The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jeffrey Payton is currently an inmate at the State
Correctional Institution at Greene ("S.C.I.Greene"). He brings
suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his rights
under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. His amended complaint
claims that: (1) he was subject to a series of false misconduct
reports in connection with a disturbance at S.C.I. Coal Township,
and was denied due process at his misconduct hearings; (2) he has
been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment; and (3) amounts
have been withheld or withdrawn improperly from his prison
account. He seeks damages and injunctive relief. Named as
defendants are Martin Horn, Commissioner of the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections; Phillip Johnson, the former
Superintendent at S.C.I. Greene; Donald Jones, J. Welby, L.
Libhart, and Joanna Johnson, who were all hearing officers at
S.C.I. Coal Township; and R. Smith, R. Romiz, C.O. Metzinger,
Sgt. Jordan, John Does 1 and 2, and Lt. Strausser, who were all
correctional officers and/or employees at S.C.I. Coal Township.
Before me are Plaintiff's Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and
two motions to dismiss, one filed individually by defendant Horn,
the other filed jointly by defendants Phillip Johnson, Jordan,
Metzinger, Smith, Strausser, and Romiz. For the reasons expressed
below, I will deny Plaintiff's motion and dismiss this case in
Payton initiated this suit pro se by filing a proposed
complaint and an application to proceed in forma pauperis. In
that complaint, he alleged that he was subject to false
misconduct reports in connection with a disturbance at S.C.I.
Coal Township, and that the defendants*fn1 denied him due
process at the hearings on those misconducts by denying him a
meaningful opportunity to be heard or to present witnesses on his
own behalf. The complaint also alleged that Payton was wrongly
sentenced to disciplinary custody following those hearings.
Based on those facts, he claimed violations of his rights to
equal protection and due process of law under the Fourteenth
Amendment. In my Order, dated September 22, 1997, which granted
Payton leave to proceed in forma pauperis, I dismissed his
Fourteenth Amendment claims as frivolous based on Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132 L.Ed.2d 418 (1995)
stating, "plaintiff's claim that he was denied due process,
wrongly convicted of misconduct, and sentenced to disciplinary
confinement fails to state a violation of his constitutional
rights." I allowed the balance of Payton's complaint to proceed.
The claims allowed to go forward included: (1) denial of access
to the courts; (2) unreasonable search and seizure; and (3) cruel
and unusual punishment.
Upon Payton's subsequent request, I appointed counsel and
granted him leave to file an amended complaint. In his amended
complaint, he abandons his First Amendment and Fourth Amendment
claims. Instead, Payton restates his earlier contention, which I
dismissed as frivolous, that he was denied due process at his
misconduct hearings, and that, as a result of those misconducts,
he has been held in a combination of disciplinary and
administrative custody since August, 1995. He claims that
confinement in restricted housing for such an extended period
constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, and restates a claim
that money has been improperly withheld and/or withdrawn from his
For the purposes of ruling on the motions to dismiss, I take
the facts presented in the amended complaint as true. Rocks v.
City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). In
August, 1995, when the events at issue in this case began, Payton
was an inmate at S.C.I. Coal Township. He had previously pled
guilty to receiving stolen property and possession of a
controlled substance with intent to deliver, and was serving a
sentence of two years and nine months to five and one half years.
His minimum sentence expired on or about March 16, 1997 and his
maximum sentence will expire on or about September 9, 1999. To
date, Payton has been denied parole. Amended Compl. ¶ 7.
On August 14, 1995, a disturbance between inmates and staff
broke out in the dining hall at S.C.I. Coal Township. Id. ¶ 9.
Following the disturbance, Payton received four separate
misconduct reports*fn2 arising from the disturbance and his
alleged participation in it. Id. ¶ 10. A hearing on the first
misconduct report was held on August 21, 1995, before defendant
Welby. Payton was denied the opportunity to present witnesses. He
pled not guilty to the charge of participating in the riot, but
Welby maliciously marked on the hearing sheet that Payton had
pled guilty to the charge. Payton was ordered to spend ninety
days in disciplinary custody in the Restricted Housing Unit
("RHU") as a result of this misconduct. Id. ¶ 11. A hearing on
the second misconduct report was held on September 6, 1995,
before defendant Jones. Again, Payton was denied the opportunity
to present witnesses on his behalf. Defendants Romiz and
Metzinger were witnesses for the Commonwealth. Payton was found
guilty of this misconduct, and was sentenced to another ninety
days in disciplinary custody. Id. ¶ 12. A hearing on the third
misconduct report was held on September 28, 1995, before
defendant Libhart. Payton was denied the opportunity to present
witnesses, and defendants Jordan and John Does 1 and 2 were
witnesses for the Commonwealth. Payton was again found guilty and
sentenced to ninety days in disciplinary custody. He was also
ordered to pay a percentage of medical costs for the treatment of
a correctional officer injured during the disturbance. Id. ¶
hearing on the final misconduct report was held on October 10,
1995, before defendant Joanna Johnson. Defendants Romiz and
Strausser were witnesses. Following this hearing, Payton was
sentenced to sixty days in disciplinary custody. Id. ¶ 14.
Payton had been placed in the RHU immediately following the
disturbance, and spent a total of 330 days in disciplinary
custody as a result of disturbance-related charges. Id. ¶ 14.
He denies having participated in the disturbance. Id. ¶ 15.
When Payton completed his term in disciplinary custody, he was
placed in administrative custody. He was kept in the RHU, with
largely the same restrictions on his liberty as exist in
disciplinary custody, rather than being returned to the general
prison population. Id. ¶ 20. To date, he has never been
returned to the general prison population; he has remained in the
RHU, in either disciplinary or administrative custody,*fn3 since
August 14, 1995. Amended Compl. ¶ 21.
Defendant Horn has moved to dismiss the amended complaint
pursuant to Fed. R.Civ.P. 12(b)(3) and (6). He makes three
arguments: (1) Plaintiff has not alleged Horn's personal
involvement in connection with the misconduct hearings, thereby
precluding monetary relief against him under 42 U.S.C. § 1983;
(2) the case should be dismissed for improper venue; and (3) the
applicable two-year statute of limitations bars Plaintiff's cause
of action. The motion to dismiss filed by defendant Johnson and
the five other individual defendants incorporated by reference
Horn's motion to dismiss. It also incorporated by reference
defendant Horn's Response in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for
Injunctive Relief and Restraining Order, which argued that Payton
was unlikely to prevail on the merits of this case because, (1)
under Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 115 S.Ct. 2293, 132
L.Ed.2d 418 (1995) and Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703 (3d Cir.
1997), an inmate does not have a protected liberty interest in
placement in the general prison population; and (2) under the
Prison Litigation Reform Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) ("PLRA"),
Payton has failed to exhaust administrative remedies regarding
his placement in administrative custody.
In the PLRA, Congress required that prisoners exhaust
administrative remedies before bringing suit in federal court
under section 1983 over prison conditions:
No action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under section 1983 of this title or any
other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any
jail, prison or other correctional facility until
such administrative remedies as are available are
42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a). However, the court may dismiss a suit
without first requiring exhaustion if "a claim is, on its face,
frivolous, malicious, [or] fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted." 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(2). Because I find
that Payton's allegations fail ...