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Holbrook v. Walters

April 4, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie United States District Judge



I. Introduction

On January 6, 2003, Plaintiff Robert E. Holbrook, a state inmate formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, ("SCIHuntingdon"), brought this civil rights action pro se , alleging he is the victim of retaliation due to his filing of prison grievances and his membership in the Nation of Islam ("NOI").*fn1 Named as defendants are the Secretary of the Department of Corrections ("DOC"), Jeffrey Beard, and the following members of the SCI-Huntingdon corrections staff: Superintendent Kenneth Kyler; Deputy Superintendent A. Scott Williamson; Unit Manager Scott Walters; Unit Manager Kenneth Hollibaugh; Counselor Arvil Lovett; and Inmate Program Manager Raymond Lawler.

Holbrook alleges that Walters retaliated against him by fabricating information portraying him as an anti-white extremist and a threat to the security of the institution. As a result, he was placed in Administrative Custody ("AC") in SCI-Huntingdon's Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") pending a transfer to another facility. (Dkt. Entry 1, Complaint, and Dkt. Entry 2, Preliminary Statement.) Defendants Beard, Kyler, Williamson, Hollibaugh, Lawler and Lovett allegedly violated his First Amendment rights when they "acted in cooperation" with Walters after being informed that Walters' actions were retaliatory. (Dkt. Entry 2, Claim for Relief.) Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Dkt. Entry 79.) Because it is clear that Defendants would have placed Holbrook in AC status and transferred him from SCIHuntingdon irrespective of his protected activities, the Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

II. Factual Background

A. The Fruit of Islam

According to documentation submitted by Holbrook in opposing the summary judgment motion, NOI is the most prominent organization within the Black Muslim movement. (Dkt. Entry 94, Exhibits in Support of Plaintiff's Declaration in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment ("Plaintiff's Exhibits"), Exh. 34, pp. 82 - 85, Black Muslims, History of the Nation of Islam.) Plaintiff's Exhibit 34 states that the NOI is a "religious movement based on black separatism" which, over time, has fractured into several groups. (Id.) The Fruit of Islam ("FOI") is affiliated with the NOI. (Exh. 2 in Supp. of S.J. Mot., Decl. Of Dennis Durant, Dkt. Entry 84-2, ("Durant Decl.") ¶ 12.*fn2 The FOI has a para-military structure, with a member's rank signifying his importance in the organization. (Id. ¶ 13.)

Due to the religious affiliation of the group, the DOC does not classify or monitor the FOI as a Security Threat Group ("STG"). (Id. ¶ 14.) According to Mr. Durant, however, it is well known that FOI members have a long history of involvement in disruptive and violent activities inside DOC prisons. (Id. ¶ 15.) Although the FOI is not tracked as a group, the actions of an individual member may be monitored if the inmate is noted as using his position and power within the FOI to engage in significant disruptive behavior, or if the individual's membership in the FOI has been the source for some assaultive behavior. (Id. at ¶ 16.) If an inmate while under close supervision exhibits behavior that indicates that he is attempting to organize other inmates for the purpose of disrupting the security of an institution, he may be given AC status.(Id. at ¶ 20.)

It is undisputed that Holbrook is a member of the NOI. (Dkt. Entry 92, Plaintiff's Decl. ¶ 45.) Holbrook asserts that he does not belong to the FOI. (Id. ¶ 46.)

B. Holbrook's History within the DOC

Holbrook was committed to the DOC on February 28, 1991, after pleading guilty to first degree murder in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. He is serving a life sentence for his involvement in the 1990 stabbing of a woman. (Exh. 1 in Supp. of S.J. Mot., Decl. Of William Scott Walters, Dkt. Entry 84-2, ("Walters Decl."), ¶ 8(a).) He was initially confined at SCI-Camp Hill, but was transferred to SCI-Graterford on June 23, 1992. (Id., ¶ 8(b).) While at SCI-Graterford, Holbrook was involved in an incident where four Jamaican inmates were assaulted. Three inmates were stabbed and a fourth was beaten. According to a July 23, 1993 memorandum concerning the incident, the fight was part of an ongoing dispute between Jamaican inmates and a splinter group of the FOI regarding profit sharing from illegal drug activity. (Walters Decl. ¶ 8(c); Exh. C, Investigation of Stabbing in E-Block Yard on 07-05-93.)

During the course of the investigation into this matter, Holbrook reported to staff that he "consider[ed] himself to be a member of the FOI." (Id., Exh. C.) Although Holbrook did not receive a misconduct for his involvement in the yard incident, he was in the yard at the time and reported to have a shiny object in his hand, which a witness claims he buried in the yard. The weapon was later recovered by staff. Holbrook claims his visible injuries after the altercation (cuts on his face, back of his neck, and a puncture wound on his left shoulder) were sustained while playing basketball. One of the Jamaican inmates assaulted during the incident had punched Holbrook in the mouth the day before the incident in the yard. (Id.) Holbrook was placed in SCI-Graterford's RHU under AC after this event. (Id.)

