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Gonzalez v. Bendt

United States District Court, D. South Dakota

March 28, 2018

R. BENDT, Defendant.



         Plaintiff, Guadalupe Gonzalez, was a federal inmate housed at the Federal Prison Camp in Yankton, South Dakota (FPC Yankton).[1] On March 17, 2016, Gonzalez filed a complaint under § 1983 alleging several violations of his constitutional rights by several defendants. Docket 1. Defendants moved to dismiss the complaint (Docket 14) and the court granted the motion in part and denied the motion in part. Docket 20. The remaining issue in this case is Gonzalez's claim that defendant, R. Bendt, violated Gonzalez's rights by denying Gonzalez access to grievance forms. Docket 20 at 9. Bendt moves for summary judgment on Gonzalez's claim. Docket 25.


         Viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the non-moving party: On September 9, 2012, Gonzalez's property arrived at FPC Yankton from his previous placement at the Federal Correctional Institute in Loretto, Pennsylvania (FCI Loretto). Docket 1 ¶ 2. A staff member at FPC Yankton would not permit Gonzalez to possess his book-Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual (FAR/AIM). Id. Gonzalez was permitted to have FAR/AIM at FCI Loretto. Id. On September 17, 2012, Gonzalez initiated the Bureau of Prison's administrative remedy process. Id. ¶ 3.

         The Bureau of Prisons has a four-tiered administrative procedure for inmate grievances-a procedure codified at 28 C.F.R. § 542.10 et seq. The first step is informal resolution with prison staff. 28 C.F.R. § 542.13. Requests for Informal Resolution Forms (also referred to as BP-8) are not assigned a Remedy ID number and are not tracked. Docket 28 ¶ 7. If an inmate does not resolve his complaint with an informal resolution, he may proceed to the second step and file a formal Administrative Remedy at the institution where the inmate is incarcerated (BP-9). 28 C.F.R. § 542.14. The third step is for the inmate to file a Regional Office Administrative Remedy Appeal (BP-10) with the Regional Director. 28 C.F.R. § 542.15. And finally, the fourth step is for the inmate to file a Central Office Administrative Remedy Appeal (BP-11). Id.

         Bendt denied Gonzalez's informal resolution request stating that Gonzalez was not participating in an approved post-secondary education course. Id. Gonzalez's subsequent appeals were similarly denied. Id. ¶¶ 3-4. On April 17, 2013, Gonzalez initiated the administrative remedy process again alleging that his copy of the FAR/AIM had been removed from FPC Yankton before his administrative remedy process was completed. Id. ¶ 5. Bendt again denied the informal resolution. Id.

         Gonzalez claims that, as a result of his participation in the administrative remedy process, Bendt has retaliated against him. Id. ¶ 8. Specifically, Gonzalez states that he “was forced to file a BP-9 to Warden J.S. Willis because Mr. Bendt refused to supply [Gonzalez] with an informal resolution form, barring him from the administrative remedy process altogether.” Id. ¶ 10. Later, Gonzalez states that “Mr. R. Bendt again refused to provide Mr. Gonzalez with a form BP-11 in order for him to be able to complete his administrative remedy process.” Id. ¶ 11.

         Gonzalez asserts an action under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971).[2] Gonzalez alleges that Bendt retaliated against him by not providing Gonzalez with the necessary forms to complete his administrative appeal in violation of the First Amendment.


         Summary judgment is proper “if the movant shows 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). “[A] party seeking summary judgment always bears the initial responsibility of . . . demonstrat[ing] the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986). The moving party must inform the court of the basis for its motion and also identify the portion of the record that shows there is no genuine issue in dispute. Hartnagel v. Norman, 953 F.2d 394, 395 (8th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted).

         To avoid summary judgment, “[t]he nonmoving party may not ‘rest on mere allegations or denials, but must demonstrate on the record the existence of specific facts which create a genuine issue for trial.' ” Mosley v. City of Northwoods, 415 F.3d 908, 910 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting Krenik v. County of Le Sueur, 47 F.3d 953, 957 (8th Cir. 1995)). “[T]he mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties is not sufficient by itself to deny summary judgment . . . . Instead, ‘the dispute must be outcome determinative under prevailing law.' ” Get Away Club, Inc. v. Coleman, 969 F.2d 664, 666 (8th Cir. 1992) (quoting Holloway v. Pigman, 884 F.2d 365, 366 (8th Cir. 1989)). On a motion for summary judgment, the facts and inferences drawn from those facts are “viewed in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion.” Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-88 (1986) (quoting United States v. Diebold, Inc., 369 U.S. 654, 655 (1962)).


         In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), the Supreme Court recognized a cause of action for implied damages against federal officers in their individual capacities for violations of the Fourth Amendment. The Supreme Court recognized a Bivens remedy for violations of the Fifth Amendment and of the Eighth Amendment. Davis v. Passman, 442 U.S. 228, 249 (1979); Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 24 (1980). Several Circuits have found that a plaintiff may bring a Bivens claim for violation of the First Amendment. Yiamouyiannis v. Chem. Abstracts Serv., 521 F.2d 1392, 1393 (6th Cir. 1975) (“We recognize that Bivens dealt with a Fourth Amendment violation, but its logic appears to us to be equally applicable to a First Amendment violation.”); Paton v. La Prade, 524 F.2d 862, 870 (3d Cir. 1975) (“Thus, we believe the extension of the Bivens rule to violations of first amendment rights to be both justifiable and logical.”); Mendocino Envtl. Ctr. v. Mendocino Cty., 14 F.3d 457, 464 (9th Cir. 1994) (finding that the plaintiffs sufficiently stated a Bivens claim under the First Amendment). But more recently the United States Supreme Court has exercised caution as to expanding the scope of Bivens actions, and some circuits have followed suit.

         In Ziglar v. Abbasi, 137 S.Ct. 1843 (2017), the Supreme Court acknowledged that it had recognized three instances where a Bivens remedy is available: (1) a violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures; (2) a violation of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause for gender-based discrimination; and (3) a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Id. at 1854-55. But the Court explained that it now expresses caution as to judicial findings of implied causes of action under congressional statutes. Id. at 1856. And that “expanding the Bivens remedy is now a ‘disfavored' judicial activity.” Id. at 1857 (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S 662, 675 (2009)). The Ziglar Court laid out “[t]he proper ...

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