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Reese v. Sparks

decided: April 29, 1985.


On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil No. 83-1653.

Hunter and Garth, Circuit Judges and Van Dusen, Senior Circuit Judge.

Author: Garth


GARTH, Circuit Judge:

Frank Reese was transferred from Adams County Prison (ACP) in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill on August 3, 1983. Reese subsequently filed a complaint in United States District Court, claiming that his transfer was instituted in retaliation for a prior civil rights action filed by Reese against Gary Sparks. Sparks answered and filed affidavits and documents in support of a motion for summary judgment. Reese failed to respond, and summary judgment in favor of Sparks was granted.

Reese then filed papers styled as an amended complaint, joining defendants James E. Caskey and Kenneth Sease and alleging that he, Reese, had been placed in solitary confinement and subsequently transferred to another institution (Camp Hill) as the result of a misconduct hearing at which he was not present and of which he had no notice. Reese claimed a violation of the due process guarantee of the fourteenth amendment and 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983.

The district court, in one order dated August 1, 1984, vacated its earlier grant of summary judgment, granted Reese's motion to amend his complaint, then, treating the amended complaint as a response to Sparks' original motion for summary judgment, entered another order of summary judgment in favor of Sparks, Caskey, and Sease.

It is from this second grant of summary judgment that Reese appeals. Because we conclude that the district court's action in granting summary judgment without giving Reese an opportunity to respond by affidavits or other proofs was improper, and, alternatively, because we find that even the documents that were before the district court presented a genuine issue of material fact, we reverse and remand.


According to Reese's amended complaint, after an escape attempt by several prisoners at ACP, a disciplinary hearing was held on August 2, 1983. Reese had no notice of this hearing, nor was he given an opportunity to appear and be heard. According to Reese, as a result of this hearing he was first confined to special detention, then transferred to Camp Hill.

Sparks' filings in support of his initial motion for summary judgment included an affidavit that Reese was implicated in the breakout attempt and that "[a] hearing was held for Mr. Reese concerning his transfer on August 2, 1983, following that hearing, Mr. Reese was transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill." Sparks' papers included a copy of a Petition for Administrative Transfer of Reese pursuant to 61 Pa. S. 72, based on a security risk reclassification.*fn1 The Petition for transfer was dated August 1, 1983 and approved by a Common Pleas judge on August 2, 1983. Sparks' papers also included a document entitled "Misconduct Report," evidencing an August 2, 1983 hearing. That report ordered that Reese immediately be placed in special detention at ACP and directed that Reese be transferred to Camp Hill on August 3, 1983. This "Misconduct Report" is signed by Caskey and Sease as "Hearing Board Members."


The district court failed to comply with the governing principles of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 when it granted summary judgment against Reese on his amended complaint without first notifying Reese and giving him an opportunity to file supporting documents. "To exercise the right to oppose summary judgment, a party must have notice . . . . Although the court may dismiss the action at its own motion, it must first provide [the party] an opportunity to oppose an entry of summary judgment against him." Bryson v. Brand Insulation, Inc., 621 F.2d 556, 559 (3d Cir. 1980). See also Davis Elliott International v. Pan American Container, 705 F.2d 705, 707 (3d Cir. 1983).

Here, Reese filed an amended complaint, which changed not only the legal theory upon which he first sought relief, but also averred additional and different facts supporting his new theory. The district court accepted the amendment to the complaint; and vacated its prior grant of summary judgment. Yet the court at the same time immediately granted summary judgment, based on ...

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