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Scott v. Diguglielmo

May 1, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, J.


I. Introduction

On December 1, 2008, Plaintiff Bernard Scott ("Scott") filed an amended complaint against Defendants Jeffrey Beard, David DiGuglielmo, John Murray, and A. Scott Williamson (collectively, "Defendants") in their official capacities. Jeffrey Beard ("Beard") is the Secretary of the Department of Corrections, David DiGuglielmo ("DiGuglielmo") is the Superintendent of the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania ("SCI Graterford"), and John Murray ("Murray) and A. Scott Williamson ("Williamson") are Deputy Superintendents at SCI Graterford. Scott brings three counts against the Defendants: 1) denial of due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment; 2) cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments; and 3) retaliation in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Scott seeks declaratory and injunctive relief to remedy alleged violations of his constitutional rights while incarcerated at SCI Graterford. Specifically, Scott asks that the Court declare that he has a serious and continuing mental health condition for which he has not received adequate treatment and that the Court order Defendants to change Scott's prison records to reflect such. On December 19, 2008, Defendants moved to dismiss Scott's complaint on the basis that 1) Scott lacks standing to bring the suit; 2) Scott's claims are moot; 3) Defendants lack authority to provide the requested relief; 4) Scott fails to state a claims upon which relief may be granted; and 5) the Younger doctrine requires abstention. In the alternative, Defendants ask that the case be transferred to the Western District of Pennsylvania under the doctrine of forum non conveniens, that the jury trial demand be stricken because only equitable relief is requested, and that Scott provide a more definite statement. On March 27, 2009, Defendants filed a Motion for a More Definite Statement in the Alternative.

II. Background*fn1

In 1996, Scott was convicted, sentenced to imprisonment, and taken into the custody of the Department of Corrections. As part of his sentence, the sentencing court ordered that Scott receive psychiatric care in prison; this was incorporated into his correctional plan. In 1997, Scott was sent to SCI Green and was placed in a Special Needs Unit ("SNU") where he could receive specialized psychiatric treatment, medication, and support. Scott received daily psychiatric treatment and was a model prisoner. In 2000, as a reward for this exemplary behavior, Scott was transferred to SCI Mahoney, a facility located closer to his family. On December 27, 2002, Scott was taken to the hospital for medical treatment and was falsely accused of trying to escape. Upon his return to SCI Mahoney, Scott was placed in the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU"). Prior to being placed in the RHU, Scott was not provided a hearing before the Program Review Committee in accordance with DOC policy and procedures. On January 3, 2002, Scott was assaulted by staff members and another inmate and then drugged by staff members. On another occasion, Scott was placed in a steel cage with an inmate who was on death row and correctional officers allowed this inmate to attack Scott. On March 16, 2004, Scott was again attacked by correctional officers. Scott suffered numerous injuries as a result of these attacks. Additionally, while in the RHU at SCI Mahoney, Scott was denied psychiatric treatment.

On April 19, 2004, Scott was transferred back to SCI Green and was immediately placed in the RHU. Scott continued to suffer abuse at SCI Green, including being denied clothing, food, water, and psychiatric treatment. While at SCI Green, Scott was transferred to the Special Management Unit ("SMU"), a unit for inmates who present a safety concern. On June 2, 2006, after two years in the SMU at SCI Green, Scott was again transferred to SCI Graterford so that he could be placed in a Secured Special Needs Unit ("SSNU"). The SSNU is intended for inmates with behavioral problems who need specialized treatment and are unable to function in typical restrictive housing units. On June 7, 2006, however, Scott met with a Management Review Team and was told that the SSNU at SCI Graterford would not be operational until January 2007. Scott was instead placed in the RHU and was physically and mentally abused by staff, and suffered denial of psychiatric treatment, food, water, clothing, bedding, recreation, and use of the law library. On May 23, 2007, Scott was placed in the SSNU where he received psychiatric treatment and was again a model inmate.

In September 2007, Scott refused to be an institutional informer and reported being sexually assaulted by an institutional psychologist. In retaliation for this, Scott was placed back in the RHU. Scott was placed in a behavior modification cell, which is designed to prevent any human contact with the inmate. Scott was again physically and mentally abused by correctional staff. On August 8, 2008, Scott was transferred to SCI Cresson and housed in the SSNU where he was also placed in a behavior modification cell.

III. Standard of Review and Jurisdiction

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), a court must grant a motion to dismiss if it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a claim. "A motion to dismiss for want of standing is also properly brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), because standing is a jurisdictional matter." Ballentine v. U.S., 486 F.3d 806, 810 (3d Cir. 2007). Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a court must grant a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff fails "to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." In deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor. Brown v. Card Serv. Ctr., 464 F.3d 450, 452 (3d Cir. 2006). "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007) (internal quotations omitted). Scott's claims are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, therefore this Court has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

IV. Discussion

A. Standing

Article III of the Constitution limits the power of federal courts to resolve cases or controversies. "A declaratory judgment or injunction can issue only when the constitutional standing requirements of a 'case' or 'controversy' are met." St. Thomas-St. John Hotel & Tourism Ass'n, Inc. v. U.S. Virgin Islands, 218 F.3d 232, 241 (3d Cir. 2000).Requests for declaratory relief cannot hinge solely on hypothetical or contingent questions. Id. (citations omitted). The case or controversy requirement is met when"there is a substantial controversy, between parties having adverse legal interests, of sufficient immediacy and reality to warrant the issuance of a declaratory judgment." Id.(citations omitted). Courts ensure that the case or controversy requirement is met by following several justiciability doctrines, including standing, ripeness, mootness, the political question doctrine, and the prohibition on advisory opinions. Toll Bros., Inc. v. Twp. of Readington, 555 F.3d 131, 143 (3d Cir. 2009).

The doctrine of standing helps identify which disputes are justiciable under the case or controversy requirement. "As an incident to the elaboration of this bedrock [case or controversy] requirement, this Court has always required that a litigant have "standing" to challenge the action sought to be adjudicated in the lawsuit." Valley Forge Christian College v. Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Inc., 454 U.S. 464, 471 (1982). At a minimum, three elements are needed to establish constitutional standing under Article III: 1) injury-in-fact, 2) causation (or traceability), and 3) redressability. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).

Defendants do not contest that Scott has pled injury-in-fact and causation. To establish redressability, Scott must show a "substantial likelihood that the requested relief will remedy the alleged injury in fact." Toll Bros., 555 F.3d at 143. Mere speculation that the requested relief would remedy the alleged injury is not sufficient to establish standing. Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 618 (1973). The court must ask, "[i]s the prospect of obtaining ...

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