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UNITED STATES EX REL. RATCHFORD v. JEFFES

May 23, 1978

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA ex rel. JOHN M. RATCHFORD
v.
GLENN R. JEFFES, Superintendent (Individually and in Official Capacity) State Correctional Institution, Dallas, Pennsylvania DANIEL SIMS, Deputy Superintendent of Treatment (Individually and in Official Capacity) Box 244 Graterford, Pennsylvania ROBERT WOLFE, Administrative Assistant (Individually and in Official Capacity) State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Pennsylvania 19426 CHARLES BATDORF (Mailroom Supervisor) (Individually and in Official Capacity) State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Pennsylvania 19426 MAURICE TALLEY Paraprofessional Law Clinic, Inc. Box 244, Graterford, Pennsylvania BEBLEY WELLS Paraprofessional Law Clinic, Inc. Box 244, Graterford, Pennsylvania GEORGE BRADLEY Paraprofessional Law Clinic, Inc. Box 244, Graterford, Pennsylvania FELIX MOKYCHIC (Individually and in Official Capacity) Captain of the Guard State Correctional Institution Box 244, Graterford, Pennsylvania 19426



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUONGO

 John M. Ratchford, a prisoner confined at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania, filed this complaint pro se on May 25, 1977. Ratchford seeks both damages and equitable relief under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, as well as a declaratory judgment. Defendant Jeffes, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Dallas, Pennsylvania, and the sole defendant named in the original complaint, moved for summary judgment. Ratchford filed a memorandum in opposition, and then moved for leave to file an "Amended and Supplemental Complaint." Defendant Jeffes has filed a memorandum in opposition to this motion. For the reasons hereafter stated, I conclude that Ratchford's motion should be granted, and that defendant Jeffes' motion for summary judgment should be granted in part and denied in part.

 The facts of this case, viewed in the light most favorable to Ratchford, *fn1" may be stated as follows. On May 9, 1977, Ratchford, who was then a member of the Paraprofessional Law Clinic at Graterford, mailed a petition for a writ of mandamus to William Maute, an inmate at the Dallas facility. Maute apparently was supposed to sign the petition, have it notarized, and then return it to Ratchford. (The record does not reveal whether this petition was to have been filed in an action brought by Ratchford or in an action brought by Maute, with which Ratchford was assisting). Defendant Jeffes, however, returned the unopened envelope to the superintendent of Graterford, inasmuch as no prior approval for the inter-prison correspondence had been obtained. The envelope was returned unopened to Ratchford through the Paraprofessional Law Clinic at Graterford, bearing the stamp:

 
"REFUSED
 
Prior approval needed to correspond between institutions."

 On May 15, 1977, Ratchford filed the complaint in this action, alleging that Jeffes' actions had violated his rights under the first, fifth, eighth, and fourteenth amendments to the Constitution, and seeking both damages and equitable relief under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 (1970). In particular, Ratchford contended that the return of his legal mail constituted an impermissible infringement of his freedom of speech, a denial of due process and equal protection, and cruel and unusual punishment.

 That same day, Ratchford sent a letter to Maute, requesting that Maute execute an affidavit describing an earlier lock-up that had occurred while Ratchford was confined at a third Pennsylvania prison. The lock-up, which Maute evidently witnessed, formed the basis of Ratchford's civil rights action against the superintendent of that institution. (That action, United States ex rel. Ratchford v. Mazurkiewicz, 451 F. Supp. 671 (1978), No. 77-1796, was also filed in this court on May 15, 1977.) Ratchford's envelope addressed to Maute was opened and returned by defendant Jeffes, due to the lack of prior approval for inter-prison correspondence. In returning Ratchford's letter and envelope to the superintendent of Graterford, Jeffes also enclosed a memorandum expressing his concern over what he viewed as Ratchford's violations of the procedures governing the Paraprofessional Law Clinic at Graterford.

 On May 20, 1977, Jeffes received a letter dated May 15 from Ratchford. The letter stated that Ratchford intended to file this action to redress Jeffes' improper return of legal mail addressed to Maute. The letter also stated that any further interference with legal mail sent by Ratchford to prisoners confined at Dallas would "result in additional litigation."

