff described how several inmates had attempted to commit suicide because the conditions were so hopeless, and he told the station that if it did not help it would be covering Plaintiff's death.

Tammy Kiefer, who provides medical and mental care for inmates, placed Plaintiff on suicide watch because she concluded that Plaintiff had threatened to harm himself. On February 16, 2011, Plaintiff was transferred to the medical housing unit (I-Pod 6) for suicide watch. Plaintiff, wanting to tell his family and the media about the conditions of his confinement, requested writing materials. Defendant Gilmore denied his request for writing materials because prisoners on suicide watch are not allowed anything that could be used to harm themselves. Plaintiff was released from suicide watch and the medical housing unit on February 21, 2011, after being assessed and determined to not be a danger to himself.

The parties dispute what happened after Kiefer placed Plaintiff on suicide watch. Plaintiff claims that he was moved to an unsanitary cell where the mattress was soaked in urine and he was left naked for four hours. Plaintiff also claims that on February 16, 2011, Defendant Rome forced him to shower shackled in a locked cage shower, that Defendant Russell failed to ...


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