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Royster v. Beard

July 24, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 64) filed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56 on behalf of Defendants Beard, Burks, Kelchner, Marsh, Steigerwalt, Huber, Kline, Spriggle (now deceased), Lehman, and Stubbs. For the reasons set forth below, the Motion will be granted.


I. Procedural History

On April 1, 2006, Plaintiff Telly Royster, an inmate presently confined at the Huntingdon State Correctional Institution ("SCI-Huntingdon") in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, commenced the instant action pro se by filing a Complaint pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Huber retaliated against him by destroying books that he confiscated from Plaintiff's cell. He also alleges that Defendants Beard, Kelchner, Marsh, and Burks retaliated against him by lying about the destruction of the books and conspired with each other to cover up the destruction of his property.

On July 25, 2006, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). (Doc. 15.) In support of their Motion, Defendants argued that any claims of wrongful acts occurring before April 24, 2004 were barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations; Plaintiff failed to state a claim of a constitutional violation against Defendants Burks and Beard for upholding denials of his grievances; and Plaintiff failed to state a due process claim because the grievance process afforded him adequate post-deprivation procedures for his confiscated property. (See Doc. 16.) By Order dated May 2, 2007, the Motion was granted as to the statute of limitations argument, and all claims arising prior to April 24, 2004 were dismissed as barred by the statute of limitations. (See Doc. 31.) The Motion was denied in all other respects. (See id.) Plaintiff's Motion seeking reconsideration of the Court's dismissal of his claims arising prior to April 24, 2004 was denied by Order dated November 9, 2007. (See Doc. 57.)

On February 19, 2008, the instant Motion for Summary Judgment was filed. (Doc. 64.) In support of their Motion, Defendants filed a Statement of Facts (Doc. 65), Brief (Doc. 66), and Appendix (Doc. 67). After a request for an extension of time to file his opposition, which was granted (Doc. 69), Plaintiff filed his Brief in Opposition (Doc. 70) and Statement of Material Facts (Doc. 71). Therefore, the Motion is ripe for review.

II. Statement of Facts*fn1

Royster testified at his deposition that, at all relevant times, he was an inmate in Phase 5 of the Special Management Unit ("SMU") at the Camp Hill State Correctional Institution ("SCI-Camp Hill") in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.*fn2 (Doc. 65 ¶ 1; Doc. 67, Plaintiff's deposition, at 10-11.) Royster names the following Defendants who were employed at SCI-Camp Hill at the time of the events alleged in his Complaint: Jeffrey A. Beard, Ph.D., Department of Corrections Secretary; Sharon Burks, former Chief Grievance Officer; Superintendent Kelchner; Unit Manager Marsh; Unit Manager Steigerwalt; Officer Huber; Officer Kline; Officer Spriggle (now deceased); Officer Lehman; and Officer Stubbs.

On April 5, 2004, Defendant Marsh issued a memorandum to all SMU inmates advising them that they would not be permitted to keep more than ten (10) books in their cells and stored property. (Doc. 65 ¶ 14; Doc. 67 at 68.) The ten book limit already was in place pursuant to DC-ADM 802, but Marsh's memorandum reminded SMU inmates about the limit. (Doc. 65 ¶ 14.) The memorandum advised SMU inmates that if they were over the ten book limit, they could submit a request to staff for disposition of the excess books and that otherwise, the excess books would be confiscated. (Doc. 67 at 68.) The purpose of the limitation on books is to decrease the chance of contraband as well as to avoid the fire hazards associated with a cluttered cell. (Doc. 65 ¶ 14.)

On April 27, 2004, Defendant Huber confiscated eighteen (18) books from Royster's cell that were beyond the ten book limit. (Doc. 67, Huber Declaration, at 124 ¶ 5; Doc. 67, confiscation receipts, at 126.) Royster acknowledges that, on April 27, 2004, he was informed about the memorandum and was advised that he needed to either destroy or ship out the eighteen (18) books. (Doc. 1 at 4 ¶ 12; Doc. 67 at 12.) Royster could not recall the titles or authors of any of the books at his deposition, but he agrees that their titles are listed on the confiscation receipts that were prepared by Defendant Huber when the books were removed from Plaintiff's cell. (Doc. 67 at 15-16, 126; Doc. 71, Plaintiff's Statement of Facts, ¶ 4.) The books were gifts from friends and family and were on different topics. (Doc. 65 ¶ 4; Doc. 67 at 16-17.)

On April 27, 2004, Royster filed grievance number 82536 asserting that he should be permitted time to read books that he did not have a chance to read because he had been forced to keep them in his storage unit. (Doc. 67 at 77.) He also complained that a specific book that he requested had not yet been issued to him and requested reimbursement of $17.45 if the book was not recovered. (Id.) On May 4, 2004, Grievance Officer Garrett responded by reminding Royster of the ten book limit and also of the policy that the exchange of books is on a one for one basis. (Id. at 78.)

On May 14, 2004, Defendant Kelchner responded to Royster's appeal from the denial of grievance 82536 by stating that the property officers properly handled Royster's excess property by confiscating the books he had in excess of the ten book limit and directing him to decide which ones he wanted to ship out and which he wanted to destroy. (Id. at 79.) He further noted that the SMU staff was under no obligation to maintain the excess books until Royster had an opportunity to read them. (Id.) In addition, he informed Royster that in order to receive reimbursement for a missing book, he needed to show that he received it, that it was confiscated, and provide a receipt showing the cost of the book. (Id.)

On or around June 15, 2004, after Royster received Kelchner's response to grievance number 82536, Royster tried to arrange for the shipment of his excess books through Defendant Huber, but Huber stated, "I told you I'd get your ass back, don't try to suck my dick now for your property. You ain't shipping shit out." (Doc. 1 at 4 ¶ 14.) Royster contends that, sometime after February 5, 2004 when he filed a grievance concerning photographs that were missing from his stored property, Defendant Huber threatened him by saying, "that fucking grievance fell on me Royster but I'll have the last laugh when I get your ass back." (Id. ¶¶ 10-11.)

On June 29, 2004, Defendant Burks denied Royster's appeal to final review of grievance number 82536. (Doc. 65 ¶ 48; Doc. 67 at 102.) In her response, Burks noted that, as an SMU inmate, Royster was permitted to have only ten books and that SMU staff is not permitted to retain his excess books until he has a chance to read them. (Doc. 67 at 102.)

On June 23, 2004, before the review process on grievance number 82536 was completed, Royster filed grievance number 87765 stating that he wanted to destroy ten (10) of the eighteen excess books and ship the other eight (8) books, but Defendant Huber refused to arrange for the shipment of the books. (Doc. 65 ¶ 16; Doc. 67 at 80.) On June 29, 2004, Defendant Marsh, who was then the manager of the SMU unit, incorrectly responded to Royster's grievance that the books listed on the confiscated items receipts had been shipped. (Doc. 65 ¶¶ 9, 16; Doc. 67 at 81.) Marsh had been incorrectly informed during his investigation of Royster's grievance that the books had been shipped. (Doc. 67 at 65 ¶ 8.) Marsh later learned that the confiscated books had been destroyed by someone in the SMU after grievance number 87765 was denied. (Id. ...

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