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Logsdon v. Wrenn

United States District Court, D. New Hampshire

February 28, 2019

Timothy Logsdon
William Wrenn, Commissioner, New Hampshire Department of Corrections, et al.[1]



         Plaintiff Timothy Logsdon, an inmate at the New Hampshire State Prison (“NHSP”), seeks monetary and injunctive relief, claiming that the defendants violated his constitutional rights by denying him visits from certain family members. Invoking 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Logsdon alleges that the restrictions on his family's visits violate his First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of familial association. Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 50), to which plaintiff has objected (Doc. No. 56). Defendant's motion has been referred to the undersigned magistrate judge for a report and recommended disposition. See Aug. 1, 2018 Order; LR 72.1. For the reasons that follow, the district court judge should grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment.

         Summary Judgment Standard

         “The purpose of summary judgment is to enable a court ‘to pierce the boilerplate of the pleadings and assay the parties' proof in order to determine whether trial is actually required.'” Fernández-Salicrup v. Figueroa-Sancha, 790 F.3d 312, 328 (1st Cir. 2015) (citation omitted). “Summary judgment is warranted if the record, construed in the light most flattering to the nonmovant, ‘presents no genuine issue as to any material fact and reflects the movant's entitlement to judgment as a matter of law.'” Lawless v. Steward Health Care Sys., LLC, 894 F.3d 9, 20-21 (1st Cir. 2018) (citation omitted); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)). At summary judgment, “[a]n issue is ‘genuine' if the evidence would enable a reasonable factfinder to decide the issue in favor of either party.” Irobe v. U.S. Dep't of Agric., 890 F.3d 371, 377 (1st Cir. 2018). “A fact is ‘material' when its (non)existence could change a case's outcome.” Mu v. Omni Hotels Mgmt. Corp., 882 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.), review denied, 885 F.3d 52 (1st Cir. 2018).

         To obtain summary judgment, “[t]he moving party must affirmatively demonstrate that there is no evidence in the record to support a judgment for the nonmoving party.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 332 (1986). “This demonstration must be accomplished by reference to materials of evidentiary quality, and that evidence must be more than ‘merely colorable.'” Flovac, Inc. v. Airvac, Inc., 817 F.3d 849, 853 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). Once the moving party makes the required showing, “‘the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must, with respect to each issue on which [it] would bear the burden of proof at trial, demonstrate that a trier of fact could reasonably resolve that issue in [its] favor.'” Id. (citation omitted). The nonmoving party's failure to prove any essential element of a claim “‘necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.'” Delgado v. Aero Inv. Corp., 601 Fed.Appx. 12, 15 (1st Cir. 2015) (quoting Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 323). The nonmoving party's failure to make the requisite showing “entitles the moving party to summary judgment.” Flovac, Inc., 817 F.3d at 853.

         At the summary judgment stage, the court draws “‘all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party,' but disregard[s] ‘conclusory allegations, improbable inferences, and unsupported speculation.'” Fanning v. FTC, 821 F.3d 164, 170 (1st Cir. 2016) (citation omitted). When ruling on cross motions for summary judgment, the court applies the same standard of review, but each motion is viewed separately, with all inferences drawn in favor of the nonmoving party. See Cooper v. D'Amore, 881 F.3d 247, 249-50 (1st Cir. 2018) (citation omitted).


         The following facts, culled from the parties' filings to date, are undisputed except as otherwise noted. Logsdon is serving a ten-to-thirty year sentence, imposed in December 2009, for a 2006 felony sexual assault committed against his then three-year old daughter, J.L. See Dec. 1, 2009 Sentencing Order, State v. Logsdon, No. 219-2009-CR-190 (N.H. Super. Ct., Strafford Cty.) (Doc. no. 20-6). As a condition of Logsdon's sentence, the sentencing court prohibited Logsdon from: having contact with J.L. “except as allowed by Family Court orders, ”; having unsupervised contact with children younger than sixteen; and having contact with his ex-wife and mother of his three children, Marylisa. Id.

         In March 2010, the Family Court issued a Final Parenting Plan (“FPP”) in the Logsdons' divorce proceedings. See Mar. 31, 2010 FPP, In re Logsdon, No. 632-2009-DM-9 (N.H. Cir. Ct. - 7th. Cir. - Family Div.) (Doc. No. 50-4). The FPP provided that Logsdon could exchange letters with his three children - J.L., F.L., and P.L. (then ages six, four and nine, respectively) - to the extent recommended and permitted by J.L.'s therapist, Nancy Hoag, who also served as the family therapist for F.L. and P.L. The FPP further provided that the children's telephone or in-person contact with Logsdon, while not recommended at the time the FPP issued, could occur in the future if, and under such circumstances, as may be recommended by the children's therapists.

         In February 2013, Logsdon requested and received approval for his children to visit him at the NHSP. In June 2015, he received approval for Marylisa to visit him. In December 2015, Marylisa and the three children attended a holiday party at the NHSP. June 5, 2018 Decl. of Nicole D. Kipphut (Doc. No. 50-2) (“Kipphut Decl.”), ¶ 8. During that event, J.L. became visibly upset, crying through at least part of the visit. Id. at ¶¶ 8, 18; Breen Decl. (Doc. No. 20-1), ¶ 15; March 31, 2017 Letter of Nancy Hoag (“March 2017 Hoag Letter”), (Doc. No. 29), at 19.[2]

         After the holiday visit, then-Victim Services Coordinator Breen reviewed the pertinent sentencing and family court orders and interpreted them as barring Logsdon from having contact with J.L., Marylisa or children under the age of sixteen. Id. at ¶ 9. Breen then removed Marylisa, J.L., F.L., P.L. and Logsdon's minor nephew from his approved visitor list. See id.

         In May 2016, Logsdon requested approval for his children and Marylisa to attend a Father's Day event at the NHSP scheduled for June 2016. The request was denied, owing to the fact that those family members had been removed from Logsdon's visitor list. When Logsdon inquired further as to the reason his request was denied, he was informed in writing that the visits were denied because the NHSP administration had determined that the FPP only allowed contact by letters through the children's therapist and the Sentencing Order did not allow Logsdon to have any contact with J.L. See June 27, 2016 Inmate request (Doc. No. 50-5.).

         On August 25, 2016, the state sentencing court amended Logsdon's sentence to remove the family contact limitations, in accordance with State v. Towle, 167 N.H. 315 (2015), in which the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that a sentencing court exceeded its statutory authority by including a “no contact” provision in a sentence. Logsdon brought the sentencing change to Breen's attention.

         The next day, August 26, 2016, Dr. Hoag advised Breen and then Warden Michael Zenk in writing that she and P.L.'s individual therapist had recommended that the children be allowed to visit their father if they wanted to, in accordance with terms established by the therapist, including, among other things, the supervision of the visits by Marylisa and another adult, limitations on physical contact and affection between Logsdon and the children, and the ability of the children to refuse or terminate the visit at any time. See Aug. 26, 2016 Letter of Nancy Hoag (Doc. No. 13-1) (“August 2016 Hoag Letter”). After receiving the August 26 Hoag letter, Breen and other prison officials were concerned that Dr. Hoag did not have sufficient information concerning the prison's limited ability to provide supervision for Logsdon's visits to ensure that the conditions Hoag identified as necessary were met. See Breen Decl. (Doc. No. 20-1) at ¶¶ 11-12. Breen also expressed concern that Logsdon's adult family members had already brought J.L. to visit Logsdon at the NHSP in apparent violation of court orders in effect at the time of those visits. Id. at ΒΆ 7. Also, prison officials were concerned that Hoag ...

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