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QUINN v. MARKS

August 14, 1980

Clarence QUINN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Ronald J. MARKS et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RAMBO

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint. The complaint was filed by three Pennsylvania state prisoners, formerly at the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania. It charged defendants with violations of the Civil Rights Act, 42 United States Code § 1983. At issue are the procedural rights of Pennsylvania prisoners who are removed from the general population of their prison and placed in administrative segregation.

 FACTUAL BACKGROUND

 The complaint alleges the following facts. On December 3, 1978, there was a disturbance at the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, which resulted in injury to correctional officers and inmates. All inmates were confined to their cells for the remainder of the day. The general inmate population was released from confinement on December 4, 1978. After the disturbance the plaintiffs were segregated in a restricted housing unit. The day after their segregation, Quinn and Reese were charged with assaulting officers and conspiring to disrupt institution routine. They were found guilty of the misconduct charges after a hearing before the Institution Hearing Committee, and were sentenced to six months in disciplinary custody. Upon expiration of their sentences, the prisoners were retained in disciplinary custody for a few days and then transferred to administrative custody to await removal to other institutions.

 Plaintiff Collins was similarly charged on December 9, 1978. His hearing was held two days later, whereupon he was advised that there was insufficient evidence to support the misconduct charges against him. His case was continued pending completion of an investigation by the Pennsylvania State Police. At this point the complaint does not state whether Collins was returned to the general population or retained in administrative custody. On March 5, 1979, Collins was charged with assault and riot. Following a hearing held three days later, he was placed in disciplinary custody "with no specific length of confinement being imposed." Complaint, P 34. On May 3, 1979, the Program Review Committee authorized his move to administrative custody pending transfer to another institution.

 Plaintiffs claim that their segregation in a restricted housing unit immediately following the disturbance and their confinement in administrative custody following their release from disciplinary custody violated their rights to due process of law. The alleged abridgement of rights is predicated directly on the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and upon rights established by Pennsylvania law.

 The matter was assigned to a United States Magistrate for consideration and recommendation. His report was filed on June 30, 1980. It recommended that the complaint be dismissed because it failed as a matter of law to plead a deprivation of civil rights. The court agrees with the assessment of the magistrate that, absent the violation of a state law or regulation, the plaintiffs have not pleaded a constitutional violation. However, there are two Pennsylvania regulations which may have been violated. Until the record is clarified, a summary disposition is not appropriate. For the reasons set forth below, the recommendation of the Magistrate will be rejected.

 PROCEDURAL RIGHTS UNDER THE FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT ABSENT STATE CREATED RIGHTS

 Plaintiffs argue that, irrespective of Pennsylvania law, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution forbids an intra-prison transfer from general population status to administrative custody without certain procedural safeguards. The procedural safeguards which plaintiffs believe should have been provided are: prior written notice of the reason for the restricted confinement, an opportunity to present evidence or witnesses, counsel substitute, and a written statement of the facts by the fact finder of the evidence relied upon and reasons for the action taken. In support of their position, plaintiffs place considerable reliance on Wright v. Enomoto, 462 F. Supp. 397 (N.D.Cal.1976), aff'd 434 U.S. 1052, 98 S. Ct. 1223, 55 L. Ed. 2d 756 (1978), and a prior decision of this court, Helms v. Hewitt, Civil No. 79-0950 (M.D.Pa. Nov. 7, 1979). The Helms v. Hewitt decision relied on the Supreme Court's affirmance of Wright v. Enomoto. However, a more recent Supreme Court decision, Vitek v. Jones, 445 U.S. 480, 100 S. Ct. 1254, 63 L. Ed. 2d 552 (1980), indicates that the scope of that affirmance was narrow. Insofar as this opinion is in conflict with this court's earlier decision in Helms v. Hewitt, that decision is overruled for the reasons contained in the discussion below.

 In Vitek the Court recounted:

 
Following Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 96 S. Ct. 2532, 49 L. Ed. 2d 451 (1976) and Montanye v. Haymes, 427 U.S. 236, 96 S. Ct. 2543, 49 L. Ed. 2d 466 (1976), we continued to recognize that state statutes may grant prisoners liberty interests that invoke due process protections when prisoners are transferred to solitary confinement for disciplinary or administrative reasons. Enomoto v. Wright, 434 U.S. 1052 (98 S. Ct. 1223, 55 L. Ed. 2d 756) (1978), aff'g 462 F. Supp. 397 (N.D.Cal.1976). Vitek, 445 U.S. at 489, 100 S. Ct. at 1261, 63 L. Ed. 2d at 562.

 The Court stated further in the opinion:

 
It is also true that changes in the conditions of confinement having a substantial adverse impact on the prisoner are not alone sufficient to invoke the protections of the Due Process Clause "as long as the conditions or degree of confinement to which the prisoner is subjected is within the sentence imposed upon him." Montayne v. Haymes, 427 U.S., at 242, 96 S. Ct. at 1263. Vitek, 445 U.S. at 493, 100 S. Ct. at 1263, 63 L. Ed. 2d at 565.

 In both Meachum and Montayne, the transfers at issue were to other prisons. Meachum involved an administrative transfer from a medium security institution to a maximum security facility. The Court recognized that imprisonment at a maximum security prison would probably be more burdensome for the plaintiffs than their previous confinement. However, it ruled that such transfers were within the discretion of the state prison officials. Furthermore, it acknowledged the intrusive effect of a ...


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