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Bleau v. Diguglielmo

March 18, 2009

STEVEN BLEAU PLAINTIFF
v.
DAVID DIGUGLIELMO, ET AL. DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Golden, J.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 62) seeking judgment as to all of pro se Plaintiff Steven Bleau's ("Bleau") claims in his Second Amended Complaint. Plaintiff alleges, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of his constitutional rights under both the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30, 32). Also before the Court is Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment seeking judgment as a matter of law only as to his Due Process claim. (Doc. No. 65).*fn1

On January 24, 2006, prison officials from the State Correctional Institution in Graterford, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Graterford")-some of whom are named as Defendants in this matter-placed Plaintiff in administrative custody pending an investigation into whether he was involved in the drug culture at the prison. Plaintiff was not informed of the reasons for his detention in administrative custody until April 25, 2006. The investigation by prison officials involved an examination of various letters written by Plaintiff and, on May 31, 2006, culminated in the issuance of several misconduct charges, some of which involved drug-related activity. On June 6, 2006, Plaintiff was found guilty of these misconduct charges and immediately placed in disciplinary custody. On July 24, 2006, Plaintiff was released from disciplinary custody status and transferred to administrative custody status. Plaintiff remained in administrative custody, with the exception of time spent in the infirmary, until he was transferred to the State Correctional Institution at Fayette, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Fayette") on September 26, 2006. In total, Plaintiff spent 245 days in restrictive detention: 181 days in administrative custody, sixteen days in the infirmary, and 48 days in disciplinary custody.

Plaintiff's Due Process claims are essentially based on his contention that there was no factual basis for prison officials to believe that he was part of the drug culture at SCI-Graterford. Furthermore, Plaintiff argues that prison officials violated various prison regulations in both placing Plaintiff in restrictive detention and prosecuting Plaintiff for misconduct. Separately, Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim alleges that several prison officials were deliberately indifferent to Plaintiff's lockjaw condition. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is granted, and Plaintiff's Cross-Motion for Partial Summary Judgment is denied.*fn2

STANDARD

Summary judgment should be granted if the record, including pleadings, depositions, affidavits, and answers to interrogatories, demonstrates "that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In making that determination, the "evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). It is not the role of the trial judge "to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 250. Indeed, "[c]redibility determinations, the weighing of the evidence, and the drawing of legitimate inferences from the facts are jury functions, not those of a judge." Id. at 255. Rather, the question is whether "the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law." Id. at 251-52. "At the summary judgment stage, in other words, 'all that is required [for the non-moving party to survive the motion] is that sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute be shown to require a jury or judge to resolve [at trial] the parties' differing versions of the truth." Jackson v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 826 F.2d 230, 233 (3d Cir. 1987) (quoting First Nat'l Bank of Ariz. v. Cities Servs. Co., 391 U.S. 253, 288-89 (1968)), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1020 (1988). As Plaintiff will bear the burden of proof at trial, Defendants may obtain summary judgment by affirmatively demonstrating that Plaintiff has either no evidence or insufficient evidence to meet his burden at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). Further, as Plaintiff is not represented by counsel, the Court notes that "a pro se litigant's complaint must be construed liberally, and by extension, all reasonable latitude must be afforded in the summary judgment context." Woods v. Bentsen, 889 F. Supp. 179, 184 (E.D. Pa. 1995); see also Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).

DUE PROCESS

I. Facts Relating to Due Process Claim

A. Placement in Administrative Custody

In 2006, Plaintiff Steven Bleau was an inmate at SCI-Graterford serving a sentence of life imprisonment. (Bleau Dep. 4). On January 24, 2006, Bleau was removed from SCI-Graterford's general population and placed in administrative custody in the L-Block of the A-wing within the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") of the prison pending an investigation by prison officials into whether Plaintiff was contributing to the prison's drug culture. (Id. at 10; Dohman Decl. ¶ 3; Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ A.2).*fn3 On January 24, 2006, Plaintiff also received an "Other" report (#A770830) authored by Defendant Intelligence Captain Thomas Dohman stating the following: "It has been reported that you may be in violation of institutional rules or regulations. You will remain in administrative custody status pending an investigation." (Defs.' Ex. 16). Plaintiff was not informed why he was under investigation. (Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ A.3). On February 8, 2006-fifteen days after Plaintiff's initial detention-Defendant Superintendent David DiGuglielmo approved a fifteenday extension of Plaintiff's placement in the RHU under administrative custody during the pendency of the investigation. (Defs.' Exs. 18, 21; Dohman Dec. ¶ 5; Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ A.4).*fn4

