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YOUNG v. KEOHANE

November 13, 1992

RICHARD YOUNG, A/K/A TODD DEVINE; AND RAYMOND MINNICK, A/K/A RAY A. MINNICK Plaintiffs
v.
P.W. KEOHANE, ET AL., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD P. CONABOY

 This is a "Bivens"-type civil rights action *fn1" in which the plaintiff, Richard Young, alleges federal prison officials violated his constitutional rights during his period of confinement as a pretrial detainee at the United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania ("Lewisburg"). This matter comes before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment. *fn2" For the following reasons, summary judgment will be granted in favor of some defendants, but will be denied with respect to all other parties.

 I. Procedural History

 Young filed the complaint on December 9, 1988 seeking injunctive and monetary relief for a wide assortment of constitutional violations alleged to have occurred during his period of incarceration as a pretrial detainee at Lewisburg. The named defendants are the United States Bureau of Prisons, Bureau of Prisons Director J. Michael Quinlan, former United States Attorney General Edwin Meese, the United States Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, and numerous present and former Lewisburg employees and officials: Warden Patrick W. Keohane, W.C. Wells, William W. Thompson, G.W. Thomas, R. Conrath, B.B. McDermott, K. Spangler, Larry Womer, Richard Wagner, John J. Steppie and Leroy L. Blanks. *fn3"

 Young's complaint challenges the constitutional adequacy of almost every aspect of his pretrial confinement at Lewisburg. He alleges he generally experienced greater deprivations of liberty than convicted inmates confined at the same institution. He also claims Lewisburg officials opened his legal and personal mail improperly, while affording him little or no opportunity to exercise, limited telephone privileges, no laundry service, no opportunity to have his hair cut, no reading material, no sanitary clothing and inadequate medical care.

 More specifically, Young alleges that from June, 1988 through October, 1988, Lewisburg officials confined him in a room he refers to as a "fishtank", a converted gymnasium 31 feet long and 11 feet wide. Young was restricted to the fishtank 23 hours per day on Mondays through Fridays, and for 24 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays. The fishtank housed up to 11 pretrial detainees at a time, all of whom were forced to sleep on folding cots that had no mattresses. At times, convicted inmates allegedly boarded with detainees in the fishtank.

 The fishtank itself had no toilet or sink, no tables or chairs, no drinking fountain and no television. Detainees confined in the fishtank were limited to drinks provided with their three daily meals, contained in cups "the size one would find in a dentist's office". While a toilet was located in an adjacent shower area separated from the fishtank by a steel gate, detainees had access to the toilet on a limited basis only because Lewisburg officials locked the gate from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while convicted inmates showered. Detainees were sometimes left with no alternative but to urinate in cups inside the fishtank while the showers were being used. Moreover, because water drained from the shower area into the fishtank, the detainees were forced to remain on their cots while other inmates used the showers to avoid getting wet.

 On October 26, 1983, Young and fellow detainee Raymond Minnick were moved to a cell six feet wide by 10 feet long, and confined there twenty-four hours per day for a period of time not specified in the complaint. The bunk bed provided was damaged "so that it had to be used upside down", and freedom of movement was severely constrained by the limited living space. Young claims that he was suffering with a diagnosed hernia during the period when he was double-celled with Minnick and that prison officials were aware of his condition yet did nothing about it.

 After a period of discovery, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, alleging in support thereof that the case should be dismissed on the basis of qualified immunity, and, alternatively, because Young has not marshaled enough facts in support of his complaint to convince a reasonable jury that he is entitled to a verdict. The defendants also sought a stay of further discovery in order for the court to rule on the immunity issue. Young filed two motions for summary judgment, arguing in both that a judgment should be entered in his favor because the record establishes as a matter of law that he was subjected to unconstitutional overcrowding and other violations of his federally protected rights as a Lewisburg detainee. *fn4"

 The court subsequently relieved the defendants from complying with Young's outstanding discovery requests pending disposition of their motion to dismiss or for summary judgment and denied their motion insofar as it sought a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The court also informed the parties that the motion will be disposed of as a motion for summary judgment under Fed.R.Civ.P. 56, and ordered the parties to submit statements of undisputed material facts as required by M.D.Pa. Local Rule 401.4. The statements of material fact have been submitted and the motions for summary judgment are ripe for the court's consideration.

 II. Facts

 The relevant undisputed material facts are as follows:

 1. Young was confined at Lewisburg as a pretrial detainee awaiting trial on felony charges from June 1988 until February, 1989.

 2. Young was first confined in the Administrative Detention section of the Special Housing Unit when he arrived at Lewisburg in June.

