Evicci v. Baker, CIV.A.00-10749-WGY.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 1st Circuit. United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Massachusetts
Citation190 F.Supp.2d 233
Docket NumberNo. CIV.A.00-10749-WGY.,CIV.A.00-10749-WGY.
PartiesWilfred H. EVICCI, Plaintiff, v. Shawn BAKER; Jerry Devitto; J. Bellerose; Leslie; Santiago "Doe"; Paul Dipaolo, Defendants.
Decision Date12 March 2002

Page 233

190 F.Supp.2d 233
Wilfred H. EVICCI, Plaintiff,
Shawn BAKER; Jerry Devitto; J. Bellerose; Leslie; Santiago "Doe"; Paul Dipaolo, Defendants.
No. CIV.A.00-10749-WGY.
United States District Court, D. Massachusetts.
March 12, 2002.

Page 234

Craig & Macauley, P.C., Boston, MA, c/o Taylor, Ganson & Perrin, Boston, MA, for plaintiff.

Page 235

Wilfred Evicci, MCI-Shirley, SMU-Z # 2, Shirley, MA, pro se.

Michael H. Cohen, Department Of Correction, Bridgewater State Hospital, Bridgewater, MA, Maryanne E. Kilty, for Shawn Baker, Jerry Devitto, J. Bellerose, Santiago Doe, Paul Dipaolo, Defendants.


YOUNG, Chief Judge.

I. Introduction

Wilfred H. Evicci ("Evicci"), currently incarcerated at the Southeastern Correctional Center in Bridgewater, Massachusetts, regularly appears as a pro se civil litigant in this Court — more often than many of the most esteemed members of the Massachusetts Bar. This opinion addresses one of the three complaints he filed in 2000 — a fraction of the nine complaints Evicci has filed in this District during the previous three years.1

In this case, his complaint of April 17, 2000, Evicci alleges that he was beaten by several correctional officers and that a subsequent conspiracy existed to cover up the beating and deny him access to medical care.

The Court appointed Evicci counsel, in the hope that such counsel would be able properly to present Evicci's valid claims. Unfortunately, counsel subsequently encountered family tragedy that rendered him unable to continue the representation. The Court has since encountered severe difficulty in finding counsel willing to accept the significant burden Evicci represents (he sues his lawyers). Replacement counsel, in fact, has been impossible to locate.

As a result, this Court entered an order on January 9, 2002, directing that Evicci proceed pro se, and now addresses the defendants' pending motion for summary judgment.

II. Factual Background

This complaint names as defendants Shawn Baker ("Baker"); Jerry DeVitto ("DeVitto"); J. Bellerose ("Bellerose"), all correctional officers at Souza-Baranowski Correctional Center ("Souza-Baranowski"); "Leslie," a nurse employed by Correctional Medical Services who worked at Souza-Baranowski; Santiago "Doe", an inner perimeter security officer at Souza-Baranowski; and Paul DiPaola ("DiPaola"), the former superintendent and chief administrator at Souza-Baranowski.2 See Compl. ¶ 2-10, Docket No. 6, No. 00-10749-WGY.

Page 236

On July 17, 1999, Evicci was housed in the North Special Management Unit ("NSMU") at Souza-Baranowski. Defs.' Mem. in Support p. 2. Evicci alleges that on that date, Baker, Bellerose, and DiVitto took him, in handcuffs and leg shackles, to a visiting room cell. Compl. ¶ 13. Baker entered the room behind Evicci and began punching his back, "causing pain and injury that lasted for weeks and months after and was torture during and after said assault." Id. ¶ 15. Subsequently, Bellerose and DiVitto joined Baker in beating Evicci, inflicting additional pain and injury. Id.

"Jane Doe Nurse" of the Health Services Unit performed an initial examination of Evicci later that day. Id. ¶ 16. The examination took place in front of several correctional officers with Evicci in handcuffs and leg shackles. Id. The examination revealed that Evicci had injuries to his back; he was therefore given pain pills. Id. Although Evicci was told that he would be checked by a doctor on Monday, no examination was given. Id.

Evicci asserts that the defendants took measures to cover up the assault. Id. For example, Evicci states that Santiago Doe saw the marks on Evicci's body, but refused to take pictures of them, stating "the investigation stops when you tell me how to do my job." Id. ¶ 17. Evicci further alleges that this refusal and other "careless disregard for the inmate ... substantiate[s] [the] conspiracy to cover-up illegal things." Id.