On February 24, 2006, Plaintiff received a second "Other" report (#A770870) by prison officials stating the following: "It has been determined that your involvement in illicit activities in the institution pose[s] a danger to the institution. You will be placed in administrative custody for the safety of the institution pending possible charges and transfer." (Defs.' Ex. 19; Pl.'s Ex. 3; Dohman Decl. ¶ 6). This "Other" report also states that Plaintiff is "release[d] from investigation," but will "remain on A.C. [administrative custody] status" pursuant to DC-ADM 802 because Plaintiff is a "danger to the institution." (Defs.' Ex. 19).*fn5

On March 1, 2006, Plaintiff wrote to DiGuglielmo complaining about his allegedly arbitrary placement in the RHU. (Defs.' Ex. 20; Pl.'s Ex. 4-1). In particular, Plaintiff complained that he was not given a reason for his placement in administrative custody, which he argued constituted a violation of DC-ADM 802(VI)(B)(5). (Defs.' Ex. 20; Pl.'s Ex. 4-1).*fn6 Plaintiff also claimed that, after the fifteen-day administrative custody detention period ended on February 8, 2006, he had "never seen [a] PRC [Program Review Committee]" nor had he received "a 15 day continuance of investigation report from the Superintendent." (Defs.' Ex. 20; Pl.'s Ex. 4-1).*fn7 Plaintiff's complaint was treated as an appeal of both "Other" reports. (Defs.' Ex. 21). On March 6, 2006, DiGuglielmo sustained Plaintiff's placement in administrative custody. (Id.). Also on March 6, 2006, DiGuglielmo informed Plaintiff that a fifteen-day extension of administrative custody had been granted on February 8, 2006 pursuant to Dohman's request. (Id.; Defs.' Ex. 18; Pl.'s Ex. 4-2).*fn8

B. Placement in Disciplinary Custody

On approximately April 25, 2006, Dohman interviewed Plaintiff and informed Plaintiff, for the first time, that he had been placed in administrative custody because prison officials believed that Plaintiff was involved in the drug culture at SCI-Graterford. (Bleau Decl. ¶ 7; Bleau Dep. 65-67; Dohman Decl. ¶ 11). Dohman stated to Plaintiff that, based on confiscated letters, Plaintiff would be charged with various misconduct violations, some of which related to drugs. (Bleau Dep. 65-67; Dohman Decl. ¶ 11). Plaintiff denied (and continues to deny) any association with drugs, and argued (and continues to argue) that the confiscated letters concern Plaintiff's "poetry CD and book projects," not drugs. (Second Am. Compl. ¶ 23; Pl.'s Stmt. of Facts ¶ A.13). In the confiscated letters, Plaintiff wrote about an ongoing venture, profit from a prior project called a "hustle," and his need to make money. (Defs.' Exs. 30 at 3, 5, 7). Plaintiff wrote the following: "Make sure that you put it all in one loon as small as possible." (Id. at 5 (emphasis added)). He also wrote, "If you need me to pay you for the AOL, let me know. I really need to make that money." (Id. at 3). Plaintiff's letters discuss a CD project, and one letter advises a cousin to contact Plaintiff by calling his counselor and claiming an important legal call. (Id. at 10). This letter also refers to paying other inmates who are working on Plaintiff's project. (Id. at 11).

On May 31, 2006, Plaintiff was formally charged with several misconduct violations. The charges were the following: (1) Possession or Use of a Dangerous or Controlled Substance; (2) collectively, violations of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5123(a), (a.2), (c) (giving, transmitting, or furnishing a controlled substance to a convict in prison), 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 780-101, et seq. (Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act), and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 903 (criminal conspiracy); (3) Possession of Contraband; (4) Unauthorized Use of the Mail or Telephone; (5) Violation of Visiting Regulations; (6) Refusing to Obey an Order; and (7) Lying to an Employee. (Defs.' Ex. 29; Bleau Decl. ¶ 17).

