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Brooks v. DiGuglielmo

December 9, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.


On or about April 15, 2005, plaintiff Alan T. Brooks filed a complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania against defendants David DiGuglielmo, superintendent of the State Correctional Institution - Graterford (Graterford); James L. Grace, superintendent at the State Correctional Institution - Huntingdon (Huntingdon); Michael Lorenzo, deputy superintendent at Graterford; A. Scott Williamson, superintendent at Huntingdon; Thomas Dohman, a captain at Graterford; Raymond A. Knauer, a lieutenant at Graterford; B. Van Tries, a lieutenant at Huntingdon;*fn1 Jonathan Taylor, a sergeant at Huntingdon and Michael Kissell, a corrections officer at Huntingdon. On August 30, 2005, defendants removed to this Court. After counsel was appointed to represent him, Brooks filed an amended complaint on October 20, 2006 against the previously named defendants. Brooks' amended complaint alleges the following claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983:

violation of procedural due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count I); violation of substantive due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment (Count II); violation of the Eighth Amendment (Count III) and violation of the First Amendment (Count IV) motivated, either in whole or in part, by a desire to retaliate against plaintiff for commencing a civil rights action in 2000, a mandamus action in 2004, criminal complaints in 2004 and/or filing of various grievances. He seeks both injunctive relief and nominal and punitive damages for his claims. Presently before me are defendants' motion for summary judgment, plaintiff's response, defendants' reply and plaintiff's sur-reply.


Plaintiff, a citizen of the United States, is serving a sentence of "life plus 52 years" for convictions taking place in a Delaware state court. On March 29, 1994, pursuant to the interstate Corrections Compact, Brooks was transferred to the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to serve the remainder of his sentence because of Brooks' alleged involvement in an incident and general poor adjustment to incarceration in Delaware. On July 10, 1996, the DOC assigned Brooks to Graterford.

On July 19, 2000, Brooks commenced the civil action captioned Brooks v. Horn, et al, CA No. 00-cv-3637 (E.D. Pa) before this Court (referred to as the "2000 Civil Rights Action") against certain officers at Graterford based on events arising during his incarceration at Graterford. Brooks represented himself pro se. I granted defendants' motion for summary judgment on April 7, 2004 and entered judgment in favor of the defendants.

In mid-2003, defendant Thomas Dohman, the intelligence captain for the Graterford Internal Security Department, heard through a confidential source that Brooks might be involved in distribution of contraband within Graterford and began to monitor plaintiff's phone calls, mail and inmate monetary account. After several month of monitoring, Dohman believed that Brooks was involved in a drug ring involving other inmates and corrections officers because Brooks was receiving multiple personal gifts from civilians who were not on his visiting list but were on other inmates' lists, signaling to Dohman that the family and friends of other inmates were making payments to Brooks on behalf of that inmate. Dohman also intercepted money orders that citizens connected to other Graterford inmates had attempted to mail directly to Brooks. Dohman believed Brooks was using a corrections officer to deliver drugs because the FBI, who were investigating a Graterford drug ring, arrested the officer and the officer cooperated with the on-going FBI investigation.

On January 26, 2004, Dohman met with Brooks to discus the illicit activity. Brooks told Dohman that he was invoking his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and would not provide him with any information. He informed Dohman that he did not have time to talk to him because he was working on filing a response in opposition to summary judgment in the 2000 Civil Rights Action, then pending before this Court. Dohman was not a party to the 2000 Civil Rights Action. Dohman informed Brooks that he was placing him in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) and issued an "Other" report which placed Brooks in administrative custody due to his involvement in an ongoing investigation. Brooks was transferred to the RHU on January 26, 2004. At the same time, Dohman assigned inmate Nathanial Bishop, who Dohman believed to be engaging in the same illicit activity as Brooks, to the RHU. When Brooks arrived in the RHU, he did not immediately have the legal materials he needed for his court filing, but he obtained the materials within a few days and was able to file the document without being penalized by the Court for any delay in that filing.

On February 13, 2004, defendant Raymond A. Knauer, a lieutenant within the Graterford Internal Security Department and husband of Julie Knauer, one of the defendants in the 2000 Civil Rights Action, released Brooks from the investigation at Dohman's request because Brooks had reached the limit of how many days an inmate may remain under investigation. Dohman claims that he had sufficient information to issue a misconduct to Brooks which would keep him in the RHU in disciplinary custody. However, Dohman notes that issuing a misconduct would have required him to include information in the misconduct report that would make it easy for Brooks to determine that a corrections officer was cooperating with the FBI investigation and who that officer was which would pose a threat to the officer's safety and the overall FBI investigation. Dohman believed that Brooks and Bishop had been "pressuring" the cooperating officer to continue to make deliveries and that keeping Brooks in the RHU would limit his ability to conduct his illicit operations for investigative purposes. Dohman then instructed Knauer to issue a new report identifying Brooks as "a danger to some person(s) in the institution who could not be protected by alternate means" and Brooks continued in administrative custody in the RHU. Defendant David DiGuglielmo, superintendent of Graterford, reassigned the report to Lorenzo. Dohman continued to monitor Brooks' mail and inmate account. He observed that Brooks' financial transactions slowed considerably and that his mail provided further evidence of his involvement in illicit transactions involving narcotics, oils and/or cigarettes, including a letter which contained what Dohman considered a possible threat by Brooks on another inmate's life.

