775 F.3d 554 (3rd Cir. 2015), 12-4226, Shelton v. Bledsoe

Docket Nº:12-4226
Citation:775 F.3d 554
Opinion Judge:McKEE, Chief Judge.
Party Name:NORMAN SHELTON, Appellant v. BRYAN A. BLEDSOE, Warden of USP Lewisburg; THOMAS A. KANE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF BUREAU OF PRISONS; JOSEPH NORWOOD, REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE NORTHEAST BUREAU OF PRISONS; CHUCK MAIORANA, Associate Warden at USP Lewisburg; KRISTA BAHRE, Associate Warden at USP Lewisburg; JAMES DUNKELBERGER, Case Manager Coordinator at USP Le
Attorney:Stephen D. Brown, Esq., Christine C. Levin, Esq. (ARGUED), Jennifer L. Burdick, Esq., Francis J. Demody, Esq., Sean P. McConnell, Dechert LLP, Philadelphia, PA, Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant. Michael J. Butler, Esq. (ARGUED), Office of United States Attorney, Harrisburg, PA, Attorney for Defe...
Judge Panel:Before: McKEE, Chief Judge, SMITH and SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:January 07, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
SUMMARY

The Special Management Unit housing unit within the Lewisburg U.S. Penitentiary houses inmates identified as having violent tendencies or having a history of gang involvement while incarcerated. Inmates assigned to the SMU are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, but can spend the remaining hour in a recreation cage. When first assigned to the SMU, inmates are interviewed by prison... (see full summary)

 
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775 F.3d 554 (3rd Cir. 2015)

NORMAN SHELTON, Appellant

v.

BRYAN A. BLEDSOE, Warden of USP Lewisburg; THOMAS A. KANE, ACTING DIRECTOR OF BUREAU OF PRISONS; JOSEPH NORWOOD, REGIONAL DIRECTOR OF THE NORTHEAST BUREAU OF PRISONS; CHUCK MAIORANA, Associate Warden at USP Lewisburg; KRISTA BAHRE, Associate Warden at USP Lewisburg; JAMES DUNKELBERGER, Case Manager Coordinator at USP Lewisburg; JOHN ADAMI, Unit Manager at USP Lewisburg; J FOSNOT, Acting Captain of Security at USP Lewisburg; F. PERRIN, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg with ranks of Lieutenant and Special Investigation Supervisor; S. HEATH, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg with ranks of Lieutenant and Special Investigation Supervisor; NELSON DREES, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg with ranks of Lieutenant and Special Investigation Supervisor; WHITAKER, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; RUPERT, Correction Officer, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; ZERDES, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; ROOP, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; WELLS, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; POTTER, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; KULAGO, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; FISHER, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; MOFFIT, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; COMBE, Corrections Officer at USP Lewisburg; THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, through its department, THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS JOHN DOE CORRECTION OFFICERS

No. 12-4226

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 7, 2015

Argued: September 11, 2013.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA. (D.C. No. 3:11-cv-01618). District Judge: Honorable William J. Nealon.

Stephen D. Brown, Esq., Christine C. Levin, Esq. (ARGUED), Jennifer L. Burdick, Esq., Francis J. Demody, Esq., Sean P. McConnell, Dechert LLP, Philadelphia, PA, Attorneys for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Michael J. Butler, Esq. (ARGUED), Office of United States Attorney, Harrisburg, PA, Attorney for Defendants-Appellees.

Before: McKEE, Chief Judge, SMITH and SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

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McKEE, Chief Judge.

Norman Shelton appeals the district court's denial of class certification and grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants on Shelton's claims for alleged violations of the Eighth Amendment and the Federal Tort Claims Act (" FTCA" ). For the reasons that follow, we will vacate the order denying class certification and granting summary judgment to defendants on Shelton's Eighth Amendment claim. We will affirm the district court's dismissal of Shelton's FTCA claim.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The Special Management Unit, or " SMU," is a housing unit within the United States Penitentiary at Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (" USP-Lewisburg" ). The SMU houses inmates who have been identified as having violent tendencies or who have a history of gang involvement during their incarceration. Inmates assigned to the SMU are confined to their cells for 23 hours a day, but they can spend the remaining hour in a recreation cage if they choose. SMU officials (including several of the defendants) are responsible for assigning cellmates in a manner that ensures the safety and security of the prison. When first assigned to the SMU, inmates are interviewed by prison officials. Information obtained during the interview is used to ensure that inmates who may be hostile to each other are not housed in the same cell.

