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Stephany v. Wagner

argued: August 18, 1987.

RAYMOND J. STEPHANY, APPELLANT,
v.
GEORGE WAGNER, WARDEN, ROBERT SANTORO, ASSISTANT WARDEN, JOSEPH DEMARCO, PRISON ADMINISTRATOR



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil No. 85-3497).

Gibbons, Weis, and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Sloviter

Opinion OF THE COURT

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

Raymond J. Stephany filed this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various officials of the Berks County Prison (Prison), alleging that his due process rights were violated by his two month confinement in administrative segregation in the Prison. On cross-motions for summary judgment the district court entered judgment for defendants, finding that the Prison rules regarding administrative segregation do not give rise to a constitutionally protected liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population.

Stephany argues on appeal that because a Prison rule establishes specific substantive predicates for confinement in administrative segregation, it creates a liberty interest. If it does, we would be required to remand so that the district court could resolve the factual conflict as to whether Stephany received the process that was due.

I.

Facts

On July 31, 1983, while incarcerated in the Berks County Prison, Stephany was transferred from the general prison population to administrative segregation. Confinement in administrative segregation is more restrictive than that in the general prison population: Stephany's privileges were limited, he was confined to his cell except for exercise and showers, his visitation rights were restricted, he was prohibited from having contact with the general prison population, and he was denied access to activities that would have been available to him had he remained in the general prison population.

The next day, Stephany was given a form entitled "Record of Administrative Segregation" which stated merely, "based on information received this individual is being locked up as a security risk." App. at 16. On at least three occasions, STephany wrote to prison officials requesting more specific information regarding the reasons for his confinement and a hearing on the matter. Stephany was never given a hearing and the only explanation he received in response to his request for information was a note from Warden Wagner stating that, "your status is that of a security risk. You seem well aware of the fact. The fact that you deny this does not necessarily mean you are innocent." App. at 17.*fn1 The prison officials have since explained that Stephany was placed in administrative segregation "based upon reports received from several officers and a prison informant regarding an escape attempt from the Berks County Prison in which it was believed [Stephany] was involved." App. at 30.

Stephany's transfer to administrative segregation was reviewed and approved by both Warden George Wagner and Assistant Warden Robert Santoro within two days of his placement therein. In addition, various prison officials reviewed Stephany's continued segregation on nearly a daily basis throughout its duration. On October 7, 1983, after more than two months in administrative segregation, Stephany was returned, without explanation, to the general prison population. Stephany was never charged with misconduct or crime in connection with the events that resulted in his placement in administrative segregation.

Stephany filed a pro se complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania alleging that Warden Wagner, Assistant Warden Santoro and Prison Administrator Joseph DeMarco violated his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by placing him in administrative segregation without providing him with notice of the particular reasons why he was so segregated and with a meaningful opportunity to present his own views. Stephany contended that he had a constitutionally protected liberty interest to remain in the general prison population by virtue of a rule*fn2 contained in the Berks County Prison Residents Handbook (the Handbook). The defendants argued that the Handbook rule is merely descriptive and does not create a liberty interest. The district court agreed with defendants and granted their motion for summary judgment. Stephany v. Wagner, 655 F. Supp. 155, 158 (E.D. Pa. 1987). Our scope of review over the grant of summary judgment is plenary. See Struble v. New Jersey Brewery Emp. Welfare Trust Fund, 732 F.2d 325, 330 (3d Cir. 1984).

II.

Discussion

It is well established that the requirements of procedural due process are triggered only when a protected interest is at stake. See e.g., Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 223-24, 49 L. Ed. 2d 451, 96 S. Ct. 2532 (1976). A protected liberty interest may arise directly from the Constitution or from a state statute, see, e.g., Board of Pardons v. Allen, 482 U.S. 369, 107 S. Ct. 2415, 96 L. Ed. 2d 303 (1987) (state statute creates liberty interest in parole release), regulation, see, e.g., Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 74 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 864 (1983) (state regulations create liberty interest in remaining in general prison population), or prison rule "defining the obligations of the authority," Connecticut Board of Pardons v. Dumschat, 452 U.S. 458, 465, 69 L. Ed. 2d 158, 101 S. Ct. 2460 (1981); see Clark v. Brewer, 776 F.2d 226, 232 (8th Cir. 1985) (written policy regarding transfers to administrative segregation that were contained in a department of corrections employees' manual); Gurule v. Wilson, 635 F.2d 782, 785 (10th Cir. 1981) (guideline in prison officials' manual covering reclassification system).

The Supreme Court has recently decided that the Due Process Clause does not give a prisoner a liberty interest in remaining in the general prison population because "administrative segregation is the sort of confinement that inmates should reasonably anticipate receiving at some point in their incarceration." Hewitt, 459 U.S. at 468. Therefore, we must determine whether Stephany has a state-created liberty interest in remaining free from administrative segregation.

The Pennsylvania regulations at issue in Hewitt are not applicable to county prisons. There are also state regulations governing the classification of prisoners in county correctional institutions, but Stephany does not rely on these for his claim of a liberty interest, possibly because the district courts have consistently held that these regulations do not create a liberty interest. See, e.g., Tyler v. Rapone, 603 F. Supp. 268 (E.D. Pa. 1985); Marshall v. Kozakiewicz, 601 F. Supp. 1549 (W.D. Pa. 1985). Stephany bases his claim of such a liberty interest on the rule governing administrative segregation contained in the Berks County Prison Residents Handbook.*fn3

The Handbook rule on which Stephany relies provides, inter alia :

D. Administrative Segregation:

Definition: The confinement of an inmate to his own or another cell pursuant to administrative review consistent ...


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