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Bussinger v. Philadelphia Prison System

August 3, 2009

GEORGE S. BUSSINGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
THE PHILADELPHIA PRISON SYSTEM, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

OPINION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment of Defendants Louis Giorla, John Delaney, Eric Ruhland, Alfredo White, Leon A. King, Walter Dunleavy, J.R. Anderson, and Joseph Glynn (collectively, "individual Defendants") and the City of Philadelphia Law Department (collectively, "Moving Defendants"). On November 13, 2006, Plaintiff acting pro se filed a Complaint in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas against Moving Defendants and Defendant Philadelphia Prison System ("PPS"). PPS is not a party to this Motion for Summary Judgment and remains a defendant in this action.

Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that he was the victim of retaliation by Philadelphia Prison System employees while he was a pretrial and/or post-trial detainee. The Complaint alleges violations of Plaintiff's First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and Article 1, §§ 1, 7, and 26 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. On September 24, 2007, Defendants removed the action to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Counsel entered his appearance on behalf of Plaintiff in September 2008.

Moving Defendants filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment on June 19, 2009, alleging that Plaintiff had not produced sufficient evidence to support his claims for the alleged violations of his First, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights and that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief for the alleged violations of his rights secured by the Pennsylvania Constitution.*fn1 For reasons that follow, the Court grants the City of Philadelphia Law Department's Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims and individual Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest claims. The Court also holds that Plaintiff is not eligible to recover monetary damages based on the alleged violations of his rights secured by the Pennsylvania Constitution. However, the Court finds that there is a genuine issue of material fact on Plaintiff's claim of retaliation, and will allow Plaintiff's First Amendment retaliation claim to proceed against individual Defendants except for Walter Dunleavy. Plaintiff has not put forth sufficient evidence of Dunleavy's personal involvement in the violations alleged.

II. General Background

On June 14, 2004, Plaintiff, an inmate at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center ("PICC")*fn2 , witnessed correctional guards beating another inmate. (Plaintiff's Dep., Def. Ex. B at 12:8-13:6). Plaintiff reported the beating to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Id. at 13:15-21, 14:8-19). At the time, Defendant Captain Joseph Glynn was a Disciplinary Hearing Officer within the Philadelphia System, and Defendant Correctional Officer Alfredo White was also employed by the system. Glynn heard that Plaintiff had reported the incident within a few days. (Glynn Dep., Pl. Ex. L at 5). He knew five of the eight officers charged. White read about the incident in the newspapers. (White Dep., Pl. Ex. K). Meanwhile, the Prison System was conducting a full investigation. (See Pl. Ex. B). According to Plaintiff, eight officers were suspended and five were ultimately indicted by a federal grand jury, before which Plaintiff testified. (Pl. Aff., Pl. Ex. I, ¶ 31).

On July 2, 2004, a lockdown was instituted at PICC after a fight and knifing occurred. During the lockdown, unknown Correctional Officers searched Plaintiff's cell and found a carton of cigarettes and a cell phone. (See Def. Ex. C). Plaintiff was charged with possession of these items and with conspiring with his cellmate, August Rinalli, to possess them. At that time, Rinalli had been Plaintiff's cellmate for eight days. Plaintiff claims that he had spent those days in the law library and had no knowledge of the contraband. (Pl. Dep. at 22). He also claims that Rinalli admitted that he alone owned and possessed the contraband. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 36).

On July 8, 2004, Defendant Glynn conducted Plaintiff's disciplinary hearing. (Pl. Dep. at 22). Plaintiff alleges that while he was waiting outside the hearing room, he overheard Glynn accuse Rinalli of covering for Plaintiff and ordered him to "Stop F'ing lying." (Id.). Plaintiff further alleges that when he entered the hearing, Glynn said to him, "Well, you know this ain't a court of law and you know I'm going to find you guilty." (Id. at 23).

Glynn found Plaintiff guilty of all charges and imposed a penalty of fifteen days disciplinary segregation followed by administrative segregation. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 36). Plaintiff ultimately spent four and one half months in punitive and administrative segregation. (Id. ¶ 37). Plaintiff described this as "an extraordinarily long time for even somebody who was guilty." (Pl. Dep. at 26. (Id. at 7:8-24). Plaintiff, who had been issued an order by the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas granting him additional access to the law library, estimates that during his time in segregation, his access to the law library was reduced by more than 95%. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 44).

When Plaintiff was released from segregation in November 2004, he appealed numerous grievances to Defendant Leon A. King regarding his reduced access to the law library. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 45). King replied that the Court of Common Pleas had no authority to issue the order granting him access to the law library and that his law library privileges had been suspended as a result of his misconduct. (Id. ¶ 46; see Pl. Ex. I, Att. B).

On August 1, 2005, Plaintiff filed a grievance against Defendant Lieutenant Ruhland. (Pl. Aff. ¶ 49). In this grievance, Plaintiff accused Ruhland of retaliating against him because Ruhland thought that Plaintiff had reported him "for violating policy and getting the key to the commissary room and taking commissary out of prisoners bags before they receive them." (Id. ¶ 49). On the following two days, Plaintiff filed grievances against Ruhland for threatening him. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 51). On August 4, 2005, because of these grievances against Ruhland, Plaintiff was transferred from PICC to Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF"). (Id. ¶ 52, Pl. Dep. at 43:4-5; 54:4-6). Defendants Louis Giorla, John Delaney, Alfredo White, Leon King, and J.R. Anderson participated in the decision to transfer Plaintiff from PICC to CFCF (Pl. Dep. at 74:6-15).

At CFCF, on two separate occasions, Plaintiff was assigned to a cell that did not have a window or mattress. (Id. at 44:12-13). Plaintiff filed grievances about these conditions. (Id. at 46:9-18, 48:9-16). As a result of each grievance, Plaintiff was given a mattress and transferred to a different cell. (Id. at 46:19-24, 48:14-16, 51:23-24).

Plaintiff's transfer to CFCF reduced his access to the law library. (Id. at 54:10-22). An officer is always present in the library at PICC, but at CFCF, an officer is not always present and Plaintiff could only access the library when an officer was there. (Id. at 54). Plaintiff claims that this was "a known result" of the transfer. Plaintiff claims that he was not allowed access when he should have been afforded access in accordance with the Court order, and was ordered to use the library at times when he did not ...


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