The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHRISTOPHER CONNER, District Judge
Presently before the court are defendants' motions for summary
judgment (Docs. 62, 66), on the claims of plaintiff Dion Jetter
("Jetter") brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Docs. 1, 19).
For the following reasons, the motions will be granted.
I. Statement of Facts*fn1
Jetter, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional
Institution at Huntingdon ("SCI-Huntingdon"), was placed on
disciplinary status effective January 10, 2001, and was housed in
the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU"), a unit utilized by the
Department of Corrections to house inmates who have disciplinary
or behavioral problems. (Doc. 73, p. 15).
According to an Extraordinary Occurrence Report*fn2 dated
August 29, 2001, Jetter smeared the contents of his meal tray
over the window of his RHU cell door and covered it with tissue paper and the liner from his meal
tray. (Doc. 66-4, p. 20). Obstructing the correctional officers'
view into the cell constituted a violation of prison rules.
Consequently, Jetter was twice directed to remove the materials
from the window. He ignored both directives.
During the course of events, Jetter threatened to hurt himself.
The RHU lieutenant contacted the medical department to report
Jetter's threat. A nurse then spoke with Jetter at his cell and
he indicated that he was going to hurt himself with anything in
the cell. (Doc. 73, p. 53). The nurse contacted defendant
Polmueller to inform him of the situation.*fn3 (Doc. 73, p.
58). Based on his prior psychiatric treatment of Jetter,
Polmueller concluded that Jetter was not at risk to harm himself
such that he needed to be placed in a psychiatric observation
cell.*fn4 However, he recommended that objects or property
with which Jetter could attempt to harm himself, such as razors
and cloth, be removed from the cell by the correctional officers.
(Doc. 73, pp. 53, 60-61). Polmueller did not order that Jetter's
cell be stripped. Notably, other than ordering placement in a psychiatric
observation cell, Polmueller had no authority regarding cell
placement or assignment of inmates at SCI-Huntingdon. (Doc. 73,
p. 59). Nor did he have the authority to specify the clothing or
property an inmate could have in the RHU. Only correctional
employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections had such authority. (Doc. 73, p. 59).
A cell extraction team was assembled to achieve the removal of
Jetter from his cell. (Doc. 73, p. 54). When the team gathered
outside the cell, Jetter agreed to be handcuffed and left his
cell without the use of force. He was given an immediate medical
examination which revealed no physical injuries. He requested to
see a psychologist and was informed that Polmueller would see him
the following day. He also complained to the nurse that he did
not have a blanket or mattress in his cell. It was noted in the
medical records that both items were removed from the cell for
security reasons as Jetter had used them to block the cell door.
(Doc. 73, p. 55).
In Jetter's absence, the cell was cleaned and cleared of all
items which could be used to cover the cell door window. Jetter
alleges that Polmueller authorized strip cell
confinement.*fn5 According to Jetter, his cell was stripped
and he was left there nude and remained nude and without basic
necessities for a number of days. Conversely, defendants contend that he was not left nude, or
forced to remain nude in his cell at any time. (Doc. 66, p. 22).
Defendant Polmueller called on Jetter in his cell on August 30,
2001. (Docs. 73, p. 61, Doc. 83, p. 5). Jetter was clothed and
the temperature in the cell was tolerable. (Doc. 73, p. 61).
Jetter denied being suicidal, but requested to be placed on
psychiatric observation so that the deputy warden would have to
come and talk to him about his complaints. (Id.). Polmueller
concluded that it was not necessary for him to be placed in a
psychiatric observation cell. This was the last time Polmueller
rendered treatment to Jetter. (Doc. 73, p. 61).
In November 2001, Jetter filed a "petition for review" in the
Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania concerning the above events.
(Doc. 78, p. 4, Doc. 82, p. 9). Although there is no decision in
the record, it appears that this petition was denied.
Thereafter, Jetter filed a grievance concerning the above
events via the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Inmate
Grievance System which provides inmates access to a formal
procedure through which the resolution of problems or other
issues of concern arising during the course of confinement may be
sought. (Doc. 66-4, p. 9). The Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections Administrative Directive (DC-ADM) 804 Part VI in
effect at the time provided that "[g]rievances must be submitted
by an inmate for Initial Review to the Facility Grievance
Coordinator within fifteen (15) working days after the events
upon which the claims are based." (Doc. 66-4, p. 10). Jetter's grievance alleging the August 29, 2001 placement in an
RHU strip cell, which was assigned grievance number 35629, was
not filed until November 8, 2002. (Doc. 66-4, p. 18). "Because
DC-ADM 804 requires prisoners to file a grievance within fifteen
working days after the events upon which the claims were based
and Jetter filed grievance number 35629 more than one year after
the events upon which his claims were based, [the Grievance
Coordinator] rejected his grievance as untimely." (Doc. 66-4, p.
5). Jetter does not dispute that the grievance was untimely and
it is not clear whether the grievance was pursued any further.
Although Jetter represents that he exhausted his administrative
remedies through the available procedures, he has not provided
any supporting documentation to the court. (Doc. 76, p. 1).
"Summary judgment serves as a minimal but important hurdle for
litigants to overcome before presenting a claim to a jury."
Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 314 (M.D. Pa.
2004). Faced with such a motion, the adverse party must produce
affirmative evidence, beyond the disputed allegations of the
pleadings, in support of the claim. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986); Corneal
v. Jackson Township, 313 F. Supp. 2d 457, 464 (M.D. Pa. 2003),
aff'd, 94 Fed. Appx. 76 (3d Cir. 2004). "Such affirmative
evidence regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial
must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in
the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance." Saldana v.
Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester,
891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989). Only if ...