On June 2, 2006, Defendant Hearing Examiner Mary Canino began Plaintiff's misconduct hearing. (Canino Decl. ¶ 4). During the hearing, Plaintiff again denied any involvement in bringing drugs into the prison, but admitted to making three-way phone calls in violation of prison rules. (Bleau Dep. 122-23; Defs.' Ex. 31). Accordingly, Plaintiff pled "guilty" to engaging in the "Unauthorized Use of the Mail or Telephone," but pled "not guilty" to the remaining six charges. (Defs.' Exs. 29, 31; Bleau Dep. 122-23). On June 6, 2006, after examining the letters, Canino found Plaintiff guilty of the six misconduct charges to which he had pled "not guilty." (Defs.' Ex. 31). Canino imposed a sanction of 360 days in disciplinary custody, with no credit for time already spent in administrative custody. (Defs.' Ex. 31; Pl.'s Ex. 15-1). Plaintiff claims that he was never given an opportunity to defend himself during the hearing. (Bleau Decl. ¶ 22.e). Plaintiff's disciplinary custody punishment officially began on June 6, 2006, though he was not moved from the A-wing to the B-wing within the L-block of the RHU until June 13, 2006. (Defs.' Ex. 29; Banta Decl. ¶ 6).*fn9

On June 6, 2006, Plaintiff appealed his conviction, which was affirmed on June 12, 2006. (Defs.' Exs. 32-33).*fn10

On June 13, 2006, Plaintiff filed an additional appeal. (Defs.' Ex. 34). On June 14, 2006, DiGuglielmo ruled that there were no procedural violations in the misconduct hearing. (Defs.' Ex. 35; Pl.'s Exs. 18-1, 33).*fn11 However, DiGuglielmo modified Canino's decision by crediting Plaintiff with time previously spent in administrative custody and reducing his sentence from 360 days to 210 days in disciplinary custody. (Defs.' Ex. 35; Pl.'s Exs. 18-1, 33; Bitner Decl. ¶ 7).

On June 19, 2006, Plaintiff filed his final appeal of his misconduct convictions. (Defs.' Ex. 36). On July 12, 2006, non-party Department of Corrections ("DOC") Secretary Jeffrey Beard, in consideration of Defendant Chief Hearing Examiner Bitner's recommendation, dismissed the findings of guilt on the following four charges: (1) Violation of Visiting Regulations; (2) Refusing to Obey an Order; (3) Lying to an Employee, and (4) Violation of 35 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 780-101, et seq. (Controlled Substance, Drug, Device and Cosmetic Act). (Defs.' Exs. 37-38; Pl.'s Ex. 18-2). Secretary Beard upheld the findings of guilt on the following four charges: (1) Possession or Use of a Dangerous or Controlled Substance; (2) collectively, violations of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5123(a), (a.2), (c) (giving, transmitting, or furnishing a controlled substance to a convict in prison), and 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 903 (criminal conspiracy); (3) Possession of Contraband; and (4) Unauthorized Use of the Mail or Telephone. (Defs.' Exs. 37-38; Pl.'s Exs. 18-2, 34; Bleau Dep. 147). As a result, Plaintiff's sentence to disciplinary custody was further reduced from 210 days to 180 days, with credit for the time he had already served in administrative custody. (Defs.' Exs. 37- 38; Pl.'s Exs. 18-2, 34). Thus, Plaintiff's sentence to disciplinary custody was set to conclude on July 18, 2006. (Defs.' Ex. 37; Pl.'s Exs. 18-2, 34; Bitner Decl. ¶ 7).

On approximately July 24, 2006-six days after his disciplinary custody sentence was to expire-Plaintiff's sentence was officially modified to 180 days and Plaintiff was transferred from disciplinary custody status to administrative custody status, though he remained housed in the B-wing within the L-block of the RHU. (Defs.' Exs. 38, 42; Banta Decl. ¶ 6).*fn12 Plaintiff did not file a grievance complaining that he had been placed in disciplinary custody beyond the July 18, 2006 expiration date. (Bleau Decl. ¶ 23.f). Plaintiff stayed in the B-wing while in administrative custody until August 2, 2006, at which time he was moved to the infirmary for dental treatment. (Banta Decl. ¶ 14; Bleau Dep. 94-97; Defs.' Stmt. of Facts ¶ A.38). Plaintiff remained in the infirmary until August 18, 2006. (Banta Decl. ¶ 13; Bleau Dep. 94-97). Upon his ...


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