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PEARSON v. VAUGHN

June 26, 2000

RICHARD PEARSON, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DONALD VAUGHN, ET. AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, District Judge.

EXPLANATION & ORDER

Plaintiff Richard Pearson ("Plaintiff"), an inmate currently housed at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset ("Somerset") and formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford ("Graterford"), brought this suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Graterford officials, Superintendent Donald Vaughn, Deputy Superintendent William Widner, Deputy Superintendent Thomas Stachelek, and Unit Manager John Murray. Plaintiff Pearson claims that when housed at Graterford in 1996, defendants failed to protect him against attack by other inmates in violation of his Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff contends that defendants violated his Eighth Amendment right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment by housing him in the general population at Graterford and failing to place him in administrative custody in February 1996, although he was stabbed when incarcerated in general population at Graterford in 1994. Plaintiff seeks money damages. Defendants Vaughn and Murray move for summary judgment.*fn1

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed his pro se complaint on November 7, 1997. On April 13, 1998, I granted plaintiff's motion for appointment of counsel. Defendants Vaughn and Murray filed their motion for summary judgment on September 3, 1999. Plaintiff's response was filed on October 5, 1999. In plaintiff's response to defendants' argument that plaintiff had failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a), plaintiff contended that he was not required to exhaust his administrative remedies. Plaintiff argued that the use of the administrative process would be futile because the grievance procedure could not provide him with the monetary relief that he seeks in this case.

On February 15, 2000, the Third Circuit issued its opinion in Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65 (3d Cir. 2000). On March 9, 2000, because plaintiff's futility argument was rejected in Nyhuis, I ordered plaintiff to show cause why this case should not be dismissed for failure to exhaust available administrative remedies. On March 24, 2000, plaintiff submitted a supplemental response regarding the exhaustion issue. Defendants filed a reply on April 6, 2000. In their reply, defendants argue that because plaintiff has failed to exhaust his administrative remedies, plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed. (Defs. Reply at 4, 6)

On April 24, 2000, I held a hearing regarding whether plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies, specifically to address the February 27, 1996 and March 5, 1996 Consolidated Inmate Grievance System forms ("grievance rejection") that plaintiff attached to his supplemental response.

II. FACTS*fn2

Plaintiff was housed at Graterford, on three separate occasions, in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In March 1994, while imprisoned at Graterford in general population,*fn3 he was stabbed six times by several inmates in a hallway corridor.*fn4 As a result of his injuries, plaintiff was hospitalized. According to plaintiff, the Graterford Program Review Committee ("PRC") subsequently determined that he should be removed from, and never returned to, the general population at Graterford because of the danger of another attack on his life. In August or September 1994, plaintiff was transferred to State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("Dallas") and subsequently paroled. In February 1995, he was arrested for a parole violation and housed at Graterford for approximately 2-3 weeks, without incident,*fn5 before being transferred to State Correctional Institution Camp Hill ("Camp Hill") for classification.

While at Camp Hill, plaintiff signed two Acknowledgment of Orientation forms in which plaintiff indicated that he did not need separation from any named inmates at Camp Hill or any other state institution. (Defs. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D-5 and Ex. D-6). According to plaintiff, he signed these forms because he did not know the names of the inmates from whom he needed to be separated. In addition, plaintiff believed that his only enemies were housed at Graterford and because of the 1994 assault he would not be returned to Graterford. On plaintiff's Diagnostic Classification Report, he signed his name under the words "no enemies." (Defs.Mot.Summ. J. Ex. D-4). Plaintiff then left Camp Hill and returned to Dallas.

