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decided: October 15, 1987.


Original Jurisdiction in the case of William C. Mueller v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania State Police Headquarters, et al.


William C. Mueller, petitioner, for himself.

Francis R. Filipi, Senior Deputy Attorney General, with him, Andrew S. Gordon, Chief Deputy Attorney General, LeRoy S. Zimmerman, Attorney General, for respondents.

Judges Craig, Palladino, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Senior Judge Barbieri.

Author: Barbieri

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 267]

William C. Mueller, Petitioner, has commenced an action in mandamus and for declaratory judgment addressed to our original jurisdiction.*fn1 Named as Respondents in this action are Glen R. Jeffes, Commissioner of Corrections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,*fn2 the Department of Corrections (Department), Pennsylvania State Police Headquarters, and Major Francis T. Lynch, Director of Criminal Investigations, Pennsylvania State Police. Mueller claims that the Respondents failed to perform certain duties owed to him under a Department Administrative Directive, specifically that portion of BC-ADM 004 dealing with criminal complaints of prison inmates. The Respondents have filed preliminary objections in the nature of a demurrer to his petition for review. It is those preliminary objections that are presently before this Court for disposition.

When faced with a demurrer, the pertinent inquiry for a reviewing court is to determine whether the petitioner has stated on the face of his petition a cause of action that, if proved, would entitle him to relief. Gillespie v. Department of Corrections, 106 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 500, 527 A.2d 1061 (1987). In disposing of a demurrer, every well-pleaded, material, relevant fact, and all reasonable inferences to be drawn therefrom, but not conclusions of law, are deemed to be admitted. Byers v. Ward, 368 Pa. 416, 84 A.2d 307

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 268]

(1951). While pleadings filed by pro se litigants are to be construed liberally, a pro se litigant is not to be given any particular advantage because of his lack of knowledge of the law. Commonwealth v. Lamb, 12 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 508, 316 A.2d 148 (1974). It is only where the petition is clear on its face that the petitioner's claim cannot be sustained, and that the law will not permit the relief that the petitioner seeks, will the demurrer be sustained. Buckley & Co., Inc. v. Department of Transportation, 34 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 182, 382 A.2d 1298 (1978).

Thus viewed, Mueller's petition for review establishes the following facts for purposes of reviewing the demurrer. Mueller is an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh (SCI-Pittsburgh) and is currently in the Restrictive Housing Unit (RHU)*fn3 as a result of a prison misconduct. The prison misconduct arose out of an incident that occurred on December 10, 1986. Mueller was assigned to the Print Shop at SCI-Pittsburgh where he was using a screwdriver to work on a printing press. At the end of the work day, he returned to his cell with the screwdriver in his back pocket, unbeknownst to him. Upon his return to his cell, Mueller's cellmate noticed the screwdriver in his pants pocket. Almost simultaneously,

[ 110 Pa. Commw. Page 269]

    several corrections officers appeared at his cell and opened the cell door. Mueller turned over the screwdriver to one of the corrections officers and asked that he inform the Print and Shoe Shop Supervisor that he had accidently taken it from the Print Shop. During a body and cell search, corrections officers confiscated a television Mueller had received from another inmate who had previously been released from SCI-Pittsburgh. As a result of his possession of the screwdriver and television, Mueller was charged with a prison misconduct and a hearing was held before a hearing examiner on December 12, 1986, at SCI-Pittsburgh. The hearing examiner denied his request to have the Print and Shoe Shop Supervisor present at the hearing. Following the hearing, the hearing examiner found him guilty of possession of contraband; lying to an employee; and failure to report contraband. As a result, he was sentenced to spend ninety days in RHU and removed from his institution job ...

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