 3. Young was housed in the institution hospital area during December 1986 and January 1989 for reasons unrelated to any need for health care.

 4. Young was represented by and was permitted to contact a criminal defense attorney during the period of his pretrial detention at Lewisburg.

 5. During the period of his pretrial detention, Young was permitted to place at least thirteen legal phone calls to confer with his attorney.

 6. Young had at least two legal visits with his attorney during his pretrial detention period. *fn5"

 7. Young was supplied with at least three postage stamps per week at no charge to him to send legal and personal correspondence. *fn6"

 8. While in the Administrative Detention area of the Special Housing Unit, Young was housed with other pretrial detainees in a multipurpose room (the room he refers to as the fishtank) and had some access to toilet facilities and showers.

 9. The Correctional Counselor is the prison staff member who operates as the primary liaison between pretrial detainees and other Lewisburg staff. The Correctional Counselor's duties include providing detainees and other inmates with legal phone calls, stamps, correspondence, and visits.

 10. During Young's pretrial detention, he requested and received from defendant McDermott (a Correctional Counselor) Administrative Remedy forms, legal and social telephone calls, stamps, tobacco, forms to obtain visitor authorization, playing cards, legal pleadings forms, writing paper, envelopes, commissary cards and replacement commissary cards haircuts. McDermott attempted to ensure that legal and personal correspondence to and from Young was not inspected.

 11. As a pretrial detainee, Young wrote several personal letters of appreciation to defendant McDermott, which stated in part: "I LIKE YOU Mr. McDermott . . . You are the only one who helps us . . . we will be sure that comes out in Court" and "I want you to know both Ray [Minnick] and I are aware you and you alone helped us through the hard times we were under . . . In our lawsuit . . . We'll be sure you are not affected in any way but POSITIVE." (Emphasis and capitalization in original). *fn7"

 12. Young possessed full commissary privileges as a pretrial detainee. In 1988, he made purchases on July 5, 24, August 1, 4, 8, 16, 22, 27, September 2, 12, 19, October 3, 7, 17, 24, November 7, 8, 21, 22, December 1, 5, 6, 7, 9, 16, and 17, and on January 4, 10, 23, 30, February 7, 13, 17, 21, 23, and March 9 in 1989.

 13. On September 19, 1988, Lewisburg staff received confidential information from the United States Marshals Service that Young was planning to escape from custody.

 14. Thereafter, Lewisburg staff regularly inspected the contents of Young's outgoing personal mail to determine whether escape plans were discussed.

 15. No inmate in Administrative Detention in the Special Housing Unit has access to television.

 There is little else agreed upon in the record, and there is obvious disagreement about the facts that do not appear on the face of the parties' statements of material fact. *fn8" Indeed, the defendants' statement was largely unrefuted by Young's statement. In evaluating the record for present purposes, however, the court considered all parties' statements of material fact, as well as factual conflicts and agreements manifested elsewhere in the record. Because Young is proceeding without the benefit of counsel, he is entitled to such deference when the sufficiency of his case is called into question. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652, 92 S. Ct. 594 (1972). He is also entitled to have all reasonable inferences about the facts resolved in his favor as the nonmoving party on the defendants' motion for summary judgment. White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). *fn9"

 III. Qualified Immunity

 Because qualified immunity is considered just as much an immunity from suit as it is from liability, questions of immunity should be resolved "at the earliest possible stage of the litigation". Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 646, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523, 107 S. Ct. 3034, n.6 (1987). A government official performing discretionary functions is entitled to qualified immunity "insofar as [his] conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Brooks v. Andolina, 826 F.2d 1266, 1268 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982)). In some cases, the qualified immunity issue may also turn on "the complementary question whether defendant had a clearly established duty towards plaintiff." Ryan v. Burlington County, 860 F.2d 1199, 1205 (3d Cir. 1988)

 To determine whether the right allegedly violated was clearly established when the challenged conduct took place, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has submitted the following guidelines:

 The standard to which we look . . . states that the contours of that right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he is doing violates that right. This does not mean, however, that an official will be protected from suit unless the very action in question has previously been held unlawful; rather, the unlawfulness must be apparent in light of existing law.

 Id. at 1208 (citations and quotations omitted). The official's state of mind is generally not a factor in determining whether immunity is available. Harlow, 457 U.S. at 815-17. Rather, the immunity question is resolved by examining the objective reasonableness of the defendant's conduct in light of clearly established federal law. Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 345, 89 L. Ed. 2d 271, 106 S. Ct. 1092 (1986); Schrob v. Catterson, 948 F.2d 1402, 1421 (3d Cir. 1991); Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1109 (3d Cir. 1991). Therefore, "arguments that the defendants desired to handle or subjectively ...


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