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Greer v. York County Prison

February 27, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)


Plaintiff Horatio O. Greer, a former York County Prison inmate, commenced this civil rights action on December 12, 2007. (Doc. 1.) Presently pending is a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 filed on behalf defendant Larry L. Bortner ("Bortner"). (Doc. 22.) For the reasons set forth below, defendant's motion will be granted.

I. Statement of Material Facts

In August 2007, while incarcerated at the York County Prison, plaintiff participated in the work release program, also known as the Outmate program. (Doc. 24-2, Affidavit of Larry L. Bortner ("Bortner Affidavit"), at 6, ¶ 10; Doc. 29-2, at 45.) Defendant Bortner holds the position of Enforcement Officer of the work release program. (Bortner Affidavit at 4, ¶ 1.) "Th[is] officer is responsible for maintaining a record of the inmates time in and out, supervising the cleaning of the area by prisoner workers, the handling of allowed visits to the Outmates and the Minimum Security prisoners, plus maintaining good conduct of that entire section of the Prison." (Doc. 29-2, at 46.) The prison regulations provide that "[a]ny outmate found in violation of Prison rules or any law will be suspended or revoked from the Outmate program, at which time they will be housed within the secure perimeter of the prison." (Doc. 29-2, Affidavit of Clair Doll, at 5, ¶ 9; Doc. 29-2 at 46.)

On August 10, 2007, while waiting for the work release van, plaintiff entered the prison kitchen and took a packaged lunch. (Doc. 26, at 1-2.) Bortner witnessed plaintiff enter an unauthorized area of the kitchen and exit with the packaged lunch. (Doc. 24-2, Bortner Affidavit, at 6, ¶ 12.) Bortner asked plaintiff if he was allowed to take the food. (Id., at ¶ 13.) Plaintiff responded that it was his food. (Bortner Affidavit, at 6, ¶ 16.)

Following an investigation, Bortner discovered that it was not plaintiff's food. (Id. at ¶ 16.) Rather, plaintiff entered an area he was not authorized to enter, stole food, and then lied to Bortner. (Id.) A disciplinary report was issued on August 10, 2007, and plaintiff was removed from the Outmate program pending a hearing with the deputy warden. (Doc. 29-2, at 16; Doc. 24-2, Bortner Affidavit, at 6, ¶ 17). Plaintiff's "Individual Admission Record," confirms that he was "Mpved [sic] to general population, due to ODR, stealing food from kitchen, lying to staff, presence in an unauthorized area, will have a hearing next week, with D/W Thomas . . . ." (Doc. 29-2, at 11.) On August 15, 2007, he was reclassified "to ED-2B, Lt Max Sec.," based on his removal from the Outmate program. (Doc. 29-2, at 11; Doc. 24-2 , Bortner Affidavit, at 6, ¶ 18.)

On August 16, 2007, a hearing was held by Deputy Warden Thomas. Greer was found guilty "by his own statements," removed from the Outmate program and reclassified to general population. (Doc. 29-2, at 11, 18.) He was advised that he could reapply for work release at the expiration of thirty days so long as he was misconduct free. (Id. at 17.)

Plaintiff alleges that Bortner removed him from the Outmate program in retaliation for a civil action filed in federal court against York County. (Doc. 1.) Bortner states that the only knowledge he possessed about the lawsuit was that Greer was required to pay $30.00 per month. (Doc. 24-2, Bortner Affidavit, at 4, ¶¶ 7, 8, 22.) At one point, Greer asked him to reduce the monthly payment to $20.00, but he informed Greer that he had no such authority. (Id. at ¶ 8.) This discussion occurred "perhaps as many as two months before" issuance of the disciplinary report that resulted in removal form the Outmate program. (Id. at ¶ 6.) Bortner maintains that plaintiff's "removal from the outmate program was based solely on the conviction for stealing food. It had nothing to do with Greer's lawsuit against the County." (Doc. 24-2, at 6, Bortner Affidavit, at 8, ¶ 21.)

II. Standard of Review

Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine issue as to any material fact" and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c). The burden of proof is upon the non-moving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings," in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); FED. R. CIV. P. 56(e); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c), (e). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F. Supp. 2d at 315.

III. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the ...

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