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Chairez v. Phelps

United States District Court, D. Delaware

September 12, 2017

PEDRO CHAIREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
PERRY PHELPS et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On July 21, 2011, Plaintiff Pedro Chairez ("Chairez") initiated this pro se lawsuit against Defendants employed at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center ("JTVCC"). (D.I. 1.) Chairez brought this suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging excessive force, unreasonable conditions of confinement, violation of his Due Process rights, and unreasonable search and seizure. (Id.) Chairez filed two Amended Complaints to add Defendants, Lieutenant Reynolds (D.I. 11) and Deputy Warden Pierce ("Pierce"). (D.I. 49.) To date, the remaining defendants in this action are Lieutenant Mark Daum ("Daum"), Lieutenant Brian Reynolds ("Reynolds"), former Warden Perry Phelps ("Phelps"), and former Deputy Warden Pierce ("Pierce") (collectively, "Defendants").[1]

         Presently before the court is a Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on all of Plaintiffs claims. (D.I. 71.) For the reasons that follow, the court will grant Defendants' Motion as to the Due Process and search and seizure claims and deny Defendants' Motion as to excessive force and conditions of confinement claims.

         II. BACKGROUND

         Chairez arrived from Arizona at JTVCC in May of 2011. (D.I. 72.) After Chairez's requests for a transfer back to Arizona were denied, Chairez's continuous refusals to "cuff up" resulted in three incidents which led to the instant action. (D.I. 11.) Chairez and Defendants agree that in each incident where a pepper agent was used, Chairez had refused orders. (Id.)

         The first incident occurred on June 7, 2011 when Chairez refused to "cuff up" in the exercise yard. (D.I. 72.) Chairez told officers to "[d]o what you have to do, I'm not coming out." (Id.) As a result of his continued refusal to "cuff up, " the Quick Response Team ("QRT") was deployed to remove Chairez using pepper balls. Chairez was able to maneuver away from the pepper balls, but QRT was able to subdue Chairez and force him to the ground. (Id. at 11.) A nurse was called to the scene to examine Chairez and she found no injuries. (Id.)

         During the second incident, on June 8, 2011, Chairez was removed from his cell after refusing to "cuff up" during a routine cell search. (Id.) Plaintiff refused to leave, took off his glasses, and positioned himself in the back of his cell. (Id.) After refusing to comply with the cell search, the QRT team was called. (Id.) Officers did not use force initially. (Id.) After Chairez refused to cuff up for the QRT, officers sprayed capstun through the cell and eventually subdued Chairez. (Id.) Chairez alleges that during the incident Defendants kicked him in the ribs and hit him with a metal pipe. (Id.) Medical records reveal Chairez's injuries consisted of red marks on his back and neck. (Id.) X-rays taken of Chairez's ribs were normal. (Id.) Following the incident, Chairez was placed in confinement where he complains of cold temperatures, less exercise than normal, and being unnecessarily placed in 24-hour restraints for observation. (D.I. 11, ¶ 19-24.) While Chairez was in 24-hour restraints, he was only wearing boxers, had handcuffs locked at a ninety degree angle, and wore shackles around his legs and abdominal region. (D.I. 1 at 5.)

         The last incident took place on September 27, 2011, when Daum and an Unknown Officer assisted by the QRT forcibly removed Chairez from the exercise yard after Chairez refused to "cuff up." (D.I. 11, ¶ 1.) While lying face down on the ground surrounded by officers, Chairez asserts an officer kneed him in the temple multiple times. (D.I. 11, ¶ 3.) According to Chairez, while restrained and not resisting, Daum emptied a can of pepper spray in his face. (Id.) Following the incident, Chairez was taken to medical staff who noted lacerations on his head. (Id.)

         Plaintiff asserts that since his transfer to SHU he has been subject to three unconstitutional "shake downs" a day where his cell is searched. (D.I. 11, ¶ 35.) Chairez also alleges that he never received a disciplinary notice from the June 8, 2011 incident and was not afforded the right to call a witness to his disciplinary hearing four months after the incident. (D.I. 11, 8.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         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 judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see Boyle v. Cnty. of Allegheny Pa., 139 F.3d 386, 393 (3d Cir. 1998). Thus, summary judgment is appropriate only if the moving party shows there are no genuine issues of material fact that would permit a reasonable jury to find for the non-moving party. Boyle, 139 F.3d at 393.[2] A fact is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit. Id. (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986)). An issue is genuine if a reasonable jury could possibly find in favor of the non-moving party with regard to that issue. Id.

         In deciding the motion, the court must construe all facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Id. In determining the appropriateness of summary judgment, a court must review the record as a whole and "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, [but] may not make credibility determinations or weigh the evidence." Reeves v. Sanderson Plumbing Prods., Inc., 530 U.S. 133, 150 (2000).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         The Defendants contend that, based on the available evidence of record, each of Chairez's claims fails as a ...


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