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WHITE v. KANE
August 18, 1994
J. KEVIN KANE, et al.
THOMAS N. O'NEILL, JR., J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS N. O'NEILL, JR.
Plaintiff is a prisoner incarcerated at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford ("SCI Graterford") who alleged that defendants Kevin Kane and James Salvi denied him his right to procedural due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. At trial, at the conclusion of the evidence, defendants moved for a directed verdict pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 50. I denied defendants' motion. The jury exonerated defendant Salvi -- a Graterford guard who allegedly attempted to intimidate one of the witnesses who testified in plaintiff's behalf at the misconduct hearing -- and returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff against defendant Kane -- the Hearing Examiner. Defendant Kane's motion for judgment n.o.v. pursuant to Rule 50 is currently before the Court. For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendant's motion.
On November 13, 1990 prison authorities conducted a search of plaintiff's cell and discovered a tightly folded $ 100.00 bill in the bottom of the cell's medicine cabinet. Prison regulations define money as contraband and prohibit inmates from possessing it. DOC Adm. Dir. 801. Those regulations also place an inmate in constructive possession of any object found in his cell. Id. The guards who conducted the search charged plaintiff with a misconduct for possession of contraband.
Plaintiff was absent from his cell working at his prison job at the time of the cell search. When confronted by the guards who conducted the search plaintiff denied all knowledge of the $ 100.00 bill. At his misconduct hearing on November 15, 1990, plaintiff again denied knowledge of the $ 100.00 bill and produced two fellow inmates to testify on his behalf. Defendant Kane's hearing report states:
White states that the [guards] searched his ceil, they told him they found a $ 100.00 bill in his metal cabinet. White states that he never saw the money and he never knew it was there. Witness Cooke, #AK3033, stated under oath that he was in White's cell prior to the search and put the $ 100.00 bill in White's cell. Witness Reed, #BE1826, stated under oath that inmate Cooke was leaving White's cell when the [cell search team] came on the block, states that he does not know if Cooke left anything in the cell. I find for the officer's report over White's denial and his witness' testimony that this cell was searched and a $ 100.00 bill was found. I find the report clear that the money was found in his cell and I don't find Cooke's testimony or White's testimony very credible. I find Reed offered no relevant testimony as to what was found in white's cell. I find White guilty of possession of contraband. . . . Sanction, 45 days [disciplinary confinement], effective November 15, 1990 through December 30, 1990; loss of job effective November 15, 1990.
Plaintiff's Opposition, at 8; Transcript, at 89-90.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff and awarded him $ 2000.00 as nominal damages for the deprivation of his constitutional rights. Jury Questionnaire: Defendant J. Kevin Kane, at question 4. The jury also seems to have wanted to reinstate plaintiff to his job though the jury questionnaire did not provide for that remedy.
a. Defendants' Motion for Judgment N.O.V.
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