Shelton, an inmate at USP-Lewisburg, brought this action on behalf of himself and other inmates housed in the SMU. He alleges that the defendants have engaged in a pattern, practice, or policy of improperly placing inmates who are known to be hostile to each other in the same cell. He also claims that the defendants fail to intervene when the predictable inmate-on-inmate violence erupts, and that defendants improperly restrain inmates who refuse cell assignments with inmates who are known to be hostile to them. The complaint seeks damages for Shelton personally, but it seeks only injunctive and declaratory relief on behalf of the class. Appendix (" A A." ) 88-89.

Shelton's individual claims under the Eighth Amendment and the FTCA were initially based on two separate incidents in 2009, one of which occurred in August, and the other in November. However, Shelton voluntarily dismissed claims arising from

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the August incident. We are therefore only concerned with the November incident, which occurred when Shelton was scheduled to be moved to another cell and housed with an inmate named Carr. According to Shelton, Carr had previously told a prison official, defendant Raup, that he would attack Shelton if they were housed in the same cell.

Raup purportedly threatened Shelton with punitive restraints when Shelton asked not to be housed with Carr. Shelton alleges that he was nevertheless physically forced into the cell by defendants Raup, Zelder, and two John Doe corrections officers. The next day, while Shelton was bending over to retrieve a food tray, Carr purportedly assaulted him. Shelton alleges that defendants Fisher, Raup, Kulago, Zelder, Moffit and Combe were outside his cell during the attack but did not attempt to intervene. The defendants claim that they responded in accordance with applicable policies that are designed to protect both inmates and guards.

Shelton's Eighth Amendment claims on behalf of the class are based on allegations that prison officials improperly placed inmates in cells with inmates known to be hostile to them. He alleges that the committee that makes the cell assignments places hostile inmates in the same cell despite committee's knowledge of prior violence between the inmates and its knowledge of the obvious risk the cell assignments create. According to Shelton, the injurious effects of this practice are exacerbated by a prison policy which prevents guards from promptly intervening when inmate-on-inmate violence erupts. This policy purportedly requires corrections officers to stand outside a cell and use only verbal warnings until a lieutenant arrives when inmate violence erupts inside a cell.

Shelton defined the class for which he sought injunctive and declaratory relief as:

[a]ll persons who are currently or will be imprisoned in the SMU program at USP Lewisburg. The class period commences from the time of this filing, and continues so long as USP Lewisburg Officials and Corrections Officers persist in the unconstitutional patterns, practices, or policies of (1) placing hostile inmates together in cells or recreation cages, and enforcing this placement through the use of punitive restraints, and (2) failing to take any reasonable measures to protect the inmates from inmate-on-inmate violence by hostile inmates.

A A. 77 (Compl. ¶ 119).

Shelton filed his motion for class certification 90 days after he filed the complaint, as required by Local Rule 23.3. Defendants responded by opposing class certification and asking the district court to dismiss the claims or grant summary judgment in their favor. No discovery requests were filed by either party; no disclosures were provided; and no discovery occurred. However, Shelton filed a brief opposing summary judgment, and he attached a Rule 56(d) declaration to that brief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The declaration stated that counsel needed discovery in order to properly respond to the defendants' motions.

As we noted at the outset, the district court denied Shelton's motion for class certification and granted defendants' motion for summary judgment. The court did so without first addressing Shelton's Rule 56(d) declaration. This appeal followed.

II. JURISDICTION AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

The district court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and we have jurisdiction to review final decisions of a district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

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We review rulings on class certification for abuse of discretion. A court abuses its discretion " if [its] decision rests upon a clearly erroneous finding of fact, an errant conclusion of law or an improper application of law to fact." Hayes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 725 F.3d 349, 354 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). Our review of the district court's legal rulings is de novo. Id.

To prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate " 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). In reviewing a grant of summary judgment, we assess the record using the same standard that district courts apply. Interstate Outdoor Adver., L.P. v. Zoning Bd. of Twp. of Mount Laurel, 706 F.3d 527, 530 (3d Cir. 2013). We must review the record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's favor. Id.

We review the district court's response to a Rule 56(d) declaration for abuse of discretion. Murphy v. Millennium Radio Grp. LLC, 650 F.3d 295, 310 (3d Cir. 2011).

III. CLASS CERTIFICATION

Class actions are an exception to the general rule that litigation must be conducted by individual named parties. See Comcast Corp. v. Behrend, 133 S.Ct. 1426, 1432, 185 L.Ed.2d 515 (2013). Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contains the procedural requirements for class action litigation. A party seeking to bring a class action " must affirmatively demonstrate his[or her] compliance" with Rule 23. Id. An inquiry under Rule 23 begins with a determination of whether the plaintiff has satisfied the prerequisites of Rule 23(a): numerosity, commonality, typicality, and adequacy of the class representative. Depending on the type of class the movant...

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