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George v. Hogan

March 31, 2008

KEVIN GEORGE PLAINTIFF
v.
WARDEN THOMAS HOGAN ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court are the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Andrew Smyser (Doc. No. 31) recommending that the Court deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 25) and Defendants' objections thereto (Doc. No. 32). For the reasons that follow, the Court will, independent of Defendants' objections, reject the report and recommendation, overrule Defendants' objections, and grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

On August 10, 2006, Plaintiff Kevin George, a United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ("ICE") detainee at York County Prison ("YCP") in York, Pennsylvania, filed a pro se complaint against Defendants Thomas Hogan, warden of York County Prison, and Steven Chronister, a York County Commissioner and president of the York County Prison Board, alleging that the conditions of his detention violated his federally protected rights. (Doc. No. 1, at 4.) Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on October 30, 2006. (Doc. No. 11.)

Defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 25), a supporting brief (Doc. No. 26), and a statement of facts (Doc. No. 27) on July 10, 2007. Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition soon thereafter. (Doc. No. 29.) On August 20, 2007, Magistrate Judge Andrew Smyser issued a report and recommendation recommending that the Court deny Defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. No. 32) and Defendants subsequently filed objections thereto (Doc. No. 33).

Defendants' motion for summary judgment rests in principal part upon the assertion that Plaintiff did not exhaust the prison's administrative grievance procedure before filing suit as required by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). (Doc. No. 31, at 5.) Plaintiff counters that, as an ICE detainee, he was not a "prisoner" as defined in § 1997e(h), and therefore not required to exhaust the prison's administrative grievance procedure before filing the instant complaint. Magistrate Judge Smyser reasoned:

It is a material undisputed fact that the plaintiff's incarceration was as "a federal prisoner being held by the immigration service." . . . As an ICE detainee, the plaintiff was not a "prisoner" as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(h). Even though he was charged in Philadelphia at the time with a criminal violation, and was later convicted, it is not in dispute that his York County custody was as an ICE detainee. His York County custody was not based upon the Philadelphia charge or the Philadelphia conviction. Therefore, since the exhaustion requirement under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e is not applicable to one who is not a "prisoner" as defined for purposes of that statute, the defendants are not entitled to summary judgment on the basis that the plaintiff did not exhaust administrative remedies. (Id., at 5-6 (citations omitted).)

Conceding Plaintiff's status as an ICE detainee, Defendants object to the Magistrate Judge's "fail[ure] to recognize the status of Plaintiff as a state prisoner in the YCP in pre-trial confinement when the incidents in the alleged complaint occurred on March 2 and June 15, 2006." (Id., at 2.) Defendants contend that Plaintiff, who was convicted of trademark counterfeiting and copying recording devices in violation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Crimes Code, was being detained in YCP for violations of both federal immigration law and the laws of the Commonwealth. (Id.) Defendants ask this Court to either sustain their objections or enter an order under the provisions of Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure 5(a)(3) granting them permission to appeal the question of the PLRA's applicability to the instant claim. (Id., at 3.)

B. Facts

On February 22, 2005, the Philadelphia Police arrested Plaintiff on charges of trademark counterfeiting and copying recording in violation of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Crimes Code. (Doc. No. 24-2, at 21-22.) Plaintiff posted bail the following day (Id., at 23) and was released into ICE custody (Doc. No. 29, at 5; see also Doc. No. 29-2, at 2). Almost a year later, on January 5, 2006, Judge Abram Reynolds of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County formally arraigned Plaintiff on the aforementioned charges. (Doc. No. 32-2, at 2.) Plaintiff was in ICE custody before and after his arraignment and, according to Joseph Sallemi, an ICE field director, "at the time the arraignment occurred." (Id., at 2.)

On March 2, 2006, ICE transferred Plaintiff to YCP where, due to a "mass influx of aliens" (Doc. No. 11, at 3)-a fact which Defendants do not deny-he and several other detainees were allegedly made to sleep upon an elevated platform in the prison's pre-classification area (Id., at 2). That evening, Plaintiff alleges, he rolled from the platform onto the concrete floor and "re-injured his lower back and left knee"-a "painful" and "unnecessary" mishap that "could have been avoided if Defendants had complied with the local, state, and federal laws for prisoners and detainees." (Id., at 3.) Sometime thereafter, Plaintiff was taken to Philadelphia for a bench trial before Judge Reynolds. (Doc. No. 24-2, at 27.) On May 5, 2006, Judge Reynolds found Plaintiff guilty of both charges and deferred sentencing to July. Plaintiff was subsequently re-committed to YCP (Doc. No. 32-2, at 3) where, according to the amended complaint, on June 15, 2006, Plaintiff and fifty-three other detainees were assigned to "cruel, unhealthy, and unusual" quarters in YCP's gym (Doc. No. 11, at 4-5).

Plaintiff was transferred pursuant to a state writ of habeas corpus ad prosequendum from YCP to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF") in Philadelphia on June 29, 2006. (Doc. No. 24-2, at 21.) The following week Judge Reynolds sentenced Plaintiff to a total confinement of no less than eleven months and fifteen days and no more than twenty-three months. (Id., at 29; Doc. No. 32-2, at 3.) Plaintiff served his confinement in the custody of the Commonwealth at CFCF, filing the instant complaint from behind its walls. (Doc. No. 1, at 5; Doc. No. 29, at 8.) On March 6, 2007, after nearly eight months' confinement ...


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