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Johnson v. Smith

July 19, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie


I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Dwayne Johnson, a state inmate currently housed at the Graterford Correctional Institution ("SCI-Graterford"), Graterford, Pennsylvania, commenced this pro se action with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The incidents giving raise to this action occurred while Johnson was incarcerated at SCI-Huntingdon in late 2003. Johnson claims that SCI-Huntingdon staff retaliated against him for filing institutional grievances against staff members by: (1) placing him in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") in Administrative Custody ("AC") under false pretenses and without adequate due process; (2) issuing a false misconduct report against him; and (3) transferring him from SCIHuntingdon to SCI-Graterford. (Dkt. Entry 1, Complaint.) Plaintiff also asserts Defendants retaliated against him for asserting his First Amendment right to free exercise of religion.

Johnson seeks the removal of false security information from his file, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. (Id.) Named as defendants are the following SCI-Huntingdon and state Department of Corrections ("DOC") employees: James Grace, Superintendent; Security Lieutenant A. Smith; Security Captain Cooper; and, Donald Williamson, former Coordinator of Diagnostics and Classification for the Bureau of Inmate Services.*fn1

Presently pending are cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons that follow, the Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted, and Plaintiff's motion will be denied.

II. Statement of Facts

In September of 2003, Johnson was housed at SCI-Huntingdon. Plaintiff served as a liaison between the SCI-Huntingdon Islam inmates and the administration in the Chaplain's office. (Dkt. Entry 1, Complaint.) Plaintiff's job often required him to work in the Chaplain's office. During the time that he worked in the Chaplain's office, his cell was searched twice a month. Plaintiff asked Rev. Earlston why his cell always being searched. Rev. Earlston told Johnson that any inmate who works in the Chaplain's office had their cells searched. (Id.)

On September 30, 2003, an investigative search of Plaintiff's cell was conducted by Corrections Officers Kurtz and Longenecker (non-defendants). (Id.) Because the officers failed to complete their search on that day, it was completed the following day. (Id.) On October 7, 2003, Johnson submitted two grievances against Kurtz and Longenecker, asserting claims of retaliation and unlawful taking of personal property. (See Dkt. Entry 13, Defendants' Appendix in Support of their Motion of Summary Judgment, Exh. 1, Zamorski Decl., Exhs. A -B, grievances 64362 and 64363.)*fn2

On Friday, December 25, 2003, Plaintiff "addressed his religious community at their approved scheduled religious activity concerning their complaints and how they are being address (sic) by the administrative staff." (Complaint at ¶ 15.) On December 29, 2003, pursuant to DC-ADM 802, Administrative Custody Procedures, Lt. A. Smith submitted "Other Report" No. A597194, requesting Johnson's placement in RHU under AC status. (Dkt. Entry 13, Exh. 2, Smith Decl., Exh. A, Other Report No. A597194; and Exh. C, DC-ADM 802.) He requested Johnson's RHU placement while he conducted an investigation concerning information received by the Security Office that Plaintiff was attempting to undermine Imam Muhammad, an individual with whom SCI-Huntingdon contracted to provide religious services. (Dkt. Entry 13, Exh. 2, Smith Decl. at ¶¶ 1-5; Exh. A, Other Report No. A597194, and Exh. C, DC-ADM 802, Administrative Custody Procedures, ("DC-ADM 802").)

On December 29, 2003, COs Kurtz and Longenecker removed Johnson from his general population cell and transferred him to the RHU, where he was placed in AC. (Complaint at ¶¶ 16 - 17.) Johnson was given a copy of Other Report No. A597194 on December 30, 2003. (Dkt. Entry 13, Exh. 2, Smith Decl., Exh. A, Other Report No. A597194.)

Later that day, Johnson was issued Misconduct No. A580169 by CO Longenecker, who charged Johnson with possession of contraband and destroying, altering, tampering with or damaging property. (Doc. 17, Plaintiff's Affidavit of Truth in Opposition to Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment, Exh. C, Misconduct Report No. A580169.) Johnson was accused of having "one cassette tape with forged tape requests, 2 books -- property of another inmate/stolen, and 2 religious magazines mailed to chaplain of which the chaplains name was crossed off by Johnson. The cassette tape was physically altered as well as dubbed over with rap music." (Id.) Both charges are Class I category offenses. (Id.; see also, DOC Policies, DC-ADM 801, Inmate Discipline.)

On or about January 7, 2004, Johnson asked Unit Manager Walters, who is also a member of the Program Review Committee ("PRC"), why he was being held in the RHU on AC status. (Complaint at ¶ 21.) Johnson also wrote to Walters, seeking the same information. (Dkt. Entry 21, Plaintiff's Brief in Support of Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, Exh. A, Plaintiff's 01/07/04 Request Walters.) On both occasions, Walters responded that "all the information that PRC had available was [Johnson's] initial other report," and that "[Johnson's] future should be important enough [for him] to make an inquiry to the security department. It can't hurt." (Id.)

Johnson alleges that on January 8, 2004, he was given a false misconduct, bearing No. A597197. (Complaint at ΒΆ 24; see also Dkt. Entry 15-4, Plaintiff's Affidavit of Truth in Support of Complaint, Exh. C, DC-141 Part I No. A597197.) Under the section identified as "MISCONDUCT CHARGE OR OTHER ACTION," is written "Class I #17 Threatening an Employee." (Dkt. Entry 15-4, DC-141 Part I No. A597197.) The unsigned, undated report notes that as a result of a search of Johnson's cell, Plaintiff was found to have in his possession a handwritten note labeled synthetic and natural. On the back of the page anti-freeze is listed as a subject. Inmate Johnson writes, 'Antifreeze is sweet tasting and if you mix it with salad dressing it will be undetected.' He ends the paragraph with, 'This should get the job done.' It is the Security Office's opinion Inmate Johnson took the time to write and save this bit of information in order to use it against staff or inmates. An Auto School is located within the confines of SCI-Huntingdon, which, on occasion, handles anti-freeze. Because of this fact it would be very easy for inmate Johnson to obtain anti-freeze. If you combine the factors involved, it is very clear inmate Johnson is threatening both staff and inmates, otherwise he would not have written and saved this document. (Id.) The reporting staff member's signature line is blank, as is the signature line for the reviewing and approving ranking officer. Similarly, none of the boxes on top of the ...

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