Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

JONES v. CLARK

December 6, 1984

WILLIAM JONES
v.
CAPTAIN JAMES CLARK



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VANARTSDALEN

DONALD W. VanARTSDALEN, J.

 This action has been brought by a prisoner in a state prison for a deprivation of his constitutional rights. By memorandum and order dated January 3, 1983, I denied defendant's motion for summary judgment. On July 3, 1984, the Supreme Court filed its opinion in Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 104 S. Ct. 3194, 82 L. Ed. 2d 393 (1984). Because the facts and contended constitutional deprivations in Hudson v. Palmer appeared similar to those in the present case, by order dated July 18, 1984, I authorized either party to file a renewed motion for summary judgment. The defendant has filed such a motion, and appointed counsel for plaintiff has filed a reply brief.

 In Hudson, the plaintiff had been convicted of a felony in state court and was serving a sentence of imprisonment in a state penal institution. The Supreme Court summarized the facts as follows:

 
On September 16, 1981, petitioner Hudson, an officer at the Correctional Center, with a fellow officer, conducted a "shakedown" search of respondent's prison locker and cell for contraband. During the "shakedown," the officers discovered a ripped pillowcase in a trashcan near respondent's cell bunk. Charges against Palmer were instituted under the prison disciplinary procedures for destroying state property. After a hearing, Palmer was found guilty on the charge and was ordered to reimburse the State for the cost of the material destroyed; in addition, a reprimand was entered on his prison record.
 
Palmer subsequently brought this pro se action in United States District Court under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Respondent claimed that Hudson had conducted the shakedown search of his cell and had brought a false charge against him solely to harass him, and that, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right not to be deprived of property without due process of law, Hudson had intentionally destroyed certain of his noncontraband personal property during the September 16 search.

 104 S. Ct. at 3197. The Supreme Court upheld the district court's summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The Court held that the fourth amendment proscription against unreasonable searches does not apply to searches of prison cells, id. at 3198-202, and that the intentional deprivation of a prisoner's property by a state employee did not violate the due process clause where there was an adequate postdeprivation state law remedy. Id. at 3202-05.

 In the present case, the plaintiff is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania (Graterford). Defendant is a captain of guards at Graterford and also was the chairman of the prison disciplinary hearing committee that heard charges against plaintiff. During an inspection of plaintiff's prison cell, a torn bed sheet owned by the state, was found stuffed in a window of the cell. As a result of this discovery, plaintiff was charged with a Class I misconduct for possession of contraband (the torn sheet) and destruction of state property. The defendant was found guilty of the charges, assessed $6.40 for the cost of the sheet, and given an official reprimand.

 The parties are in dispute as to what transpired at the disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff, in his affidavit asserts:

 
Defendant Clark informed me that I had to pay for the mentioned bed sheet at a cost of $6.40. And I refused. Thereafter, defendant Clark threatened to freez [sic] my inmate account; and if I attempted to open my mouth and say anything else before the hearing was over I would be sent to R.H.U. (the hole). Then I was furthered [sic] threatened by Clark to sign a cash slips [sic] releasing $6.40 from my account to pay for the bed sheet or else be placed in the hole. It was not explained to me where this money would go.

 Plaintiff in his complaint avers that, because of defendant's threats, he did sign papers placed before him authorizing that $6.40 be released from his prison account to pay the assessment.

 In a section 1983 action, the initial inquiry must focus on whether two essential elements are present: "(1) whether the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) whether this conduct deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States." Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535, 68 L. Ed. 2d 420, 101 S. Ct. 1908 (1981). It is well established that prison officials acting in their official capacities are acting under color of state law. Id. at 535-36. The first element of a section 1983 claim, therefore, is satisfied.

 With respect to the second element, Jones claims that his right to due process has been violated. The fourteenth amendment provides that no state shall "deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1. *fn1" In order to make out a valid due process claim, a plaintiff initially must establish three elements: (1) the existence of a protected life, liberty or property interest; (2) a deprivation of that protected interest; and (3) state action effecting the deprivation of the protected interest. See Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. at 536-37.

 In the present case, the state action requirement is clearly met. Defendant acted in his official capacity as a state prison employee in the alleged deprivations. Just as such action is under color of state law for purposes of section 1983 liability, it is state action for purposes of the due process clause. Id. at 536. See generally Rendell-Baker v. Kohn, 457 U.S. 830, 73 L. Ed. 2d 418, 102 S. Ct. 2764 (1982); Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co., 457 U.S. 922, 102 S. Ct. 2744, ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.