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Hankins v. Beard

July 29, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard P. Conaboy United States District Judge

(Judge Conaboy)



Robert Hankins, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Albion, Pennsylvania (SCI-Albion), filed this pro se civil rights action.*fn1 Service of the Original Complaint was previously ordered.

Original Defendants responded by filing a motion to dismiss. Thereafter, Hankins filed three (3) motions seeking leave to amend his complaint. By Order dated November 5, 2007, Plaintiff's requests to file an Amended Complaint were granted. The Order forewarned Plaintiff his Amended Complaint "must regard or directly relate to the facts and claims set forth in the Original Complaint." Doc. 31, p. 3. Furthermore, Hankins was reminded that "his amended complaint must be complete in all respects ... a new pleading which stands by itself without reference to the complaint previously filed." Id. at p. 4.

An Amended Complaint was filed on December 10, 2007. See doc. 38. The Amended Complaint included only one (1) Defendant named in the Original Complaint and sets forth new claims. Four (4) days later, Defendants filed a motion seeking partial dismissal of the Amended Complaint. See doc. 40. It is noted that service of the Amended Complaint on the Additional Defendants had not been ordered prior to submission of the motion for partial dismissal.

Named as Defendants in either the Original or the Amended Complaints are the following officials at Plaintiff's prior place of confinement, the State Correctional Institution, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (SCI-Camp Hill): Superintendent Donald Kelchner, Unit Managers Robert Marsh, Rick Southers and Blaine Steigerwalt; Superintendent Assistant Ian Taggart; Chief Hearing Examiner Robert Bitner; Paralegal Gent; Lieutenants Keck and Tarantella; Lieutenant Carberry, as well as Correctional Officers (CO) Warner, Adam Hubber, Brian Stubbs, Perez, Martin, Sanchez, J.T. Killeen, John Snook, McEwen, C.M. Free, Cleaver, Kline, Goresky, P.F. Allen, and Klinedinst.

Plaintiff is also proceeding against eight (8) officials at a second prior place of confinement, the Fayette State Correctional Institution, LaBelle, Pennsylvania (SCI-Fayette): Superintendent Harry Wilson; Deputy Superintendents Linda Harris, Krysevig, and Burns; Counselor Popovich; Psychologist John Doe; Lieutenants Daniel Hooper and Sean Nose; Captain Manchas; Majors Scott Nickleson and Eric Armel; Unit Manger Michael Zaken; Administrative Officer Mary Ann Kushner; Superintendent Assistant Carol Scire; COs Halley, Chapley, Garland, Crumb, and Moat; as well as Mailroom Supervisor Darlene Linderman.

Also named are four (4) officials at the Forest State Correctional Institution, Marienville, Pennsylvania (SCI-Forest)*fn2 : Superintendent Raymond Sobina; Superintendent Assistant Christina Kennedy, Lieutenants Burkhart and Steele.

The remaining Defendants are Anthony Russ and H. Clifford O'Hara of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections' (DOC) Office of Professional Responsibility and the DOC's Secretary Jeffrey Beard, Deputy Secretary William Stickman; and Chief Grievance Officer Sharon Burks.*fn3

Original Complaint

Hankins initially claims that while Confined at SCI-Camp Hill on May 26, 2003, Defendants CO Snook and Lieutenant Carberry refused to process his legal mail. As a result, Plaintiff's action pursuant to Pennsylvania's post Conviction Relief Act was dismissed. His second contention is that Superintendent Kelchner, Unit Managers Southers, and Steigerwalt of SCI-Camp Hill prevented him from communicating with his attorney during the same time period. He next contends that Defendants COs Hubber and Stubbs refused to forward three (3) boxes of legal and personal materials to Plaintiff after he was transferred from SCI-Camp Hill to SCI-Fayette during April, 2004.

Following his arrival at SCI-Fayette, various Defendants employed at that facility purportedly failed to have Plaintiff's missing property delivered to him. In December 2004 or 2005, Plaintiff was informed by SCI-Fayette officials that his property had been destroyed. See doc. 1, ¶ 15. Defendants SCI-Camp Hill Superintendent Kelchner and Superintendent's Assistant Taggart allegedly acted improperly by denying Plaintiff's grievance relating to the destruction of his property. The Original Complaint next asserts that on December 6, 2006 various SCI-Fayette Defendants improperly confiscated a § 1983 complaint which he had prepared in retaliation. Other SCI-Fayette Defendants allegedly covered up the illegal conduct.

It is next alleged that Defendants Paralegal Gent and Chief Hearing Examiner Bitner of SCI-Camp Hill denied Hankins legal assistance. Plaintiff adds that he was also denied access to the SCI-Fayette law library by various Defendants. Other SCI-Fayette Defendants allegedly failed to investigate Plaintiff's complaints and allowed their subordinates to engage in constitutional misconduct.

