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Gladu v. Maine Department of Corrections

United States District Court, D. Maine

October 8, 2019



          John C. Nivison U.S. Magistrate Judge

         Defendants Maine Department of Corrections, Ryan Thornell, Randall Liberty, Victoria Mathiau and Jackie Weddle, have moved for summary judgment in this action in which Plaintiff, an inmate at the Maine State Prison, alleges Defendants violated his constitutional rights because Defendants denied him access to certain medical literature. (Motion, ECF No. 27.)

         Following a review of the summary judgment record and after consideration of the parties' arguments, I recommend the Court grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). “After the moving party has presented evidence in support of its motion for summary judgment, ‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, with respect to each issue on which he has the burden of proof, to demonstrate that a trier of fact reasonably could find in his favor.'” Woodward v. Emulex Corp., 714 F.3d 632, 637 (1st Cir. 2013) (quoting Hodgens v. Gen. Dynamics Corp., 144 F.3d 151, 158 (1st Cir. 1998)).

         A court reviews the factual record in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, resolving evidentiary conflicts and drawing reasonable inferences in the non-movant's favor. Perry v. Roy, 782 F.3d 73, 77 (1st Cir. 2015). If a court's review of the record reveals evidence sufficient to support findings in favor of the non-moving party on one or more of the plaintiff's claims, a trial-worthy controversy exists, and summary judgment must be denied as to any supported claim. Id. (“The district court's role is limited to assessing whether there exists evidence such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party.” (internal quotation marks omitted)). Unsupported claims are properly dismissed. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323-24 (1986). “As to issues on which the summary judgment target bears the ultimate burden of proof, ” the non-moving party “cannot rely on an absence of competent evidence, but must affirmatively point to specific facts that demonstrate the existence of an authentic dispute.” McCarthy v. Northwest Airlines, Inc., 56 F.3d 313, 315 (1st Cir. 1995) (citing Garside v. Osco Drug, Inc., 895 F.2d 46, 48 (1st Cir. 1990)).

         Summary Judgment Record

         When presented with a summary judgment motion, a court ordinarily considers only the facts included in the parties' statements of material facts, which statements must be supported by citations to evidence of record. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) and District of Maine Local Rule 56(b)-(d) require the specific citation to record evidence. In addition, Local Rule 56 establishes the manner by which parties must present their factual statements and the evidence on which the statements depend. A party's pro se status does not relieve the party of the obligation to comply with the court's procedural rules.[1] Ruiz Rivera v. Riley, 209 F.3d 24, 27-28 & n. 2 (1st Cir. 2000); Marcello v. Maine, 489 F.Supp.2d 70, 77 (D. Me. 2007).

         By rule, a party seeking summary judgment must file, in addition to its summary judgment motion, a supporting statement of material facts setting forth each fact in a separately numbered paragraph, with each factual statement followed by a citation to evidence of record that supports the factual statement. D. Me. Loc. R. 56(b). A party opposing a motion for summary judgment must file an opposing statement in which it admits, denies, or qualifies the moving party's statements by reference to each numbered paragraph, with citations to supporting evidence, and in which it may set forth additional facts, in separately numbered paragraphs, with citation to supporting evidence. D. Me. Loc. R. 56(c). Here, in response to Defendants' motion and their supporting factual statements, Plaintiff filed a declaration addressing Defendants' argument regarding exhaustion of administrative remedies. (ECF No. 50.)

         “Facts contained in a supporting … statement of material facts, if supported by record citations as required by this rule, shall be deemed admitted unless properly controverted.” D. Me. Loc. R. 56(f). Additionally, “[t]he court may disregard any statement of fact not supported by a specific citation to record material properly considered on summary judgment.” Id. Finally, “[t]he court shall have no independent duty to search or consider any part of the record not specifically referenced in the parties' separate statement of facts.” Id.

         Nevertheless, the factual assertions contained in the verified pleadings and affidavits filed by a pro se litigant generally will be considered in the review of a summary judgment motion. That is, where a pro se litigant has failed to comply strictly with the summary judgment rules, this Court has considered the sworn assertions of record. See Clarke v. Blais, 473 F.Supp.2d 124, 128-30 (D. Me. 2007) (“The First Circuit has not addressed this notice debate directly, but has said, in the summary judgment context, that unrepresented plaintiff's opposing affidavits and opposition papers are to be read ‘liberally.'” (citing Posadas de Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Radin, 856 F.2d 399, 401 (1st Cir. 1988), and Mas Marques v. Digital Equip. Corp., 637 F.2d 24, 27 (1st Cir. 1980)); Demmons v. Tritch, 484 F.Supp.2d 177, 182-83 (D. Me. 2007).

         Factual and Procedural Background[2]

         Plaintiff is incarcerated at the Maine State Prison (MSP). (DSMF ¶ 1.) On May 25, 2018, Defendant Weddle, the MSP librarian, refused to provide Plaintiff access to medical and mental health publications via interlibrary loan.[3] (Amended Complaint, ECF No. 10, ¶ 5; DSMF ¶¶ 4-5.) On May 28, 2018, Plaintiff filed a grievance and requested that he be “provided access to any and all medical/mental health books via ILL.” (DSMF ¶ 4.) The Grievance Review Officer denied the grievance, stating that the “[r]equest of any medical information needs to b[e] done by meeting with a medical provider.” (DSMF ¶ 7.)

         Plaintiff appealed from the denial of his grievance, arguing that “[c]ensoring medical reference material is a blat[a]nt First Amendment violation.” (DSMF ¶ 8.) The appeal was denied. (DSMF ¶ 9.) Plaintiff appealed again (DSMF ¶ 10), and Department of Corrections (DOC) Commissioner Joseph Fitzpatrick denied the appeal, stating:

A prisoner is required to receive medical information from a facility medical provider for a number of valid reasons, including, but not limited to, that the facility medical providers are familiar with the prisoner's particular health care situation and can provide the most accurate information. A prisoner attempting to do his or her own research does not have the training to understand what he or she is reading and how (or even if) it applies to the prisoner's particular situation. This leads to prisoners making demands ...

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