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McEACHIN v. BEARD

May 24, 2004.

THOMAS McEACHIN, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, ET AL., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: EDUARDO ROBRENO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

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.

 I. BACKGROUND

  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 grievance.*fn6

  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

  C. Discussion.

  1. Plaintiff's Rule ...


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