Finally, on May 6, 2005, a second § 1983 complaint which had been prepared by Plaintiff was allegedly confiscated by SCI-Fayette CO Chapley and other Defendants out of retaliation. As relief, Plaintiff sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

Amended Complaint

Hankins initially alleges that around September 10, 2002, he was subjected to physical and verbal abuse while being escorted from the SCI-Camp Hill law library by COs Killeen and Snook. After arriving at his cell he was physically assaulted by Defendants Killeen, Snook and Klinedinst. Following the assault, Plaintiff allegedly had to wait until the next day to obtain needed medical treatment. Defendants O'Hara of the DOC and SCI-Camp Hill Lieutenant Keck allegedly conducted a halfhearted investigation into the incident and failed to take corrective action.

The second portion of the Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants McEwen and Goresky of SCI-Camp Hill tampered with Hankins' food by placing glass in his mashed potatoes. This alleged retaliatory conduct occurred in the beginning of 2004. As a result, Plaintiff purportedly suffered a broken tooth. It is further asserted that Defendant Tarantella refused Plaintiff's request for medical attention and the SCI-Camp Hill Lieutenant Keck again failed to take corrective action.

Next, Hankins claims that on or about August 17, 2002, COs Kline and McEwen further retaliated against hm by placing him in a filthy SCI-Camp Hill cell while handcuffed. Plaintiff states that he slipped in the cell and injured his back and had to wait 45 minutes before being provided with aid while Defendants Kline, McEwen, Goresky, Allen and Cleaver sat nearby and laughed at him. CO Free also purportedly failed to provide Hankins with assistance.

Plaintiff further maintains that he was subject to additional retaliation at SCI-Camp Hill when Defendant Kline took his prescribed medicated toothpaste for sensitive teeth. As a result, Hankins asserts that he was caused unwarranted pain. Thereafter, around February 10, 2004, SCI-Camp Hill COs Perez, Huber, and Sanchez denied him lunch and subjected him to verbal harassment. The Amended complaint indicates that in 2004, CO Martin of SCI-Camp Hill purportedly played a role in urine being placed on his food.

It is next alleged that Unit Manager Marsh failed to forward Plaintiff's legal materials to him after he was transferred to SCI-Fayette. As a result, Plaintiff states that he was unable to properly pursue a request for habeas corpus relief and to defend himself against criminal charges filed by Defendants.

Plaintiff next avers that he was transferred to SCI-Forest on or about November 27, 2006. Upon his arrival, Defendants Steele and Burkhart of SCI-Forest denied his request for legal materials, thus, preventing him from meeting s court deadline. Those two Defendants also purportedly restricted Plaintiff's law library privileges, confiscated his legal materials, and repeatedly hindered his attempts to attack his criminal conviction and obtain access to the courts. Burkhart and Steele were allegedly acting in retaliation per a request from correctional staff at SCI-Fayette.

SCI-Fayette Administrative Officer Kushner, SCI-Fayette Superintendent's Assistant Scire, SCI-Forest Superintendent's Assistant Kennedy and Chief Grievance Officer Burks of the DOC intentionally failed to take proper action with respect to complaints and grievances filed by Hankins regarding the alleged retaliatory acts of misconduct. Scire also purportedly denied Plaintiff's request for access to needed legal materials.*fn4 Hankins seeks declaratory and injunctive relief as well as punitive, compensatory, and nominal damages.

On December 21, 2007, a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint was filed. See doc. 40. Plaintiff thereafter filed a motion to clarify. See doc. 49. Both motions are ripe for consideration and will be discussed below.


Motion to Clarify

On March 3, 2008, Plaintiff filed a motion to clarify. See Doc. 49. His motion indicates that as a pro se litigant he did not realize that his Amended Complaint needed to include any parties or claims which had been previously set forth in his Original Complaint. As a result, Hankins requests that the Defendants and allegations set forth in his Original Complaint be allowed to proceed.

In light of the liberal treatment afforded pro se litigants, Plaintiff's motion to clarify will be granted. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint will be deemed a supplemental Complaint and the allegations set forth in both the Original and Supplemental Complaints will be considered.

Motion to Dismiss

Defendants claim entitlement to entry of partial dismissal on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff's claims relating to conduct which transpired at SCI-Camp Hill or otherwise prior to November 17, 2004 are barred by the applicable statute of limitations; (2) the claims against Defendants in their official capacities is barred by the Eleventh Amendment; and (3) the allegations that Defendants Kushner, Scire, Kennedy, and Burks ...

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