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BUTLER v. MEYERS

October 12, 2005.

TERRY BUTLER, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT W. MEYERS, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

Terry Butler, an inmate confined at the Rockview State Correctional Institution in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, commenced this action with a pro se civil rights complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint (Doc. 33). Named as Defendants are: (1) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Chief Grievance Coordinators Thomas James and Sharon Burks; (2) SCI-Rockview Superintendents Robert W. Meyers and Franklin J. Tennis; (3) SCI-Rockview Medical Director Dr. John Symons; (4) SCI-Rockview Assistant Librarian Donna L. Alters; and (5) Corrections Officers Paul Kensinger and Shawn E. Myers. Plaintiff alleges that: (a) Kensinger and Myers acted with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's physical safety during an altercation between Plaintiff and another inmate on September 5, 2000; (b) Symons was deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's medical needs; (c) Meyers, James and Alters have denied Plaintiff meaningful access to the courts; (d) Meyers has failed to properly train staff to prevent denial of access to the courts; and (e) Tennis and Burks have failed to properly supervise their staff to prevent denial of access to the courts. By an Order dated March 28, 2005 (Doc. 47), Symons was dismissed from the action. Presently pending are the Defendants' motions (Docs. 38 and 48) to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The motions have been briefed, and they are ripe for decision. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions will be granted.

  II. Background

  Plaintiff's amended complaint (Doc. 33) alleges that he was assaulted by another inmate at SCI-Rockview on September 5, 2000, and Myers and Kensington could have prevented the assault but failed to do so. Plaintiff also claims that SCI-Rockview officials have implemented and/or failed to amend policies that limit Plaintiff's right of access to the courts.

  On September 5, 2000, at approximately 8:40 p.m., Kensington and Myers responded to a report of an inmate fight. (Doc. 33 at ¶ 10.) When Myers arrived, he saw inmate James Brown ("Brown") attempting to separate Plaintiff and inmate Edward Passamonte ("Passamonte"). Brown and Plaintiff told Myers that Plaintiff had been attacked by multiple inmates. The two also informed Myers and Kensington that one of the attackers had used a sock stuffed with soap as a weapon, and that attacker had mingled with the crowd when Myers and Kensington arrived.

  A number of inmates then gathered in the television room and, in the presence of Myers and Kensington, began threatening Plaintiff. Passamonte was handcuffed and led from the area by unidentified corrections officers, and Myers handcuffed Plaintiff's hands behind his back. Myers and Kensinger then positioned Plaintiff between them and led him toward the television room. As they proceeded, inmates Keil and Harper stepped out of the crowd, and Plaintiff identified Keil as the inmate that attacked him with a soap filled sock. Myers and Kensinger led Plaintiff into the television room, where they instructed him to stop and face the wall. Plaintiff complied, and as he faced the wall he was attacked by Keil and Harper. Myers and Kensinger ordered Keil and Harper to stop, but they did not physically intervene until other corrections officers arrived to assist them. As a result of the altercation, Plaintiff was convicted of two misconducts for fighting, and he was sentenced to 150 days disciplinary confinement.

  As noted previously, Plaintiff also claims that implementation of three SCI-Rockview policies have hindered his Constitutional right to meaningful access to the courts. The first of these challenged policies is the library sign-up procedure. To utilize the prison library, inmates are required to sign up for privileges between 7:20 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., between 1:30 p.m. and 2:00 p.m., or at 6:30 p.m. However, space is limited to five (5) inmates at the first two periods and three (3) inmates in the last period. Because the morning line is often very long, and includes inmates seeking other services, Plaintiff claims that an inmate seeking to sign up in the morning period must sometimes choose between signing up for library privileges and having breakfast. He claims that this system is inherently inadequate to insure a prisoner's access to the courts.

  Further, SCI-Rockview has a policy limiting inmate paper purchases to twenty-five (25) sheets weekly. Plaintiff claims that this limitation "has made it virtually impossible for the Plaintiff to prepare his actual innocence petition for the court in violation of his [right to access the courts]." (Doc. 33 at ¶ 70.) Plaintiff's third challenge to SCI-Rockview policies relates to the assistant librarian's no talking policy, which he also claims infringes on his right of access to the courts.

  In addition to the SCI-Rockview officials directly involved in the aforementioned claims, Plaintiff alleges that the supervisory officials are liable for failure to address and remedy the foregoing problems, and the grievance review officers are liable for their failure to grant Plaintiff's grievances regarding the alleged Constitutional violations. Defendants claim that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed.

  III. Discussion

  A. Motion to Dismiss Standard

  In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept the Plaintiff's allegations as true. White v. Napoleon, 897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit added that when considering a motion to dismiss, based on a Rule 12(b)(6) argument, a court should "not inquire whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims." Moreover, a motion to dismiss may only be granted if there is no reasonable reading of the facts that would entitle Plaintiff to relief. Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217, 223 (3d Cir. 2004). A complaint that does not establish entitlement to relief under any reasonable interpretation is properly dismissed without leave ...


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