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Meekins v. Beard

March 5, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Kosik


This 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil rights matter is before the court on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by the parties. Plaintiff is William Meekins, an inmate currently confined in the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Defendants are Department of Corrections officials Jeffery A. Beard and John Shaffer, as well as DOC employees at SCI-Camp Hill and SCI-Waymart. The action proceeds on an amended complaint wherein Plaintiff alleges that he was arbitrarily transferred from SCI-Waymart to the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill on November 16, 2005, without due process and in retaliation for separate litigation he previously filed in this court.*fn1 (Doc. 7.) While the court originally construed the amended complaint to also set forth an inadequate medical/dental care claim, it is clear that Plaintiff raises this issue only in regard to his due process argument, and not as a separate claim in this action. This is evidenced by the fact that neither party has addressed the lack of medical/dental care in their motion for summary judgment, as well as the fact that Plaintiff has another action pending in this court wherein the sole issue is his alleged lack of medical/dental care while at SCI-Camp Hill. See Meekins v. Law, et al., Civil No. 3:CV-06-1321.*fn2 The pending motions for summary judgment are both ripe and will now be addressed by the court.

I. Factual Background

Plaintiff is currently an inmate in the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill. He is currently serving a sentence of 7-20 years. His minimum term expired on January 2, 2007, and he did not become eligible for parole until 2007. (Doc. 99, Pl. Dep. at 49.) He was formerly incarcerated in the Restricted Housing Unit at SCI-Waymart prior to his transfer to the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill on November 16, 2005. At all times relevant to this action, Defendant Beard was the Secretary and Defendant Shaffer the Executive Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania DOC. The following Defendants were all SCI-Camp Hill employees: Defendant Kelchner, Superintendent; Defendant Southers, SMU Unit Manager; and Defendant Chambers, SMU Counselor. Employed at SCIWaymart were Defendant Nish, Superintendent; Defendant Klopotoski, Deputy Superintendent for Facility Management and Defendant DelRosso, Deputy Superintendent for Centralized Services.

While incarcerated at SCI-Waymart, Plaintiff incurred seven (7) misconducts which included charges of threatening an employee or their family, using abusive, inappropriate or obscene language, and refusing to obey an order. (Doc. 99, App. 2, Exs. to Pl. Dep., Ex. 1.) He was found guilty of the misconducts. (Id., App. 1, Pl. Dep. at 10-16.) While housed in SCI-Waymart's RHU, Plaintiff's status was reviewed by the Program Review Committee ("PRC") on at least eight occasions. (Id. at 16; App. 2, Ex. 2, PRC Reports; App. 4, DelRosso Decl. ¶ 3.) At times, the PRC was made up of Defendants Nish, DelRosso and Klopotoski. In Plaintiff's November 24, 2004 and February 24, 2005 reviews, the PRC states that the reports from the RHU have been "unsatisfactory" and that Plaintiff "has a poor attitude and resents authority." (Doc. 99, App. 2, PRC Reports; DelRosso Decl. ¶ 4 and Ex. A; Klopotoski Decl. at ¶¶ 3-5.) Following his review on May 19, 2005, the PRC noted poor reports from the RHU again citing Plaintiff's poor attitude, resentment of authority and argumentative nature. (Id.) During this PRC review, Plaintiff became loud and belligerent. Following a review on August 11, 2005, the same comments were reported by the PRC, and it was further noted that Plaintiff warned the PRC that "if his situation doesn't change, someone could get hurt." (Id.) Plaintiff does not dispute the poor reports from the RHU staff. (Doc. 99, Pl. Dep. at 19.)

Plaintiff filed a civil rights action in this court captioned Meekins v. Colleran, et al., Civil Action No. 05-1394, on July 12, 2005, prior to his transfer to the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill. (Id. at 30).

Three of the Defendants named in this lawsuit are Defendants Nish, DelRosso and Klopotoski.

On August 23, 2005, it was recommended that Plaintiff be transferred to the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill due to his disruptive behavior and multiple misconducts totaling 630 days Disciplinary Custody time. DelRosso and Klopotoski agreed with the recommendation. (Id., DelRosso Decl. ¶ 5; Klopotoski Decl. ¶ 7.)

