The opinion of the court was delivered by: EDUARDO ROBRENO, District Judge
Pro se plaintiff Thomas McEachin, an inmate at the State
Correctional Institution at Albion, PA ("plaintiff"), brings this
42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983") action against Jeffrey A. Beard,
Secretary of the Pennsylvania Dep't of Corrections (the "DOC"), Leslie
Hatcher, Grievance Coordinator of the State Correctional Institute at
Graterford ("SCI Graterford") and Sergeant Joseph Swenski of the State
Correctional Institute at Camp Hill ("SCI Camp Hill").*fn1 The complaint
alleges that plaintiff's Fourteenth, Fifth and First Amendment rights
were violated when his watch was confiscated from him while he was being
transferred from one correctional facility to another. Specifically,
plaintiff contends that his watch was never returned to him and that his "due process equal protection rights"
were violated when he was denied access to the procedures set in place
for filing a grievance. The complaint further alleges that, on a separate
occasion, plaintiff's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated
when other personal property belonging to the plaintiff was confiscated
from his prison cell without a prior hearing. The relief that plaintiff
seeks is the return of his watch and personal property or monetary
damages in the amount of $200.
Presently before the Court is defendants' motion for summary judgment
and plaintiff's motion to postpone consideration of defendants' motion
for summary judgment and to compel additional discovery pursuant to Fed.
R. Civ. P. Rule 56(f). For the reasons that follow, defendants' motion
is granted and plaintiff's motion is denied.
A. The First Incident: Plaintiff's Watch.
On September 5, 2001, plaintiff's Casio watch and other personal
effects were confiscated as he was being transferred from SCI Graterford
to SCI Waymart.*fn2 The prison staff member who took the watch filled
out a confiscation slip, but did not provide it to the plaintiff at the time of the confiscation. At
some point later in time, plaintiff was transferred from SCI Waymart to
SCI Camp Hill. The confiscation slip and most of plaintiff's property was
returned to the plaintiff on November 15, 2001, while he was at SCI Camp
Hill, but plaintiff's watch was not returned. Plaintiff wrote a letter to
the Deputy of Security at SCI Graterford about the missing watch and
after receiving no response, filed a grievance with defendant Leslie
Hatcher, the Grievance Coordinator at SCI Graterford, on December 17,
2001. The grievance was assigned number 10106.
On December 20, 2001, Hatcher returned the grievance to plaintiff as
untimely without taking any action on the merits.*fn3 Plaintiff then
appealed Hatcher's decision to the Secretary of Inmate Grievances and
Appeals on January 9, 2002. By letter on January 11, 2002, the
Secretary's office informed plaintiff that no action would be taken
because plaintiff's appeal was incomplete for failure to comply with the
established DOC procedures.*fn4 This letter explained that pursuant to
DOC policy, an appeal to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and
Appeals requires proper documentation of the grievance itself, the
initial response, the appeal to the institution's superintendent, and the
superintendent's response.*fn5 The letter also indicated that any
further correspondence regarding grievance number 10106, which did not
include these mandatory documents, would result in dismissal of the
Despite this instruction, plaintiff did not appeal the grievance and,
on February 3, 2002, wrote a letter to the DOC Secretary, Defendant
Beard, about the same grievance.
B. The Second Incident: Confiscation of Contraband.
In addition to the watch incident, plaintiff complains of an incident
which occurred on November 17, 2001 in which his property was confiscated
by defendant Sergeant Swenski without a prior hearing. Sergeant Swenski
entered plaintiff's cell on November 17, 2001 and demanded that plaintiff put away personal
effects, recently purchased by plaintiff, in boxes so that they could be
confiscated. Prison policy mandated that all personal effects be stored
in only one foot locker and any additional property not capable of
storage in the single footlocker was considered contraband. Despite
plaintiff's objections, the excess property was confiscated by Sergeant
Swenski. As documentation, plaintiff received a confiscation receipt from
Sergeant Swenski describing each of the items confiscated.
A formal misconduct hearing was held on November 27, 2001. After
reviewing the written version of the November 17, 2001 incident and
listening to plaintiff's testimony, the hearing examiner found plaintiff
guilty of contraband possession. As punishment, plaintiff received a
reprimand and a warning. On appeal, the Program Review Committee (PRC)
upheld the hearing examiner's decision.
Plaintiff filed additional appeals, first to Martin Dragovich, the
Superintendent of SCI Camp Hill and then to Robert Bitner of the DOC's
Office of the Chief Hearing Examiner. At each level, the decisionmaker
upheld the lower level decisions. These appeals were taken in connection
with the disposition of the misconduct hearing only. No formal grievance
in connection with the confiscation of his plaintiff's property was filed.*fn7