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Hill v. Dep't of Corrections

April 7, 2010

DWAYNE HILL, APPELLANT
v.
DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Simpson

Submitted: January 15, 2010

BEFORE: HONORABLE BONNIE BRIGANCE LEADBETTER, President Judge, HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge, HONORABLE PATRICIA A. McCULLOUGH, Judge.

OPINION

In this appeal, Dwayne Hill (Hill), an inmate who has engaged in a series of hunger strikes, asks whether the Court of Common Pleas of Huntingdon County (trial court) erred in issuing a preliminary injunction authorizing the Department of Corrections (DOC): (1) to involuntarily examine and perform invasive diagnostic tests including blood and urine tests on him, and (2) to administer medical treatment including nutrition and hydration as may in the opinion of the medical staff be necessary to preserve his health and life. Representing himself, Hill argues the trial court erred in issuing the injunction because DOC lacked standing to seek the requested relief and because DOC had an adequate remedy at law.

Upon review, we reject Hill's contentions. However, we conclude DOC did not present sufficient evidence to support a determination that Hill's health was at such imminent risk so as to justify the involuntary administration of nutrition and hydration. We further conclude the evidence presented was sufficient to allow DOC to involuntarily examine Hill and perform invasive diagnostic tests, including blood and urine tests. Thus, we affirm as modified.

Hill is currently serving a life sentence at SCI-Houtzdale. Since 2006, Hill has engaged in a number of hunger strikes.

In late-May 2009, Hill began another hunger strike. Shortly thereafter, DOC filed a complaint, a motion for a preliminary injunction and an application for ex parte preliminary injunction through which it sought to permit its medical staff to involuntarily examine Hill, administer Hill medical treatment, and supply Hill nutrition and hydration as necessary to preserve Hill's health and life. The complaint alleged Hill had a recent history of engaging in hunger strikes, and during his most recent hunger strike he missed 24 consecutive meals.

In early-June, the trial court granted DOC's application for ex parte preliminary injunction and scheduled a hearing a few days later.

At the hearing, Hill testified, and DOC confirmed, that Hill resumed eating. Hill also assured the trial court he would continue to eat. As a result, the trial court denied DOC's request for a preliminary injunction, but it directed a hearing be scheduled after Hill filed a response to DOC's complaint.

Shortly thereafter, Hill filed preliminary objections to DOC's complaint. In addition, DOC requested reconsideration of the trial court's denial of preliminary injunction. Another hearing ensued before the trial court at which DOC presented the testimony of Patricia Everhart, an SCI registered nurse supervisor (Nurse Supervisor) and Dr. Phillip Shoaf, medical director at SCIHuntingdon (Physician).

Nurse Supervisor testified that, as of the time of her testimony, Hill missed 42 consecutive meals and refused offers of water as well as requests to monitor his vital signs and weight. Physician testified he visits Hill daily, Hill routinely refuses requests for physical examinations, and Hill had not eaten in 14 or 15 days.

Hill attended the hearing and engaged the trial court in various dialogues. Although he raised various objections, Hill did not raise a claim of religious freedom or of right to privacy or of a liberty interest to support his decision not to eat. In fact, Hill did not express a desire to die. Instead, Hill expressed dissatisfaction with his restricted housing unit placement and the failure of DOC to more expeditiously transfer him to another correctional institution. Notes of Testimony of June 29, 2009 (N.T.) at 13-14, Certified Record (C.R.), Item # 10 ("I want out of the hole. I don't care how they do it.").

At the conclusion of the hearing, the trial court issued an order authorizing DOC to:

involuntarily examine and perform invasive diagnostic tests including blood and urine tests on [Hill] and [to] administer medical treatment including nutrition and hydration as may in the opinion of the medical staff be necessary to preserve his health and life.

Tr. Ct. Order, 6/29/09, C.R., Item #5. Hill appealed to this Court.

The trial court subsequently issued an opinion in support of its order. Citing Department of Public Welfare, Fairview State Hospital v. Kallinger, 580 A.2d 887 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1990) (single judge opinion by Pellegrini, J.), the trial court stated it issued the injunction because the Commonwealth has a duty to protect the health and welfare of prisoners and to provide appropriate medical treatment. The trial court stated DOC presented compelling evidence to justify the order entered. This matter is now before us for disposition.

At the outset, we note, the trial court's order granting DOC's requested relief was entered in response to DOC's request for reconsideration of the trial court's denial of DOC's request for preliminary injunction. Therefore, the order under review is an order granting a preliminary injunction. With regard to the issuance of a request for a preliminary injunction, this Court has explained:

A preliminary injunction is to put and keep matters in the position in which they were before the improper conduct of the defendant commenced. Little Britain Township Appeal, 651 A.2d 606 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1994). The sole object of a preliminary injunction is to preserve the subject of the controversy in the condition in which it is when the order is made, it is not to subvert, but to maintain the existing status until the merits of the controversy can be fully heard and determined. Id. In the hearing upon a preliminary injunction, it is neither necessary nor proper to decide the case as though on final hearing. Id., citing Crestwood Sch. Dist. v. Topito, 463 A.2d 1247 (Pa. Cmwlth. 1983). A preliminary injunction cannot ...


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