On December 10, 1993, while in AC, Holbrook received a misconduct for attempting to smuggle three balloons filled with marijuana into the prison. Plaintiff obtained the drugs from his brother, Zaaron Holbrook, during a visit. (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(d); Exh. D, Misconduct Report.) Holbrook was transferred from SCI-Graterford to SCI-Greene. (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(e)).

From SCI-Greene, Holbrook went to SCI-Huntingdon. On May 18, 1995, Holbrook was stabbed by two other inmates. The report of this incident noted that there had been a "serious disagreement within the FOI, to which all three individuals claim[ed] membership." (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(f); Exh. E, DOC Extraordinary Incident Report.) Prison officials "determined that Robert Holbrook was attempting to drop his association with the FOI, thus provoking" the attack. (Id.)

Holbrook was then transferred to SCI-Albion, where he received several class misconducts. On June 9, 1996, Holbrook allegedly attempted to strike another inmate (Rice) with a sock filled with batteries. (Walters Decl., ¶¶ 8(g)-(h); Exhs. F and G.) The Unit Manager of the housing unit reported the matter to the Acting Captain for further investigation. On July 19, 1996, Rice requested self confinement in protective custody after reporting that Holbrook had assaulted him. Although Plaintiff did not receive a misconduct for this incident, he was placed in AC status and SCI-Albion staff recommended his transfer to the Special Management Unit ("SMU") "because of his high potential for assaultiveness," and because he had "demonstrated, through his behavior, that he is a continual threat to others, and he has accumulated an extremely large number of misconducts during his confinement." (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(j), Exhs. I and J.)

Holbrook was transferred to the SMU at SCI-Greene on February 14, 1997.*fn3 (Id., Exh. J.) ) While in the SMU, Plaintiff received a misconduct for circumventing the mail system by corresponding with an inmate at SCI-Albion without authorization. (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(l), Exh. K.) During this time, Holbrook ordered a publication entitled, "Mental Training of a Warrior." The Publication Review Committee disapproved his receipt of this item because it advocated violence and insurrection or guerilla warfare against the government, and because it contained information regarding the manufacture of explosives, incendiaries, weapons, and escape devices. (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(m); Exh. L.)

Plaintiff was released from the SMU after one year, and transferred to SCIFrackville on a probationary basis. Holbrook's 90-day probationary status at SCI-Frackville was extended an additional 90 days after he received a Class I misconduct on June 14, 1988, for Possession of Devices for Theft of Cable Services. (Walters Decl., ¶¶ 8(n)-( o); Exh. M.) While at SCI-Frackville, a yellow writing tablet owned by Holbrook was confiscated for "possible gang related material." (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(p), Exh. N.) After receiving two additional Class I misconducts at SCI-Frackville (refusing to obey an order and presence in an unauthorized area), Holbrook was returned to SCI-Greene's SMU. (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(q), Exh. O.)

After completing the SMU program for a second time, Holbrook was transferred to SCI-Dallas on June 26, 1999. (Walters Decl., ¶ 8(r).) Within months of his arrival at SCI-Dallas, staff learned that Holbrook had been promoted to the rank of Captain in the FOI. (Walters Decl. ¶ 8(s), Exh. P.) Based upon this information, staff at SCI-Dallas recommended that Holbrook be transferred to another institution at the discretion of the DOC Central Office. (Id.) Holbrook was transferred from SCI-Dallas to SCI-Huntingdon on April 5, 2000. At the time, SCI-Dallas was reducing its number of "high-risk" cases. SCI-Dallas staff identified Holbrook as "high risk security concern" due to his "repeated organizing efforts, misconduct history" (16 Class I and 4 Class II misconduct reports), the "nature of his current offense," as well as his recent promotion to Captain within the FOI. (Walters Decl., Exhs. P and Q; Plaintiff's Exh. 31, p. 72, Letter from Williamson to Plaintiff re: Transfer Rationale.)

Upon his arrival at SCI-Huntingdon in April of 2000,Holbrook was assigned to the housing unit managed by Walters, who concluded that Holbrook presented a possible security concern and recommended he be monitored closely while in general population. (Walters Decl. ΒΆ 6.) In January 2001, Plaintiff received a misconduct for writing on his cell wall phrases associated with the FOI: "*Black 2-1* FOI - True Soldiers -". (Walters Decl., Exh. R.) He was assessed the cost of paint and labor to remove the phrase. (Id.) In April 2001, Holbrook received a Class I misconduct after a security search of his cell uncovered a four (4) inch metal shank concealed in the air vent of Holbrook's cell. (Walters Decl., Exh. S.) In June 2001, ...

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