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Pressley v. Blaine

February 8, 2008

SEAN PRESSLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPT. C. BLAINE; SUPT. J. MILLER; JOHN DOE NO. 1; JOHN DOE NO.2; JOHN DOE NO. 3; JOHN DOE NO. 4; JOHN DOE NO. 5; JOHN DOE NO. 6; H/E B. ANSELL; C/O WISYAUSKI; C/O MCCLURE; H/E KERRI CROSS; C/O GIFFORD; C/O SMITH; H/E R. BITNER; UNKNOWN PRC MEMBERS; G/S S. DELETTO; K. PATTERSON, FISCAL T/C; C/O HAWKENBERRY; TORRETS, COUNSELOR, SUED IN THEIR INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Lenihan

Consent Case

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Sean Pressley, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene, located in Waynesburg, Pennsylvania (SCI-Greene), commenced this action pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are various present and/or former employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). Plaintiff's remaining claims allege violations of his rights as protected by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, he seeks to impose liability against Defendants on the basis of alleged false misconducts he has received and for which he has received 1080 days of disciplinary confinement. He also claims procedural due process claims with regard to an assessment imposed against him for destruction of state property. He further seeks to impose liability on the basis of his conditions of confinement concerning cleanliness of his cell, the alleged use of dirty food utensils, the alleged use of dirty exercise garments, and a lower caloric diet that caused him to lose fifty pounds. His allegations are set forth in detail in this Court's earlier order dated May 17, 2006 (doc. no. 109). For the reasons set forth below, Defendants are entitled to summary judgment as to Plaintiff's remaining claims. An appropriate order follows.

A. Standard of Review - Summary Judgment

Defendants have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment pursuant to Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 56. Summary judgment is appropriate if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, ". . . the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 56(c). Summary judgment may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element essential to that party's case, and for which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.

Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must set forth ". . . specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial . . ." or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986). An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986). The inquiry, then, involves determining " 'whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.' " Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1218 (1991) (quoting Anderson, 477 U.S. at 251-52). If a court concludes that "the evidence is merely colorable . . . or is not significantly probative," then summary judgment may be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50.

B. Liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983

Plaintiff asserts liability against Defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order to assert liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must meet two threshold requirements. He must allege: 1) that the alleged misconduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and 2) that as a result, he was deprived of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-331 (1986).

Plaintiff's claims against the remaining Defendants allege violations of his rights as protected by the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. These claims are discussed below.

C. Eighth Amendment

In the instant action Plaintiff alleges that he has lost fifty pounds because DC inmates receive less food than other inmates. He further alleges that he is exposed to contaminated food utensils and unwashed garments, which pose a significant health risk. Finally, he claims to have been denied adequate medical care on a number of occasions.

1. Failure to Exhaust Claims

First, Plaintiff is not entitled to relief on any of his Eighth Amendment claims as he failed to comply with the mandatory exhaustion requirement required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). In this regard, through the PLRA, Congress amended 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) to prohibit prisoners from bringing an action with respect to prison conditions pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 or any other federal law, until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted. Specifically, the act provides, in pertinent part, as follows.

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under section 1979 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (42 U.S.C. § 1983), or any other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a).

The available administrative remedies for Pennsylvania inmates are codified in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Policy Statement No. DC-ADM 804-1, entitled "Consolidated Inmate Grievance Review System." See, e.g. Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523 (2003) (discussing DOC Grievance System).*fn1 The purpose of the grievance system is to ensure that "every individual committed to [DOC] custody shall have 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. For every such issue, there shall be a forum for review and two avenues of appeal. The formal procedure shall be known as the Inmate Grievance System." DC-ADM 804 ¶ V. The DOC grievance system applies to all state correctional institutions and provides three levels of review: 1) initial review by the facility grievance coordinator; 2) appeal of initial review to the superintendent or regional director; and 3) final appeal to the chief hearing examiner.

Specifically, inmate grievances must be in writing and in the format provided on the forms supplied by the institution. DC-ADM 804 ¶ (VI)(A)(1)(f). An initial grievance must be submitted by the inmate to the Facility Grievance Coordinator within fifteen (15) working days after the event upon which the claim is based. DC-ADM 804 ¶ (VI)(A)(1)(h). Specific procedures for the appeal by an inmate of an unsatisfactory decision on a grievance are also provided.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit analyzed the applicability of the exhaustion requirement in 42 U.S.C. § 1997e in Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65 (3d Cir. 2000) (Bivens action brought by a federal inmate) and Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289 (3d Cir. 2000) (civil rights action brought by a state prisoner). In each of these cases, the Court of Appeals announced a bright line rule that inmate-plaintiffs must exhaust all available administrative remedies before they can file an action in federal court concerning prison conditions. In so holding, the court specifically rejected the notion that there is ever a futility exception to section 1997e(a)'s mandatory exhaustion requirement. Booth, 206 F.3d at 300; Nyhuis, 204 F.3d at 66. A unanimous Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' holding in Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731 (2001) where the Court confirmed that in the PLRA Congress mandated exhaustion of administrative remedies, regardless of the relief offered through those administrative procedures. As stated by the Third Circuit, "it is beyond the power of this court--or any other--to excuse compliance with the exhaustion requirement, whether on the ground of futility, inadequacy or any other basis." Nyhuis, 204 F.3d at 73 (quotation omitted). The Supreme Court of the United States reiterated this tenet when it affirmed the Third Circuit's holding in Booth.

Moreover, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that a prisoner's failure to comply with the procedural and substantive requirements of DOC's grievance policy, as set forth in DC ADM 804, results in procedural default, thereby precluding an action in federal court. See Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218 (3d Cir. 2004). In so holding, the Court of Appeals specifically held that failing to identify ...


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