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Harper v. Hannah

December 9, 2008

WESLEY HARPER, PLAINTIFF
v.
SUE HANNAH, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo

OPINION AND VERDICT OF THE COURT

Plaintiff Wesley Harper, an inmate confined at the Smithfield State Correctional Institution ("SCI-Smithfield") in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, commenced this action pro se by filing a civil rights complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his First Amendment right to freedom of speech when they confiscated three (3) manuscripts and various certificates written by him about SCI-Smithfield employees. A non-jury trial was held on December 2, 2008.

I. Findings of Fact

At trial, the following evidence was presented.

1. Harper is the author of a manuscript entitled "The Nominees."(Defs.' Ex. 3.)

2. Harper also is the author of two attachments to "The Nominees," both entitled "Certificate of Upgrade to Complete Asshole." The first certificate, dated December 29, 2004, states that it was awarded to SCI-Smithfield Corrections Officer Friedenberger. (Defs.' Ex. 2 at 1.) The second certificate, dated May 10, 2003, states that it was awarded to SCI-Smithfield Sergeant Wright. (Id. at 2.)

3. On or about January 4, 2005, Harper placed a copy of "The Nominees" and a copy of the "Certificate of Upgrade to Complete Asshole" awarded to Corrections Officer Friedenberger in Defendant Hannah's mailbox.

4. Harper attached a cover letter to Hannah indicating that copies of the documents already had been presented to Corrections Officer Friedenberger and Captain Lantz. (Defs.' Ex. 1 at 2.)

5. Harper testified that he also allowed other inmates to read the documents.

6. On the morning of January 4, 2005, upon entering the housing unit where Harper was housed, Hannah, the Unit Manager at that time, noted a higher level than usual of noise and tension emanating from the unit.

7. Hannah asked other SCI-Smithfield staff what was happening and was advised to check her mailbox.

8. Upon checking her mailbox, Hannah discovered Harper's cover letter attached to a copy of "The Nominees" and the certificate that had been awarded to Correctional Officer Friedenberger.

9. Hannah prepared a misconduct report against Harper charging him with using abusive, obscene, or inappropriate language to an employee, which is a Class I Charge under DC-ADM 801, the Department of Corrections' Inmate Discipline policy.*fn1 (Defs.' Ex. 1 at 1.)

10. Following a hearing on January 7, 2005, Harper was found guilty of misconduct and sentenced to thirty (30) days in the ...


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