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FEATHERMAN v. DIGIACINTO

August 14, 1985

RAYMOND D. FEATHERMAN
v.
A. S. DiGIACINTO, JAMES ONEMBO, MARK SEYMORE and RALPH FENNEL



The opinion of the court was delivered by: TROUTMAN

TROUTMAN, S.J.

 Raymond Featherman, plaintiff, was an inmate of Northampton County Prison, Easton, Pennsylvania, when on January 19, 1984, he was involved in a verbal confrontation with corrections officer Ralph Fennell which led to the filing of a misconduct report. A disciplinary hearing was conducted as a direct result of the misconduct report and plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation for fifteen days. Plaintiff alleges that the procedure at the hearing and the conditions of his administrative segregation constituted a concerted and systematic effort on the part of defendants to deny plaintiff his First, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Plaintiff has named Warden A. S. DiGiacinto; director of treatment, James Onembo; shift supervisor, Mark Seymore; and correctional officer, Ralph Fennell as defendants in this action. Defendants have moved for summary judgment. Plaintiff has responded to this motion in the form of a request to stay the proceedings until he has completed discovery and the Court enters a ruling on his motion to appoint counsel.

 Plaintiff has filed motions to compel answers to interrogatories and production of documents as well as a motion to compel responses to plaintiff's second request for production of documents. Defendants have filed a responsive brief to each of the foregoing motions. After a careful review of the motions, responses, the discovery requests themselves, and the answers provided thereto, the Court sees no alternative but to deny plaintiff's motions. The Court finds defendants' objections to the relevancy of several requests made by plaintiff to be proper. The information sought by plaintiff in those requests is totally irrelevant to the issues at hand and would not lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Therefore, the Court will deny plaintiff's motions to compel discovery.

 In deciding a motion for summary judgment the Court must determine whether the moving party has carried its burden of showing that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law, Hollinger v. Wagner Mining Equipment Co., 667 F.2d 402 (3d Cir. 1981). All evidentiary materials of record must be read in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Small v. Seldows Stationery, 617 F.2d 992 (3d Cir. 1980). The responding party to a motion for summary judgment may not rest upon the allegations of his/her pleading but must present by affidavit or otherwise specific facts sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact. Sunshine Books, Ltd. v. Temple University, 697 F.2d 90 (3d Cir. 1982); Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 56(e). In the present case defendants filed numerous affidavits in support of their motion for summary judgment, while plaintiff, on the other hand, failed to respond in substance to said motion, let alone file counter affidavits. Plaintiff has been given ample time and opportunity, via the Court's order dated August 20, 1984, to file a supplemental response to the summary judgment motion but has failed to seize the opportunity. After reviewing all pleadings, information revealed through discovery, and finally defendants' motion for summary judgment and supporting affidavits, the Court concludes that plaintiff is unable to present, via affidavit or otherwise, specific facts sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact. The Court, therefore, has no choice but to accept defendants' uncontradicted version of the incident as true. Despite this conclusion, the Court will address plaintiff's allegations of deprivation of his constitutional rights in violation of § 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.

 The initial inquiry in a § 1983 action is two-fold: ". . . 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). Prison officials acting in their official capacity are acting under color of state law. Therefore, the first prong of plaintiff's § 1983 action is satisfied.

 Plaintiff contends that the procedures followed in the January 19, 1984, disciplinary hearing violated his right to due process. The Fourteenth Amendment provides that no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Plaintiff has the burden of establishing several elements in order to make out a valid due process claim. Plaintiff must show the existence of a protected life, liberty, or property interest, the deprivation of that protected interest and the state action which brought about the deprivation of that interest. Parratt v. Taylor, supra.

 In the case at bar, plaintiff has established through his complaint a protected liberty interest. Under the Pennsylvania Code *fn1" plaintiff has a protected liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population. Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983). Plaintiff was deprived of that right for fifteen days while in administrative segregation.

 The element of illegal state action is missing in this case. The United States Supreme Court has stated that:

 
an inmate must merely receive some notice of the charges against him and an opportunity to present his views to the prison official charged with deciding whether to transfer him to administrative segregation . . . So long as this occurs and the decision maker reviews the charges and the available evidence against the prisoner the Due Process Clause is satisfied.

 Hewitt v. Helms, supra, 74 L. Ed. 2d at 691. See also Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 41 L. Ed. 2d 935, 94 S. Ct. 2963 (1974).

 Plaintiff has not established that the deprivation of that protected liberty interest occurred in violation of plaintiff's right to due process. Quite to the contrary, the facts in this case clearly show that:

 
(1) plaintiff had advance notice of the disciplinary hearing and chose to proceed immediately;
 
(2) plaintiff received a written copy of the charges brought against him prior to the ...

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