Plaintiff was thereafter transferred on November 16, 2005. Prior to this date, his final 90-day PRC review was held on November 9, 2005. (Id., Pl. Dep. Ex. 2.) In the DC-141 Part III form, the PRC is noted as consisting of Defendants DelRosso, Klopotoski and Classification and Program Manager Walsh. The form notes as follows:

Upon interview with the Program Review Committee, Inmate Meekins stated he had no questions or comments to make. Inmate Meekins was informed that he is on the list to be transferred to the Special Management Unit at SCI Camp Hill. Inmate Meekins has been informed of this fact previously and is aware of the pending transfer. He had no statements to make. (Doc. 99, Pl. Dep. Ex. 2, 11/9/05 PRC Action; Delrosso Decl. at ¶ 6.)

Defendant Beard issued DOC policy bulletin DC-ADM 802-2 which was effective on July 8, 2005. Under this policy, the PRC was required to review recommendations for transfer to an SMU with the inmate and explain the reasons to him. In addition, the inmate is to be given the opportunity to respond. It is further provided that the recommendation shall be documented on the DC-141-Part 4, with a copy to the Inmate. (Doc. 1, Compl., Ex. DC-ADM 802-02; Doc. 99, DelRosso Decl., Ex B.) There was some delay on the part of the institutions in implementing this policy. (Doc. 99, Delrosso Decl. ¶ 7.)

Prior to the final PRC review at SCI-Waymart, Plaintiff was told by Defendant Klopotoski in 2005, months before the November 9, 2005 review, that if his "behavior did not change that they would send [him] to the SMU." (Id., Pl. Dep. at 24.) Plaintiff further admits that he was never promised by the PRC members that he would return to general population. (Id. at 26.)

The transfer petition from SCI-Waymart to SCI-Camp Hill stated as follows: "The institutional staff and PRC at SCI-Waymart recommend SMU Placement for inmate Meekins due to his overall maladaptive behavior that includes assaultive and threatening misconducts totaling 630 days DC time." (Id., Dep. Ex 3.)

When Plaintiff arrived at SCI-Camp Hill, he met with the SMU Management Team, including SMU Unit Manager Southers and former Counselor Chambers on November 22, 2005. (Id., Pl. Dep. at 32-33.) He was told he would be housed in the SMU, and was given an SMU handbook. He was also informed that he could not be placed in general population because he was a threat to the inmates there. (Id.)

Plaintiff filed a grievance (No. 137071) objecting to the transfer to the SMU. (Id. at 34-35; Dep. Ex. 4.) The response thereto informed Plaintiff that he had been told he was on the transfer list for the SCI-Camp Hill SMU via the November 9, 2005 PRC review and DC-141 part III form, and had responded that he had no questions or comments to make. The grievance was denied finding that Plaintiff had been properly notified of the transfer and given an opportunity to comment. (Id.) On January 17, 2006, Defendant Kelchner rejected Plaintiff's appeal with regard to said grievance. This was the only contact Plaintiff had with Kelchner regarding the transfer issue. (Id., Pl. Dep. at 29, Pl. Dep. Ex. 4.) Plaintiff is unsure if he had any contact with Defendant Beard regarding the transfer issue. However, it is undisputed that Beard did give the final approval for the transfer. (Doc. 99, Shaffer Decl. ¶ 4 and Ex. A.)

Defendant Southers was responsible for the care, custody and control of the inmates in the SMU at SCI-Camp Hill. The SMU is designed to house those inmates with problematic and assaultive behavior. It includes those who may have been subject to repeated disciplinary action in the past. The program is designed to provide each inmate housed there with an opportunity to demonstrate a stable level of behavior with the ultimate goal of being returned to general population. The program consists of 5 phases and advancement is based upon behavior and ability to adjust under levels of reduced supervision. As an inmate progresses through the phases, privileges are increased. (Doc. 99, Southers Decl., ¶¶ 1-4.)

In order to be approved for confinement in the SMU, there must first be a recommendation made by staff from the institution. Pursuant to DOC Policy 6.5.1, the inmate is informed of the recommendation and reasons for transfer. He can then appeal the decision to the Superintendent and DOC Central Office. The DOC Central Office had approved Plaintiff's transfer to the SMU. The Bureau of Inmate Services, SMU facility and DOC's Chief Psychiatrist and/or Psychologist review the transfer petition. The petition is then forwarded to the Regional Deputy Secretary for the sending facility and the Regional Deputy Secretary for ...

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