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AFRICA v. VAUGHAN

March 19, 1998

CHARLES SIMS AFRICA
v.
DONALD VAUGHAN, SUPERINTENDENT OF S.C.I. GRATERFORD; MARTIN HORN, COMMISSIONER, PA. DEPT. OF CORRECTIONS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WALDMAN

 WALDMAN, J.

 March 19, 1998

 Presently before the court is defendants' renewed Motion for Summary Judgment in this pro se 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action. Plaintiff, an inmate at S.C.I. Graterford, seeks to enjoin defendants from denying him visitation with Ramona Africa. *fn1" Plaintiff asserts that Ms. Africa is his wife and other inmates receive visits from their spouses including those, who like Ms. Africa, are former inmates. He claims the refusal to permit such visitation is thus an equal protection violation.

 The court previously rejected a dispositive defense motion premised on evidence of the reasons defendant Vaughan determined Ms. Africa's presence posed an institutional threat. The court concluded that if plaintiff and Ms. Africa are married, defendants had not demonstrated a rational basis for refusing them the visitation privileges accorded to other prisoners married to former inmates but if they are not married, then plaintiff has been treated no differently than other inmates generally precluded from receiving visits from former inmates. Additional discovery was then undertaken with regard to whether plaintiff is in fact married to Ms. Africa.

 To obtain an injunction, a plaintiff must show that he is entitled to relief on the merits, that there is no adequate alternative remedy at law and that the balance of equities favors the grant of injunctive relief. Ciba-Geigy Corp. v. Bolar Pharmaceutical Co., 747 F.2d 844, 850 (3d Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1137, 86 L. Ed. 2d 696, 105 S. Ct. 2678 (1985). The ongoing denial of a plaintiff's constitutional rights warrants injunctive relief.

 Neither convicted prisoners nor their family members have an inherent constitutional right to visitation. See, e.g., Maust v. Headley, 959 F.2d 644, 649 (7th Cir. 1992); Mayo v. Lane, 867 F.2d 374, 379 (7th Cir. 1989) ( Flaum, J. concurring); Thorne v. Jones, 765 F.2d 1270, 1273-74 (5th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1016, 89 L. Ed. 2d 313, 106 S. Ct. 1198, 106 S. Ct. 1199 (1986); McCray v. Sullivan, 509 F.2d 1332, 1334 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 859, 46 L. Ed. 2d 86, 96 S. Ct. 114 (1975); Flanagan v. Shively, 783 F. Supp. 922, 934 (M.D. Pa.), aff'd, 980 F.2d 722 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 829, 126 L. Ed. 2d 62, 114 S. Ct. 95 (1993). The equal protection clause, however, requires that the state treat similarly situated individuals alike absent a rational reason for doing otherwise. City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 439, 87 L. Ed. 2d 313, 105 S. Ct. 3249 (1985). There must be a rational basis for distinctions by prison officials in the application of visitation policies to similarly situated inmates. See Robinson v. Palmer, 268 U.S. App. D.C. 326, 841 F.2d 1151, 1157 (D.C. Cir. 1988); Smith v. Coughlin, 748 F.2d 783, 787-88 (2d Cir. 1984); Buehl v. Lehman, 802 F. Supp. 1266, 1271 n.9 (E.D. Pa. 1992).

 In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must determine whether the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue of material fact, and whether the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986); Arnold Pontiac-GMC, Inc. v. General Motors Corp., 786 F.2d 564, 568 (3d Cir. 1986).

 Only facts that may affect the outcome of a case under applicable law are "material." All reasonable inferences from the record must be drawn in favor of the non-movant. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 256. Although the movant has the initial burden of demonstrating the absence of genuine issues of material fact, the non-movant must then establish the existence of each element on which he bears the burden of proof. J.F. Feeser, Inc. v. Serv-A-Portion, Inc., 909 F.2d 1524, 1531 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986)), cert. denied, 499 U.S. 921, 113 L. Ed. 2d 246, 111 S. Ct. 1313 (1991).

 From the evidence of record, as uncontroverted or viewed in a light most favorable to plaintiff, the pertinent facts are as follow.

 Plaintiff and Ramona Africa never obtained a marriage license. No return of a celebration of marriage for the two was ever filed with the Commonwealth. They never participated in a formal marriage ceremony.

 On or about November 18, 1980, plaintiff attended a meeting in Holmesburg Prison. An unspecified number of MOVE members who were also in prison with plaintiff and several other individuals who acted as "legal runners" for MOVE members, including Ms. Africa, were present at this meeting.

 The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the legal situation and strategy of the MOVE members. At some point, however, marriage between Ramona Africa and plaintiff was discussed by those present "as a family." Plaintiff and the others present at the meeting considered themselves to be members of the same family. There were readings from MOVE guidelines regarding marriage. Plaintiff and Ms. Africa essentially said "we're going to be together, okay, I'm glad to be with you because I see that you have the whole in your mind and not just individuality" and "this will work, because its productive, it's going in the same direction and, you know, we believe that something like that will be healthy."

 In a declaration Ms. Africa states simply that she is married to plaintiff. She provides no information about when, where or how such a marriage was entered. No affidavits or testimony from others allegedly present at the November 1980 meeting have been submitted. Plaintiff cannot produce documents or ...


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