 On June 29, 1977, Ratchford filed a motion for an order requiring Jeffes to show cause why Ratchford should not be permitted to send an affidavit to Maute, a witness in Civil Action No. 77-1796, in order to obtain Maute's signature. Rather than issue a formal order, I wrote to Jeffes and requested that Ratchford be permitted to mail the affidavit to Maute. Jeffes promptly wrote to Ratchford, granting the request for permission to mail the affidavit to Maute. Jeffes' letter instructed Ratchford to mark the envelope containing the affidavit "Legal Mail--Affidavit," and it informed Ratchford that the mailroom at Dallas would receive a copy of Jeffes' letter to insure that the matter was handled properly. Although Ratchford later filed in this action an affidavit executed by Maute on December 19, 1977, dealing with defendant Jeffes' return of Ratchford's legal mail, Maute apparently never executed an affidavit regarding Ratchford's lock-up, the affidavit that Ratchford had sought to use in Civil Action No. 77-1796.

 On September 14, 1977, Jeffes filed this motion for summary judgment. In support of his motion, Jeffes filed an affidavit that states in part:

 
"Had Mr. Ratchford written to me and requested permission to correspond with Mr. Maute as a result of joint legal issues, permission in all probability would have been granted for a reasonable period of time.
 
In the past where we have had prior requests from the Court as well as requests from co-defendants and/or witnesses in civil or criminal actions which could be validated, permission to correspond [between institutions] has been granted."
 
Jeffes Affidavit at 3.

 On September 15, 1977, Ratchford filed both a memorandum in opposition to Jeffes' motion and the motion for leave to file a supplemental complaint, together with a copy of the proposed complaint. This complaint, which is based on section 1985 as well as on section 1983, alleges that Jeffes and seven other defendants conspired to take various measures against Ratchford in retaliation for Ratchford's institution of this lawsuit. For example, it alleges that Jeffes lodged a misconduct report with the superintendent at Graterford in retaliation for Ratchford's activities in connection with this case. It further alleges that Jeffes, using his influence as a prison superintendent, has sought to close the Paraprofessional Law Clinic that operates within Graterford, and has succeeded in having Ratchford suspended from the clinic. See Wade v. Kane, 448 F. Supp. 678 (E.D. Pa. 1978) (issuance of preliminary injunction ordering the reopening of the Paraprofessional Law Clinic at Graterford). The complaint also alleges that incoming mail from Ratchford's attorney has repeatedly been opened, censored, and delayed by defendant Batdorf, the mailroom supervisor at Graterford. Of the seven defendants other than Jeffes who are named in the proposed complaint, four are Graterford officials and three are Graterford prisoners who are connected with the Paraprofessional Law Clinic. In the proposed complaint, Ratchford seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive and declaratory relief.

 Jeffes subsequently filed a memorandum in opposition to Ratchford's motion, together with five affidavits pertaining to this controversy: a second affidavit executed by Jeffes, and affidavits executed by defendants Sims, Wolfe, Batdorf, and Mokychic, the four Graterford officials named in Ratchford's supplemental complaint. Finally, Ratchford has since filed several affidavits of his own, as well as affidavits executed by two Graterford inmates, Doll and Cox, and an affidavit executed by Maute, who is confined at the Dallas institution.

 RATCHFORD'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE A SUPPLEMENTAL COMPLAINT

 Although Ratchford's proposed complaint is somewhat vague with respect to when the alleged retaliatory measures occurred, I construe it as a supplemental complaint rather than an amended complaint. See generally Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a), (d). Ratchford's motion must therefore be determined by reference to Rule 15(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides:

 
"Upon motion of a party the court may, upon reasonable notice and upon such terms as are just, permit him to serve a supplemental pleading setting forth transactions or occurrences or events which have happened since the date of the pleading sought to be supplemented. Permission may be granted even though the original pleading is defective in its statement of a claim for relief or defense. If the court deems it advisable ...

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