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Richardson v. Thomas

January 14, 2009

DAVID D. RICHARDSON, APPELLANT
v.
PAUL THOMAS, PRINCIPLE; AND PATRICIA COLLINS, ASSISTANT LIBRARIAN



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McGINLEY

Submitted: December 12, 2008

BEFORE: HONORABLE BERNARD L. McGINLEY, Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE JAMES R. KELLEY, Senior Judge.

OPINION

David D. Richardson (Richardson) appeals pro se from the order of the Court of Common Pleas of Westmoreland County (common pleas court) which dismissed Richardson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and his complaint under the authority of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (Act)*fn1, which allows a court to deny a prisoner in forma pauperis status and to dismiss a complaint which challenges prison conditions where a prisoner has three prior prison condition complaints dismissed as frivolous or malicious.

Richardson was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg (SCI-Greensburg). On March 25, 2008, Richardson commenced an action in the common pleas court and alleged that he was injured by the refusal of Paul Thomas, called a "school principal," and Patricia Collins, assistant librarian, of the library at SCI-Greensburg, (collectively, Defendants) to hire him to work in the prison library. Richardson alleged that he was a member of a minority group, that he was placed on a waiting list for a job in the prison library and that he interviewed twice for positions in the library but was not hired. Richardson alleged that the Defendants, who were two of the three members of the hiring panel, both times hired a white applicant. Richardson alleged that he was not hired because of racial animus and in retaliation for having filed past grievances against prison personnel. Richardson further alleged:

24. The defendants [sic] refusal to hire plaintiff [Richardson] was intentional and constituted a reckless disregard for plaintiff's [Richardson] federally protected rights.

25. The defendants [sic] refusal to hire plaintiff [Richardson] denied plaintiff [Richardson] due process and equal protections of law.

26. As a result of the defendants [sic] conduct... plaintiff [Richardson] was deprived of the opportunity of employment at a job he was qualified for; at one of the higher paying job classifications at SCI-Greensburg.

27. As a result of the defendants [sic] conduct... plaintiff [Richardson] suffered extreme mental anguish, i.e., humiliation, anxiety, depression, sense of inequality with white people, loss of sleep & appetite; which is continuing and accompanied by headaches and tightening of the muscles in his neck, back, and stomach at the thought of the defendants [sic] conduct.

Complaint, March 25, 2008, Paragraphs Nos. 24-27 at 4. Richardson sought compensatory, punitive, and "nominative" damages and sought prosecution of the Defendants in their individual capacities. Richardson also moved to proceed in forma pauperis.

The common pleas court determined that Richardson's cause of action was frivolous and denied the petition to proceed in forma pauperis:

2. However, Plaintiff [Richardson] has no entitlement to employment within the prison system, and a prisoner's expectation of getting or keeping a prison job does not implicate a protected property or liberty interest.... Prison labor does not create an employment relationship; rather such work is designed to train and rehabilitate the prisoner.... Plaintiff [Richardson], therefore, has no cause of action for Defendants' refusal to hire him to work in the prison library and, accordingly, this case is frivolous.....

4. The General Assembly enacted Section 6602(f) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (Act), 42 Pa.C.S. §6602(f), to control abusive prison litigation. A court may dismiss an action where the prisoner has earned 'three strikes' by having three prison litigation actions dismissed as frivolous.

5. Since 2007, Plaintiff [Richardson] has filed numerous actions in Westmoreland County. At least three of these cases involved prison conditions and were ultimately dismissed: (1) Richardson v. Lockett, 1623 of 2008; (2) Richardson v. Yothers, 1467 of 2007; and (3) Richardson v. Donegan, 6695 of 2007.... Each of these ...


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