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WEST v. ROBINSON

July 14, 1981

George W. WEST
v.
William B. ROBINSON, et al.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GREEN

MEMORANDUM

This civil action filed by a prisoner at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford ("Graterford"), alleges a cause of action authorized by 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985; jurisdiction is claimed under 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Plaintiff seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages. The defendants are William B. Robinson, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Correction; Julius Cuyler, Superintendent of the State Correctional Institute at Graterford; Deputy Superintendent Bell; and Charles Batdorf, mail office supervisor at Graterford. After the close of discovery, the defendants have moved for summary judgment. It is this opposed motion which is presently before the Court.

 In his pro se complaint *fn1" plaintiff alleges that the defendants "have and will continue to violate the plaintiff's constitutional rights guaranteed him under the U.S. Constitution through the First (1st) and Fourteenth (14th) Amendments. See: Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 94 S. Ct. 1800, 40 L. Ed. 2d 224 (1974)." *fn2"

 Paragraph 9 of the complaint contains plaintiff's factual allegations for this legal claim as follows:

 
Plaintiff's incoming mail from the U.S. Department of Justice is presently being opened and read by the defendant, Bell and Batdorf.
 
a.) All incoming mail is recieved (sic) and sorted in the mail office under the supervision of defendant, Batdorf. When mail comes in addressed from the U.S. Department of Justice, defendant, Batdorf opens the letter, reviews its contents and then forwards it to defendant, Bell for his review. The opening, reading and screening of these correspondences take place out of the presence of the plaintiff. This procedure is the policy of defendants, Robinson and Cuyler.

 Defendants acknowledge that opening, reading and/or delaying the incoming mail of plaintiff West from the U.S. Parole Commission for reasons that do not further the institutions's interest in security would violate plaintiff's First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 94 S. Ct. 1800, 40 L. Ed. 2d 224 (1974). Also, defendants acknowledge that the Administrative Directive of the State's Bureau of Correction prohibits the type of conduct of which plaintiff complains. Nevertheless, defendants have moved for summary judgment because they contend that after full opportunity for discovery plaintiff can produce no evidence to sustain a finding that any of the defendants violated the civil rights of plaintiff. After careful consideration of the pleadings, the motion for summary judgment, the response thereto, the affidavits filed and oral argument, I am convinced that plaintiff can produce no evidence sufficient to permit a fact finder to determine that any of the defendants acted in a manner violative of his rights; therefore, I find that there is no genuine issue as to a material fact and that defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law and, accordingly, I grant defendants' motion.

 The undisputed facts are as follows: The U.S. Parole Commission wrote plaintiff a letter dated October 24, 1979 and mailed it to him at Montgomery County Prison. A photocopy of the envelope containing the letter shows that it was postmarked to plaintiff at Montgomery County Prison on October 29, 1979. By the time the letter arrived at Montgomery County Prison plaintiff had been transferred to Graterford. Therefore, Montgomery County Prison returned the letter to the U.S. Parole Commission in Washington, D.C. The returned letter arrived at the Commission in Washington, D.C. on November 7, 1979. The Commission forwarded the letter to its local office in Philadelphia where it arrived on November 15, 1979. Thereafter, the Philadelphia office sent the letter to Graterford. After the letter was received in Graterford's mailroom it was sent to Superintendent Cuyler's office, where it arrived on November 20, 1979. Thereafter, it was given to plaintiff's caseworker who delivered the opened letter to plaintiff on November 28, 1979. On December 29, 1979 Superintendent Cuyler wrote a letter to a case analyst at the U.S. Parole Commission stating that the prison received an opened letter on November 20, 1979. *fn3"

 Also, it is undisputed that the prison operates under an administrative directive from the state's Bureau of Correction regarding the handling of prisoners' mail. Pursuant to that directive, mail from government officials and lawyers is considered mail from privileged correspondents which is to be processed as follows:

 
III. PRIVILEGED CORRESPONDENCE
 
A. The following correspondants shall be considered privileged:
 
1. Elected federal, state or local officials.
 
2. Appointed federal or state ...

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