On February 8, 1996, plaintiff was moved from Dallas to Graterford for a parole board hearing, and placed in the general population on B-Block. Defendant Murray was B-Block Unit Manager. According to plaintiff, he told Murray about the 1994 assault at Graterford.*fn6 Murray told plaintiff that he would be double-locked in this cell until he left Graterford. Plaintiff did not identify the particular inmates from whom he sought separation. On February 9, 1996, plaintiff attended his parole board hearing. Following the hearing, plaintiff discovered that his cell was no longer double-locked. Plaintiff again told defendant Murray that he was concerned about being housed in general population. During this conversation, plaintiff requested that he be returned to Dallas and until such transfer occurred, that he be double-locked in his cell or placed in administrative custody. Plaintiff claims that defendant Murray responded that plaintiff had been cleared for admittance into the general population, and there was no need for plaintiff to be placed in administrative custody.

On February 21, 1996, plaintiff was stabbed in the prison law library by three unknown inmates. Following the incident, plaintiff was treated for three puncture wounds on the back of his left shoulder blade. After the attack, plaintiff was interviewed by prison officials from the security office. He told them that he had been stabbed at Graterford in 1994. During the interview, plaintiff alleges that the security officers learned that plaintiff's custody records were still at Dallas. According to plaintiff, the security officers told him that he should never have been housed in general population at Graterford. Following the stabbing, plaintiff was placed in administrative custody. After he was released from medical hold, plaintiff returned to Dallas.

Plaintiff testified at his July 1999 deposition that he did "not recollect" filing a grievance requesting not to be housed in general population prior to the February 21, 1996 incident. (Pearson Dep. at 83). At the April 24, 2000 hearing,("hearing"), plaintiff testified that on February 9, 1996, he filed a grievance claiming that he should be removed from general population and placed in administrative custody. (Tr. 28-29, 45-46, 48, 51). Plaintiff testified that he did not receive copies of "a lot of the grievances" he filed. (Tr. at 26).*fn7 On a grievance rejection form dated February 27, 1996, approximately one week after the incident, Mary Ann Williams, ("Williams"), grievance coordinator at Graterford, wrote "Mr. Pearson, Your custody level is not addressable under the grievance process. You should inform your counselor and security of your desire to remain under AC status" (Hearing Ex. B). Robert S. Bitner, ("Bitner"), Chief Hearing Examiner at the Department of Corrections, testified that administrative custody is considered a custody level. (Tr. at 82). On the bottom of a grievance rejection form dated March 5, 1996, Williams wrote "Mr. Pearson, You have already filed the same grievance. There is no need to file another one." (Hearing Ex. B1). Plaintiff testified that he may have filed a second grievance requesting to be removed from general population and placed in administrative custody and in response, he received the March 5, 1996 grievance rejection. (Tr. at 32). On March 4, 1996, plaintiff filed Grievance No. 0617-96 requesting that he be returned to Dallas because he feared for his safety at Graterford. (Defs. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D-11; Hearing Ex. C). On March 7, 1996, Williams responded that plaintiff would remain at Graterford until medical hold was lifted. (Defs. Mot. Summ. J. Ex. D-11; Hearing Ex. D). Plaintiff did not appeal this response. Bitner testified, at the April 24, 2000 hearing, that he is responsible for handling all inmate grievance and misconduct appeals to final review. (Tr. at 71). Bitner also testified that based on his review of plaintiff's records, plaintiff did not file to final review a grievance appeal claiming that he had should have been placed in administrative custody or that he should have been transferred to another institution. (Tr. at 81).

On March 5, 1996, plaintiff wrote to defendant Vaughn regarding the February 21, 1996 stabbing, requesting that Vaughn inform his family about the incident and that plaintiff be permitted to make a telephone call to his family. (Defs.Mot.Summ. J. Ex. D-12).

III. DISCUSSION

Defendants Vaughn and Murray have moved for summary judgment. In their motion for summary judgment, defendants argue that: 1) plaintiff's claims should be dismissed because he failed to exhaust administrative remedies; 2) the Eleventh Amendment bars damages against defendants Vaughn and Murray in their official capacity;*fn8 3) defendants Vaughn and Murray did not ...


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