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Raymond v. Rodriquez

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 24, 2014

THOMAS J. RAYMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
EUSEHIO RODRIQUEZ, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

GREGORY M. SLEET, District Judge.

The plaintiff, Thomas J. Raymond ("Raymond"), an inmate at the James T. Vaughn Correctional Center, Smyrna, Delaware, appears pro se and was granted permission to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (D.I. 6.)

I. BACKGROUND

Raymond filed a complaint and amendments raising failure to protect claims, pursuant to 42 U.S.c. § 1983, against the defendants Sgt. Dorian George ("George") and C/O Jason Foraker ("Foraker) (together "State defendants") and a State assault claim against inmate Eusehio Rodriquez ("Rodriquez"). (D.I. 3, 8.)

Raymond and Rodriquez were housed together. According to Raymond's affidavit, on or about November 10, 2011, he notified a female officer that Rodriquez had a razor blade. (D.I. 8, PI.'s aff. 1.) She notified C/O Green who conducted a shakedown of the cell occupied by Raymond and Rodriquez, but no razor blade was found. ( Id. )

On the morning of November 15, 2011, Raymond called George to his cell and gave him a note. (D.I. 8, Pl.'s aff. 2.) The note states:

I have to speak with you about this guy in this room (he) has already told the Sgt. on 12-8 the he was going to F-me up. This Sgt. should of had him removed from this room for making a statement like that. He talks to himself and he always threatening me even though I know that he's all talk. Now there are only two people in this room. He's told me he was going to hit me and knock me down so I sayed [sic] to him is that what they are telling you to do and he said yes. This guy has a mental problem.

(D.I. 8, Pl.'s aff. 2, ex. A.)

According to Raymond's affidavit, after George read the note he told Raymond to get Rodriquez. (D.I. 8, Pl.'s aff. 3.) Rodriquez left and then returned to the room. ( Id. ) Raymond "sensed" that something bad was going to happen to him if he stayed in the room and sought help from Foraker, who according to Raymond, ignored his pleas and told him to go to his room. ( Id. ) Foraker's affidavit states that he believed that Raymond wanted to speak to him prior to the incident with Rodriquez, but Raymond did not go into details. (D.I. 163, ex. C.) Foraker states that Raymond did not tell him tell him that he was in fear for his life or that he felt threatened by Rodriquez. ( Id. ) Foraker also states that he had no indication that either Raymond or Rodriquez would have an altercation that day. ( Id. )

According to Raymond, when he return to the cell, Rodriquez sliced Raymond's arm with a razor. (D.I. 3, ex. B; D.I. 8, Pl.'s aff. 3.) Rodriquez told Raymond he did it because the DOC did not take him seriously. ( Id. ) At approximately 11:50 a.m. on the same day, Foraker and another correctional officer were called to Alpha Lower 12. (D.I. 163, ex. B.) Foraker noticed that Raymond had a bloody towel hanging from his hand. ( Id. ) He rushed over, and Raymond told him that Rodriguez had cut him with a razor on his right forearm. ( Id. ) Rodriquez had no apparent injuries. (D.I. 163, ex. C.) George was informed, and a Code 8 ( i.e., inmate fighting) was called. (D.I. 163, ex. B.) Raymond and Rodriquez were separated and each questioned. According to Raymond, Rodriquez admitted to the assault. (D.l. 3 at Pl.'s aff.) Rodriguez was searched for a weapon but none was found on his person. In addition, their cell was searched, but no weapon was recovered. ( Id. ) Raymond was taken to medical for treatment and twelve sutures were required. (D.I. 138 at 14.)

Raymond was charged with assault, disorderly or threatening behavior, fighting, failing to obey an order, lying, failing to obey an order/abide by posted regulations and/or assignments. (D.I. 8, ex. C.) He was found guilty of disorderly or threatening behavior and fighting. (D.I. 138 at 5.) Raymond was moved to segregation following receipt of a sanction of fifteen days of isolated confinement with the sanction scheduled to end on November 29, 2011. (D.I. 138 at 5.) A pre-segregation health assessment noted three lacerations to Raymond's right forearm where he had been cut with a razor. (D.I. 138 at 8, 9.)

