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Dinote v. Danberg

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 23, 2013

NANCY DINOTE, Plaintiff,


GREGORY M. SLEET, Chief District Judge.


The plaintiff, Nancy Dinote ("Dinote"), filed a Complaint (D.I. 1) against the defendants, Carl C. Danberg, Commissioner of the Department of Correction, Rebecca McBride, Director of Central Offender Records, G.R. Johnson, Warden of Sussex Correctional Institute, Michael Deloy, and Patrick Ryan, Warden at Delores J. Baylor Women's Correctional Institute (collectively, the "defendants") on March 26, 2012.[1] In her Complaint, Dinote seeks compensatory damages, as well as cost of suit and attorney's fees in connection with the defendants' alleged violation of her civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 11 Del. C.§§ 2104, 2105, and the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. ( Id. at ¶¶ 48, 51.) Dinote asserts each claim against the defendants in their individual capacities. ( Id. at ¶ 6.)

Presently, there are two remaining claims for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] First, Dinote asserts that transporting female inmates, released by judicial order processed through Delaware's Central Offender Records ("COR"), from the Sussex Correctional Institution ("SCI") to the Baylor Women's Correctional Institution ("BWCI"), violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. ( Id. at 14.) Second, Dinote argues that the second strip search to which she was subjected upon arrival at BWCI and after the COR received her release order, violated her Fourth Amendment rights. (D.I. 38 at 18.) On March 4, 2013, following the completion of discovery, the defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). (D.I. 34.) In response, Dinote filed an Answering Brief opposing the motion on April 9, 2013 (D.I. 38) and, on April 16, 2013, the defendants filed a Reply (D.I. 40). Presently before the court is the defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated below, the court will grant the defendants' motion.


The facts underlying the instant action are not in dispute. On May 9, 2010, Dinote and her husband were arrested on charges stemming from a domestic dispute and were taken to Delaware State Police Troop 7. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 7; D.I. 35 at 3.) There, Dinote's husband was video arraigned and released to his son, Steven, on the condition that he reside with his son in Virginia. (D.I. 35 at 3.) Justice of the Peace William Boddy informed Steven that Dinote would not be released due to her intoxication level.[3] (D.I. 35-1 at 18.) Judge Boddy committed Dinote to the custody of the Department of Corrections in default of $500 cash bail and scheduled a video arraignment for Monday, May 10, 2010 at 1:30 p.m. ( Id. )

Dinote was then transported to SCI, arriving at 12:59 a.m. on May 10, 2010. (D.I. 1 at ¶¶ 10-12.) Dinote was strip searched upon arrival at SCI and assessed by a nurse. ( Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.) Dinote was later video arraigned on May 10, 2010 at 1:45 p.m. by Justice of the Peace Adams. (D.I. 35 at 4.) Judge Adams reduced Dinote's bail to $250 unsecured with a no contact order. ( Id. ) At 2:24p.m. that day the Justice of the Peace Court executed a judicial order for Dinote's release. ( Id. ) COR, the Delaware entity responsible for the final processing of inmate releases statewide, received Dinote's release order at 3:23 p.m.[4] ( Id. )

Dinote, in the company of four other female offenders, was transported from SCI to BWCI on May 10, 2010 at 7:45p.m, as SCI had not received her release order from COR by that time and SCI does not house women inmates for over twenty-four hours.[5] ( Id. ) Dinote had difficulty entering the prison van due to physical disability and sustained minor injuries when she fell trying to enter it without assistance. (D.I. 1 at ¶ 34.) At BWCI booking and receiving, Dinote was again strip-searched and was required to bathe without soap in a shower in which another inmate had vomited and defecated. ( Id. at ¶ 36.) COR completed the processing ofDinote's release order and she was ultimately released at approximately 12:50 p.m. on May 11, 2010 after BWCI received the release order. (D.I. 35-1 at 5.)


Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c), summary judgment is appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). The moving party bears the burden of proving that no genuine issue of material fact exists. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 585 n.10 (1986). A fact is material if it "could affect the outcome" of the proceeding. Lamont v. New Jersey, 637 F.3d 177, 181 (3d Cir. 2011). There is a genuine issue "if the evidence is sufficient to permit a reasonable jury to return a verdict for the non-moving party." Id. When determining whether a genuine issue of material fact exists, the district court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw inferences in that party's favor. See Wishkin v. Potter, 476 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2007). If the moving party is able to demonstrate an absence of disputed material facts, the nonmoving party must then "come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial.'" Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 587 (citing FED. R. Crv. P. 56(e)).

Importantly, the mere existence of some evidence in support of the nonmoving party will not prove sufficient for denial of a summary judgment motion. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249 (1986). Rather, the nonmoving party must present enough evidence to enable a jury to reasonably find for it on that issue. Id. Specifically, the party opposing summary judgment "must present more than just bare assertions, conclusory allegations or suspicions' to show the existence of a genuine issue." Podobnik v. US. Postal Serv., 409 F.3d 584, 594 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 325). Thus, a nonmoving party asserting that a material fact is in dispute must support this assertion by: "(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, ... admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or (B) showing that the materials cited [by the opposing party] do not establish the absence... of a genuine dispute...." See FED. R. Crv. P. 56(c)(1). If the nonmoving party fails to make a sufficient showing on an essential element of its case for which it has the burden of proof, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 32.


As noted, Dinote asserts two causes of action. Dinote alleges that the institutional policy in place requiring COR to process release orders, during which time women may be transferred to BWCI, has a discriminatory impact on women and violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (D.I. 1 at ¶¶ 45-48.) In addition, Dinote alleges that her Fourth Amendment rights were violated when she was strip searched at BWCI, after she was already ordered released. ( Id. at ¶¶ 49-51.) Dinote brings each claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[6]

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a means to redress violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983, however, is not an independent source of substantive rights, but merely a method to vindicate violations of federal law committed by state actors. Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). "To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the ...

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