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JETTER v. BEARD

November 15, 2005.

DION JETTER, Plaintiff
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHRISTOPHER CONNER, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

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).

  II. Standard of Review

  "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 ...


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