The complaint makes no specific allegations against DiPaolo, merely identifying him as the superintendent at Souza-Baranowski at the time of the alleged beating. Id. ¶ 10. Nor does the complaint make specific allegations against Leslie, beyond identifying her as a nurse employed by Correctional Medical Services who worked at Souza-Baranowski.3 Id. ¶ 5.

On July 9, 2001, Baker, DeVitto, Bellerose, and DiPaolo (collectively, the "Defendants"), filed a motion for summary judgment.4 This motion has been scheduled, and rescheduled, for oral argument several times. The personal tragedies of Evicci's former appointed counsel and this Court's subsequent inability to locate replacement counsel prevented prior adjudication of the motion.

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Summary judgment is appropriate if, after reviewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and drawing all justifiable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) (citing Adickes v. S.H. Kress & Co., 398 U.S. 144, 158-59, 90 S.Ct. 1598, 26 L.Ed.2d 142 (1970)), "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). A "genuine" issue is one that "properly can be resolved only by a finder of fact because [it] may reasonably be resolved in favor of either party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106

Page 237

S.Ct. 2505. A "material" fact is one that "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." Id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. Thus, summary judgment should be denied if there is sufficient evidence such that a jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Id. at 249-52, 106 S.Ct. 2505.

The moving party bears the burden of showing that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that he or she is therefore entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-24, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Finn v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 782 F.2d 13, 15 (1st Cir.1986). If the movant satisfies this burden, then the nonmovant can only survive summary judgment by proffering evidence supporting the existence of a genuine issue of material fact to be resolved at trial. Donovan v. Agnew, 712 F.2d 1509, 1516 (1st Cir.1983). The adverse party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleadings," but rather must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e); Anderson, 477 U.S. at 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505. When the nonmoving party bears the burden of proof on the merits, it is sufficient for the moving party to show an absence of evidence in support of the nonmoving party's case. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 325, 106 S.Ct. 2548.

B. Pro Se Complaints

Pro se complaints are generally held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Am. Jur.2d, Pro Se Complaints § 2510; see Pavilonis v. King, 626 F.2d 1075, 1078 (1st Cir.1980) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)). This relaxation of the formal requirements applies to the legal formalities of pleading and the demarcation of causes of action. See Rohler v. TRW, Inc., 576 F.2d 1260, 1267 (7th Cir.1978) (requiring court to amend erroneous jurisdictional statement); Miles v. Ertl Co., 722 F.2d 434, 435 (8th Cir.1983) (reversing district court's dismissal of a case wherein the facts arguably asserted a cause of action, but the complaint was deficient in form and content).

Although pro se complaints are to be construed liberally, Miles, 722 F.2d at 435, citing Haines, 404 U.S. at 519, 92 S.Ct. 594, there is a limit. If, after opportunity to correct deficiencies in the allegations, a plaintiff's "complaints are so hopelessly general that they could give no notice of ... [the] claims" then the complaint is properly dismissed. Pavilonis, 626 F.2d at 1078. In other words, leniency applies to the formalities, not the facts, of a cause of action.

In short, courts should act to insure that pro se litigants rights are not inadvertently jeopardized through tactical or legal ignorance. Additionally, if there are causes of action which a plaintiff desires to assert, but the facts pled do not quite meet the legal requirements,5 the Court should accord the plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint to plead the required facts.

Evicci is an indigent person proceeding pro se, his handwritten complaint crafted and submitted without the benefit of counsel. Accordingly, it falls to this Court to refine the complaint appropriately to present the legal and factual issues necessary to the resolution of this dispute.

Page 238

C. Evicci's Causes of Action

As a result of the multiplicity of allegations and causes of action associated with Evicci's eight cases, certain claims more appropriate to other cases are tangentially implicated in this case. This much is clear, however: Evicci's complaint here addresses one set of facts — his alleged beating by Department of Corrections personnel and the circumstances attendant thereon. Evicci identifies three aspects of the fact pattern for which he seeks redress: (a) the alleged beating; (b) the alleged failure to provide adequate medical care; and (c) the alleged conspiracy to cover up the beating and inadequate medical care.

Given this background, the Court has reviewed Evicci's complaint and his associated affidavits, motions, memoranda and letters, and finds that Evicci intends to assert the following causes of action:

1. Violation of the U.S. Constitution, Eighth Amendment, in that Baker, Bellerose and Devitto allegedly beat Evicci in a holding cell as described in the complaint (the "beating"), such beating allegedly constituting cruel and unusual...

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