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MOORE v. LEHMAN

August 22, 1996

JACQUELINE MOORE, Plaintiff,
v.
JOSEPH D. LEHMAN, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CONABOY

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

 Presently before the Court are the Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 64) and the Plaintiff's cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 80). These motions deal with, the issues of whether this court has jurisdiction to hear this case and whether the attorney visitation policy at the State Correctional Institute at Muncy (hereinafter "SCI-Muncy") is unconstitutional as violating the inmates' right to access to the courts. For the reasons, as set forth infra, we shall deny the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 64). We shall also deny the Plaintiff's cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc 80).

 FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

 The facts of this case are well known to all parties involved; however, for purposes of addressing the present motions, a brief recitation of the necessary facts is as follows: On or about April 13, 1993, the Plaintiff, Jacqueline Moore, initiated the present complaint on behalf of herself and other inmates similarly situation at SCI-Muncy *fn1" claiming, inter alia, that the attorney visitation policy at SCI-Muncy violated their constitutional right to access to the courts. *fn2" On two (2) separate occasions, Plaintiff Moore's attorneys were not allowed to visit her, although they contend that their names were either previously placed upon Plaintiff Moore's visitor's list or that they were previously permitted to visit Plaintiff Moore when their names did not appear on Plaintiff Moore's visitor's list. (Doc. 86, App. A1, 23-31).

 When Defendant Byrd became the superintendent of SCI-Muncy, she implemented strict adherence to this policy. (Doc. 86, App. E, 12). Defendant Byrd did not change the format of the policy; rather, she changed the application of the policy by strictly adhering to the it. (Doc. 86, App. A1, 12-14). Additionally, on or about June, 1991; the procedure at SCI-Muncy where an inmate places a prospective visitors' name on her visitor's list was changed to computerized listing (Doc. 86, App. A1, 20-22). This change appears to have created a delay from the time which the inmate actually places the, name of the prospective visitor on the hard copy of the inmate's visitors' list to the time which the hard copy of the inmate's visitors' list is computerized and entered into SCI-Muncy's computer system. Deposition testimony of Defendant Byrd reveals that although Plaintiff Moore's attorneys' names were on the hard copy list, they were not on the official computerized list. (Doc. 86, App E, 12) and therefore were denied visitation with their client. However, once this problem was rectified, Plaintiff' Moore's attorneys were allowed to visit with her.

 On or about December 28, 1995, the Defendants filed the, present Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 64), which resulted in the Plaintiff filing an answer to said motion (Doc. 80) and cross Motion for Partial Summary Judgment (Doc. 80).

 Standard of Review

 Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c), a motion for summary judgment will only be granted if there is no genuine issue of material fact, and if the moving party is entitled to, relief as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-8, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1985). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would effect the outcome of the lawsuit under the applicable law in the case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury might return a verdict for the non-moving party. Hankins v. Temple University, 829 F.2d 437, 440, (3d Cir. 1987).

 In determining whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must consider all evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). A moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law if the nonmoving party does not make a sufficient showing on an essential element of his case with respect to which he has the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1985).

 When reviewing a motion for summary judgment, the court must decide whether or not there is a genuine issue of material fact which must be resolved at trial or whether the evidence is so one-sided that one party will prevail over the other. Groff v. Continental Insurance Co., 741 F. Supp. 541 (E.D. Pa. 1990). "Where factual controversies exist), disputes over material facts that might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law will probably preclude the entry of summary judgment." Metro Transportation Co. v. North Star Reinsurance Co., 912 F.2d 672, 678 (3d. Cir. 1990).

 I. Defendants' Jurisdiction Argument

 The Defendants contend that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case, based upon the consent decree entered into by the parties of Imprisoned Citizens Union v. Shapp et. al., Nos. 70-3054, 71-513, 71-1006, 70-2545 & 72-2060 (E.D. Pa.) (hereinafter "Shapp").

 The Shapp decision entailed five inmate lawsuits filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Shapp plaintiffs, inmates of six Pennsylvania prisons including SCI-Muncy, sought equitable and monetary relief in regards to several constitutional claims which challenged the conditions of confinement at said Pennsylvania prisons. One of these challenges dealt with the Department of Correction's (hereinafter "Doc") visitation policy.

 The Shapp litigation culminated in a consent decree which addressed all of the claims of the plaintiffs. With respect to the DOC visitation policy, the Shapp consent decree implemented three change's in the visitation policy. *fn3" The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, as the court which approved the decree, retained jurisdiction in that matter. *fn4"

 
The scope of a consent decree must be discerned within its four (4) corners. The goal of the task of interpreting a contract is to ascertain the intent of the parties as manifested by the language of the written instrument. Consequently, a court may examine the circumstances surrounding the consent decree, including the context in which the parties were operating, without departure from the so-called four (4) corners rule.

 Beehler v. Jeffes, 664 F. Supp. 931 (M.D. Pa. 1986) (Nealon, J.) (internal citations omitted)(quoting New York State Association for Retarded Children, Inc. v. Carey, 596 F.2d 27, 37 (2d. Cir.), cert. denied, sub. nom, Coughlin v. New York State Association for Retarded Children, Inc., 444 U.S. 836, 62 L. Ed. 2d 46, 100 S. Ct. 70 (1979).

 While this Court has refused to entertain matters concerning the Shapp consent decree in other cases, see Howard v. Fulcomer, 89-CV-0286 (M.D. Pa.) (Muir, J.); Beehler v. Jeffes, supra, this Court has also held that individual claims concerning the same issues which had not been addressed in the Shapp case may be brought before this Court. See Lockey v. Fulcomer, 85-CV-1325 (M.D. Pa. 1985) (Rambo, J.); Beehler, 664 F. Supp. at 938. By Memorandum and Order dated July 15, 1996, this Court decertified the class which was proceeding on the visitation claim. The only attorney visitation claim which remains is that of Plaintiff Jacqueline Moore. Furthermore, the Plaintiff's claim not only is an individual's claim that the attorney visitation policy itself denies one access to the courts, but also is a claim that the attorney visitation policy as applied by SCI-Muncy denies one access to the courts. Neither of these ...


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