After he was released from isolation, Raymond filed Grievance No. 236410 on December 5, 2011, complaining that on November 13, 2011, he had notified two unidentified officers in building 21 that his cellmate had a razor. A female officer notified C/O Green who conducted a shakedown of the cell, but no razor blade was found. Raymond stated that the correctional officers put his life in danger when Rodriquez used the same razor to injure him. He asked for an investigation. The grievance was deemed "non grievable." (D.I. 163, ex. E.) On December 6, 2011, Raymond filed Grievance No. 236411 against S/Lt. Reynolds regarding the outcome of his disciplinary hearing. Raymond was informed that the matter was "non grievable." ( Id. ) Raymond submitted Grievance No. 238713 on January 14, 2012, claiming that his life was placed in danger on November 15, 2011 by Foraker and George because they "ignored [his] plea for help" and this "resulted in the above being assaulted by the above's roommate with a razor." ( Id. ) The grievance was returned as "non grievable, " as a request not processed through the grievance process, and as filed in an expired filing period. (D.I. 163, ex. E.) It was also returned as a duplicate grievance as the issue was previously addressed in Grievance No. 236410. ( Id. ) Finally, when the grievance was returned, it advised that a request for an investigation should be made to the Unit Commander. ( Id. )

Raymond raises a State claim of assault against Rodriquez. He alleges that George and Foraker were aware of threats to him by Rodriquez and that they failed to protect him in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (D.I. 3 at PI.'s aff.) Raymond seeks compensatory damages.

Currently pending before the court are numerous motions filed by Raymond including: (1) motions for entry of default, for a hearing on default judgment, and for default judgment (D.I. 87, 93, 94, 95, 97[1]); (2) motions for entry of judgment pursuant to Rule 54 (D.I. 96, 125, 129, 151, 159); (3) request for counsel (D.I. 98); (4) motion to extend time to complete discovery (D.I. 100); (5) motions for declaratory judgment (D.I. 101, 102, 132); (6) motions for partial summary judgment (D.I. 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 150); (7) motions for summary judgment (D.I. 110, Ill. 112); (8) motions for hearings (D.I. 113, 152[2]); (9) motion for civil immunity (D.l. 114); (10) motion for the court to rule on motions (D.I. 117); (11) motions to amend (D.I. 116, [3] 118, 160); (12) motions for discovery and to compel (D.I. 97, [4] 128, 139, 141, 145, 157); (13) motion for the defendants to respond to the plaintiffs motions for summary judgment (D.I. 154[5]); and (14) motion for attorney fees (D.I. 158). Also pending are the State defendants' motion to strike interrogatories (D.I. 141) and motion for summary judgment (DJ. 148).

II. REQUESTS FOR DEFAULT/DEFAULT JUDGMENT (D.I. 87, 93, 94, 95, 97)

Rodriquez has been served with the complaint but, to date, has not answered or otherwise appeared. George and Foraker filed an answer to the amended complaint on August 2, 2012. (D.I. 66.) Raymond seeks entry of default and a default judgment. (D.I. 87, 94, 95.) He also seeks default judgment against Rodriquez in the sum of $250, 000 and against State defendants and employees or their agents. (D.I. 93.) Finally, Raymond requests a hearing or jury trial on the issue of damages. (D.I. 93, 97.)

"When a party against whom a judgment for affirmative relief has failed to plead or otherwise defend as provided by these rules and that fact is made to appear by affidavit or otherwise, the clerk shall enter the party's default." Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). It is clear from the record before the court that Rodriquez has "failed to plead or otherwise defend" against the complaint as provided by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Therefore, the court will grant Raymond's motion for entry of default as to Rodriquez. (DJ.95.) As noted, George and Foraker have appeared and answered the amended complaint. Therefore, the court will deny the request for the entry of default of the State defendants. The Clerk of Court will be ordered to enter a default in appearance against Rodriguez.

Entry of default judgment is a two-step process. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a), (b). A party seeking to obtain a default judgment must first request that the clerk of the court "enter... the default" of the party that has not answered the pleading or "otherwise defend[ed], " within the time required by the rules or as extended by court order. Fed.R.Civ.P. 55(a). Even if default is properly entered, the entry of judgment by default pursuant to Rule 55(b)(2) is within the discretion of the trial court. Hritz v. Woma Corp., 732 F.2d 1178, 1180 (3d Cir. 1984). The court finds premature the remaining motions for entry of default judgment and for hearing on damages given that they were filed prior to entry of default by the Clerk of Court. Said motions will be denied without prejudice to renew. (D.I. 87, 93, 94, 97.)

III. MOTIONS FOR DECLARATORY JUDGMENT (D.I. 101, 102, 132)

Raymond filed three motions for declaratory judgment asking the court to terminate the controversy between the parties and to award declaratory judgment in his favor on the grounds that the defendants cannot possibly present or provide to the court a genuine issue of material fact to support their case due to the undisputed facts. (D.I. 101, 102, 132.)

Rule 57 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Declaratory Judgment Act of 1934 ("the Act") provide that the court may declare the rights and other legal relations of any interested party seeking such declaration, whether or not further relief is or could be sought. Any such declaration shall have the force and effect of a final judgment or decree and shall be reviewable as such. 28 U.S.C. § 2201. Declaratory judgment is inappropriate solely to adjudicate past conduct. Corliss v. O'Brien, 200 F.Appx. 80, 84 (3d Cir. 2006) (unpublished) (citing Gruntal & Co., Inc. v. Steinberg, 837 F.Supp. 85, 89 (D.N.J. 1993)). In addition, it ...


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