Inmates in the RHU regularly meet with the Program Review Committee (PRC) which generally consists of three staff members. On March 10, 2004, Brooks met with a PRC panel consisting of defendant Lorenzo, Michael Spencer, institutional business manager and Francis Feild, major of unit management.*fn2 This panel informed Brooks that they were instructing Dohman to submit paperwork for Brooks' transfer to another institution due to the drug investigation.

Brooks complained about his continued confinement in the RHU and the pending transfer in correspondence to DiGuglielmo. DiGuglielmo responded that Brooks was being transferred because of his involvement in illicit activity which could jeopardize the safe and orderly operations of the institution and that none of the actions taken were in retaliation for Brooks' litigation. As previously noted, the 2000 Civil Rights Action was closed on April 7, 2004 when I granted defendants' motion for summary judgment.

On August 25, 2004, Brooks was given a misconduct for possessing contraband because tobacco, which is not permitted in the RHU, was found in the mattress in his cell. Though Brooks concedes that he had tobacco in his cell and that he did not have a roommate, he asserted that he was holding it for another inmate.

While confined to administrative custody, Brooks filed a Writ of Mandamus on September 1, 2004 (referred to as the "2004 Mandamus Action") alleging that from May of 2004 to September of 2004 he was denied access to standard medical treatment. Additionally, Brooks filed three private criminal complaints in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County against defendants Knauer, Dohman and Lorenzo (referred to as the "2004 Criminal Complaints") based upon his allegedly protracted solitary confinement within the RHU when he was cleared of any misconduct in the "other" report.

On September 27, 2004, Brooks was transferred to Huntingdon. Upon arrival, the Huntingdon PRC conducted a review of Brooks' status. A. Scott Williamson, deputy superintendent of Huntingdon Centralized Services, was part of the PRC panel that decided to maintain Brooks' administrative custody because they needed additional time to review Brooks' files and they needed more information regarding the circumstances of his transfer.

On September 29, 2004, Williamson spoke with Brooks who said that Lorenzo had promised Brooks that he would be placed in general population at Huntingdon. Three days later, Williamson asked Lorenzo via email whether he had information regarding Brooks' status. After receiving the email, Lorenzo reviewed the circumstances of Brooks' transfer, but did not pass on any information to Williamson. Over the next several months, Brooks was regularly reviewed by the PRC and he was informed that the PRC panel was continuing the administrative custody status because additional information necessary to determine Brooks' housing needs was needed. Meanwhile, the SCI Huntingdon Intelligence Captain, Jon Fisher, contacted Dohman who explained Brooks' involvement in dealing drugs.

On or around October 3, 2004, Brooks alleges that corrections officers took Brooks to inventory his personal property arriving from Graterford. He alleges that everything was present except his legal materials and his typewriter which he states was required to prosecute the 2004 Mandamus Action and the 2004 Criminal Complaints. Brooks alleges that Williamson and Grace denied several requests for release from RHU during this time. Brooks alleges that on November 18, 2004, he was placed on suicide watch for eight days. Brooks further alleges that he requested permission to make one telephone call per month to his family and access to a television, but Williamson denied this request on December 6, 2004.*fn3

On or around December 15, 2004, Brooks received notice that a hearing regarding the 2004 Criminal Complaints was scheduled for December 20, 2004. The same day, Brooks alleges that Williamson and Grace continued Brooks' time in the RHU for another 90 days. Though he alleges that he made numerous requests for his legal materials and typewriter to prepare for court, Brooks did not receive his legal materials for court hearings held on December 20, 2004, December 28, 2004 and January 11, 2004. On or around February 6, 2004, Brooks alleges that defendant Michael Kissell, a corrections officer at Huntingdon, escorted Brooks to his legal materials. Brooks alleges that he was permitted to take one box of his legal materials to his cell and was required to send some home.

Brooks then filed a grievance alleging that he had still not received his typewriter. Defendant B. Van Tries, a lieutenant at Huntingdon, was the assigned grievance coordinator and investigated Brooks' grievance. He found it to be without merit because there was no evidence that Brooks ever owned a typewriter and Grace agreed with Van Tries on appeal. However, Brooks alleges that his typewriter was subsequently located and returned to him.

On March 9, 2005, the PRC again reviewed Brooks' status and decided to remove him from administrative custody and assigned him to general population.


Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in relevant part, that summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). An issue of material fact is genuine if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). Summary judgment will be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

The party moving for summary judgment has the burden of demonstrating that there are no genuine issues of material fact. Id. at 322-23. If the moving party sustains the burden, the nonmoving party must set forth facts demonstrating the existence of a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. Rule 56(e) provides that when a properly supported motion for summary judgment is made, "an adverse party may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the adverse party's pleading, but the adverse party's response, by affidavits or as otherwise provided in this rule, must set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The adverse party therefore must raise "more than a mere scintilla of evidence in its favor" in order to overcome a summary judgment motion, and cannot survive by relying on unsupported assertions, conclusory allegations, or mere suspicions. Williams v. Borough of W. Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989). However, the "existence of disputed issues of ...

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