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Jackson v. Lencovich

July 3, 2008

HUBERT JACKSON, PLAINTIFF
v.
LENCOVICH, ET AL., DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Vanaskie

MEMORANDUM

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Hubert Jackson, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution at Somerset, Pennsylvania, brought this civil rights action on May 6, 2005, naming as Defendants the following corrections officials of the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy: Edward Klem, Superintendent; Edgar Kneiss, Deputy Superintendent; Edward Martin, Superintendent's Assistant and Grievance Coordinator; Thomas Derfler, Captain; John Kaufman, Corrections Officer Lieutenant; and Joseph Lencovich, Corrections Officer Lieutenant. Plaintiff's pro se pleading complained of his forced removal to a strip cell in June of 2003, and his subsequent confinement in that strip cell for a period of seven days pursuant to the SCI-Mahanoy disruptive inmate policy.

By Report and Recommendation filed on June 6, 2005, the Magistrate Judge to whom this matter had been assigned for pretrial management recommended that the action be dismissed without requiring service of the complaint. By Order dated October 12, 2006, this Court, concluding that placement of Plaintiff in a strip cell for a period of seven days pursuant to a disruptive inmate policy did not implicate an interest protected by the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause and did not effect cruel and unusual punishment, adopted the Report and Recommendation and dismissed this action.

On October 26, 2006, Plaintiff moved to alter or amend the judgment so as to give him an opportunity to amend his complaint to attempt to state a viable cause of action related to his placement in the strip cell. In particular, Plaintiff asserted that he intended to allege facts in support of his excessive use of force and serious deprivation of basic human needs claims. In this regard, Plaintiff asserted that he would amend paragraph 14 of the complaint by alleging:

Defendant Lencovich ordered Plaintiff to come to the shower door to be handcuffed to be taken to a strip cell as punishment for . . . misconduct charges. Plaintiff refused said order based on the obvious fact that defendant Lencovich had no security concerns of Plaintiff being a threat to hisself [sic] or others, being that plaintiff was allowed to participate in daily activities . . ."

He also asserted that there was no basis under Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policy to transfer him to a strip cell, depriving Defendant Lencovich of any legitimate penological justification for the order. (Motion to Alter or Amend Judgment (Dkt. Entry 14), at ¶ 5.) He further indicated that he would amend paragraph 32 of the Complaint to assert that Defendants Lencovich, Kaufman and Derfler had no legitimate penological justification for the planned use of force to move him to the strip cell. (Id. at ¶ 6.)

By Order dated October 27, 2006, the Motion to Alter or Amend the Judgment was granted. (Dkt. Entry 15.) Plaintiff was directed to file an amended complaint within twenty (20) days of the date of the Order.

Following an enlargement of time granted by Order dated November 17, 2006, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on November 27, 2006. (Dkt. Entry 20.) The Amended Complaint dropped Edward Martin and Edgar Kneiss as Defendants, but added the Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Jeffrey Beard, as a Defendant with respect to a completely separate claim concerning Plaintiff's transfer to the Special Management Unit at the State Correctional Institution at Camp Hill in June of 2004. In addition, the Amended Complaint reasserted claims against defendants Klem, Derfler, Lencovich and Kaufman in connection with the placement of Plaintiff in the strip cell at SCIMahanoy in June of 2003.

The Amended Complaint is before the Court for a determination as to whether service of process should issue. Finding that the new claim against Defendant Beard is not properly related to the original claims asserted in this matter and, in any event, is plainly time-barred, and that the amended complaint does not present a viable cause of action against the originally-named Defendants, I will dismiss the action.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

The incidents giving rise to this litigation at its inception arose while Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") at SCI-Mahanoy. Plaintiff alleges that on June 4, 2003, he was handcuffed and escorted to the shower by three officers. As he was completing his shower, Defendant Lencovich came to the shower and informed Plaintiff that he was being moved to a strip cell for seven days pursuant to the institution's disruptive inmate policy. (Amended Complaint, Dkt. Entry 20, ¶ 11.) In reply to Plaintiff's questioning, defendant Lencovich informed Plaintiff that he was being moved to a strip cell because he had refused to obey orders to take paper down from his cell door window, had used abusive and obscene language to staff, and had threatened staff. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Plaintiff was informed that he would be given a mattress and jumpsuit every evening at 9 p.m., but had to turn them back in every morning at 9 a.m., and that he would earn back other items, such as blankets, socks, shoes, deodorant, toothpaste, etc. based upon good behavior. (Id. at ¶¶ 11-12.)

Plaintiff alleges that he refused the order to be escorted to the strip cell "because it would be humiliating to me to be paraded in front of female officers and nurses" in his underwear. (Id. at ¶13.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Derfler then authorized a planned use of force to move Plaintiff from the shower to the strip cell. (Id. at ¶ 15.) Plaintiff continued to refuse the orders and was sprayed with a chemical agent, ultimately allowing the corrections officers to place Plaintiff in the strip cell. (Id. Plaintiff asserts that the endured harsh conditions of confinement during his stay in the strip cell. (Id. at ¶17.)

In addition to reasserting the strip cell and excessive force claims presented in the original complaint, the Amended Complaint purports to present a cause of action arising out of Plaintiff's transfer to the Special Management Unit at SCI-Camp Hill on June 16, 2004. Plaintiff alleges that he was not provided with an opportunity to be heard prior to the transfer, blaming Defendant Beard for the ...


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