Not what you're
looking for? Try an advanced search.
Buy This Entire Record For
SAUNDERS v. HORN
March 27, 1997
COMMISSIONER MARTIN HORN, et al.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLLAK
Pollak, J. March 27, 1997
This is a civil rights case, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, in which a prisoner, Robert Saunders, alleges that Martin Horn, the Commissioner of Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections, Donald T. Vaughn, the Superintendent of SCI-Graterford, and three corrections officers deprived him of various constitutional rights and his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim against defendants Horn and Vaughn. On December 23, 1996, Magistrate Judge Diane M. Welsh issued a Report and Recommendation, in which she recommended that "defendants' motion to dismiss be granted with respect to the plaintiff's right-to-court-access claim and equal protection claim"; that "the defendants' motion to dismiss be denied with respect to the plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim, procedural due process claim and Americans with Disabilities Act claim"; and that "the defendants' motion to dismiss be converted into a motion for summary judgment with respect to the plaintiff's prayer for injunctive relief and that the defendants be granted summary judgment with respect to the prayer for injunctive relief."
Horn and Vaughn have filed objections to the portions of the Report recommending that portions of their motion to dismiss be denied. I will address their arguments that Saunders' complaint should be dismissed because (1) he failed to allege facts showing that Horn and Vaughn were personally involved in the alleged wrongdoing, and (2) the Americans with Disabilities Act does not apply to state prisons.
Accepting the factual allegations in the complaint as true for the purposes of the 12(b)(6) motion, Judge Welsh recited the facts as follows:
The plaintiff has been serving a life sentence since April 1976. Since 1984, he has been wearing orthopedic shoes and walking with the aid of a cane. These items were prescribed by an orthopedist. In early 1995, an MRI revealed that he was "suffering from disk degeneration in areas of L-5, S-5 . . . of spine." On September 22, 1995, the plaintiff was transferred from a Delaware prison to SCI-Camphill. Upon arriving at SCI-Camphill, an official of that prison took away the plaintiff's orthopedic shoes and his brace.
The plaintiff was told that, if these items were needed, a doctor at SCI-Camphill would order them. Since that time, he has had to "wear regularly issued shoes, which cause him constant pain."
On November 22, 1995, the plaintiff was transferred to SCI-Graterford. Upon his arrival, defendant Harmon placed him in a cell with an inmate who had been placed in disciplinary status for assaulting a correctional officer. On November 28, 1995, he was informed by the Program Review Committee that he should be assigned into the general population. He told defendants Thomas and Murphy of this information but they left him in the same cell, where he was locked in 24 hours a day and fed in the cell. In spite of his physical condition, he was required to climb onto the top bunk.
On December 1, 1995, the plaintiff was assigned a new cellmate. This new cellmate had been sentenced by the Disciplinary Committee to cell restriction. The plaintiff was only permitted to leave his cell to receive his medication and to shower once every three days. Prior to December 1, 1995, the plaintiff had only had one cold shower.
The plaintiff complained to defendants Murphy, Harmon and Thomas about being kept locked in his cell 24 hours a day. He informed them that he had not violated any disciplinary rules prior to leaving SCI-Camphill. His grievances were ignored and he then wrote letters to defendants Horn and Vaughn.
On December 6, 1995, he was taken to a different cell and he was afforded some privileges, which he does not specify. He was not, however, given an identification card, which prevented him from borrowing law books from the law library. Although he had litigation pending in Delaware before he came to Pennsylvania, the plaintiff was unable to use the available law books and Commissioner Horn failed to provide him with Delaware law books. For reasons which he does not explain, he had to be accompanied by a correctional officer in order to pick up his legal mail. This meant that, on some occasions, he had to wait up to three days to receive his legal mail.
The plaintiff was not issued clothing. He was forced to wear the clothes of another inmate. He was not able to use the commissary because he was not issued an identification card. He complains that the showers and toilets at SCI-Graterford are not designed to accommodate inmates with disabilities. The sinks overlap the toilets. This prevents an inmate from sitting up straight. As a result, the plaintiff must sit bent over, which causes him "severe discomfort". Because of the showers' non-accommodating design, on one occasion, the plaintiff slipped and fell down.
The plaintiff alleges that all defendants have violated his rights to equal protection, due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. He claims that each defendant is aware of the conditions he complains of because he has informed each defendant of these conditions.
In objecting to Judge Welsh's Report and Recommendation, Horn and Vaughn argue first that Saunders has failed to state a claim against them under § 1983 because he has not alleged that they were personally involved in the alleged wrongdoing. Personal involvement may be established through allegations of actual knowledge and acquiescence. See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Saunders' complaint states that he wrote to defendants Horn and Vaughn after he ...
Buy This Entire Record For