Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Williams v. City of Philadelphia

July 27, 2010

DWIGHT WILLIAMS, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL., THIRD-PARTY PLAINTIFFS,
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, ET AL. THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS



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

MEMORANDUM

This is a putative class action brought by inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System ("PPS") seeking equitable relief and alleging unconstitutional conditions of confinement under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs commenced the action on April 28, 2008, complaining of overcrowding and triple-celling in the county-operated PPS. Plaintiffs named the City and its Commissioner of Corrections as defendants. On June 27, 2008, the City of Philadelphia and its Commissioner of Corrections (collectively, "Third-Party Plaintiffs") filed a third-party complaint against Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("Secretary"), and against the Honorable C. Darnell Jones, II, and Louis Presenza, President Judges of the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas and Municipal Court, respectively ("President Judges").*fn1 (Doc. No. 17.) At the same time, Third-Party Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction (Doc. No. 16) and a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to Join, or alternatively, a Motion to Join the Secretary and the President Judges (Doc. No. 15). Plaintiffs did not name the Secretary or the President Judges as defendants. In fact, Plaintiffs oppose Third-Party Plaintiffs' attempt to join the Secretary and the President Judges to the action (collectively, "Third-Party Defendants").

Presently before the Court are the Motion to Dismiss Defendants Third-Party Complaint Filed on Behalf of Third Party Defendants, the Honorable C. Darnell Jones, II and the Honorable Louis Presenza (Doc. No. 29) and Third Party Defendant Beard's Motion to Dismiss the Third Party Complaint of the City of Philadelphia and Louis Giorla (Doc. No. 31). For the following reasons, the Third-Party Defendants' motions will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs have sued the City of Philadelphia and its Commissioner of Corrections seeking equitable relief from overcrowding in the City's prisons. This is not the first time inmates in Philadelphia's prisons have brought suit against the City alleging constitutional violations. State and federal courts have been dealing with this problem for almost forty years. See, e.g., Jackson v. Hendrick, 764 A.2d 1139, 1141 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 2001) (discussing "tangled history" of Philadelphia prison litigation dating back to 1971); Harris v. City of Philadelphia, No. 82-1847, 2000 WL 1239948, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 30, 2000) (Shapiro, J.) (discussing Philadelphia prison litigation history). In Bowers v. City of Philadelphia, No. 06-3229, 2007 WL 219651, at *34 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 25, 2007), this Court found that conditions in existence in the summer of 2006 in the intake unit of the PPS, the Police Administration Building's detention unit, and the Police District holding cells violated the Fourteenth Amendment. We cited a variety of offending conditions ranging from unsanitary and unavailable toilet facilities to the failure to provide beds resulting in inmates sleeping on concrete floors. The conditions were primarily caused by severe overcrowding. See id. at *23. In Bowers, we did not decide whether triple-celling violated the due process rights of pretrial detainees. Id. at *26. In the present case, Plaintiffs allege that triple-celling is rampant in the City's prison and that the practice violates their constitutional rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments.

To understand Third-Party Plaintiffs' theory against the Third-Party Defendants, it is necessary to understand the relationship between the City's prison system and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's prison system. The City manages a prison system and supervises its operations pursuant to the City's Home Rule Charter.*fn2 See 351 Pa. Code § 5.5-700(c) (2010). The City exercises this supervisory authority through the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare ("City Welfare Department") and PPS. See id.; see also Exec. Order 05-88 (Apr. 6, 1988) (W. Wilson Goode, Mayor) (establishing the PPS). The City Welfare Department is charged with, among other things, setting inmate capacity at the City's correctional institutions. See 351 Pa. Code § 5.5-700(c) (providing that the City Welfare Department "shall determine the capacity of City institutions and determine and designate the type of persons and the proportion of each type to be received therein"); see also Harris v. Pernsley, 820 F.2d 592, 598 (3d Cir. 1987) ("The Philadelphia Home Rule Charter vests the Philadelphia Department of Public Welfare with the responsibility of supervising the Philadelphia prison, including the power to set the capacity of the institutions." (internal citations omitted)). The City Welfare Department is also charged with recommending to the PPS's Board of Trustees "standards and methods helpful in the government and administration of [the PPS] and for the betterment of the condition of [its] inhabitants." See 351 Pa. Code § 5.5-700(c) (2010). The PPS Board of Trustees in turn manages and controls the City's prisons. See id. § 5.5-701. Ultimately the Mayor, as the City's chief executive officer, and the City Council have the authority to determine the inmate capacity of the PPS through their control of the City's budget. See id. § 4.4-100 (designating the Mayor as the City's chief executive officer); id.§ 2.20-300 (requiring the Mayor and the City Council to adopt the City's annual operating budget). The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania operates its own prison system. Cf. 71 Pa. Stat. § 310-1 (2010) (establishing the Department of Corrections as an administrative department). The Governor of Pennsylvania appoints a Secretary of Corrections to manage the Commonwealth's prison system. See id. §§ 66, 67.1(d). The Secretary is responsible for the administration, management, and supervision of the Commonwealth's twenty-six state correctional institutions. See id. § 310-1. Among other things, the Secretary is given discretionary authority "to transfer inmates located in county prisons to the State correctional system for such reasons and upon such terms and conditions as the secretary may determine." 61 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1151 (2009) (replacing 61 Pa. Stat. § 72 (repealed), effective October 13, 2009); see also 2009 Pa. Legis. Serv. Act 2009-33 (S.B. 112).

An inmate sentenced under Pennsylvania law is confined either in a county prison or in one of the state correctional institutions operated by the Commonwealth. Where an inmate is confined depends on the length of the inmate's sentence and the discretion of the sentencing judge. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9762 (2007). Pursuant to the statute, inmates with sentences of five years or more must be confined in a state correctional institution, and sentencing judges may not confine them in a county prison. Id. Inmates with sentences of at least two years, but less than five years, may be confined in either a state correctional institution or a county prison at the discretion of the sentencing judge. Id. Inmates with sentences of less than two years must be confined in the county prison-here, the PPS-unless the Governor issues a proclamation that state facilities are available. Id.

The Pennsylvania legislature recently amended the statute to remove the sentencing judges' discretion with regard to confinement of inmates with sentences of at least two years, but less than five years, in the state correctional institution. See 2008 Pa. Legis. Serv. 2008-81 (H.B. No. 4), amending 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9762, enacted September 25, 2008. Specifically, the amendment, which took effect sixty days after its enactment, provides that beginning three years after its enactment inmates with "maximum terms of two years or more but less than five years shall be committed to the Department of Corrections for confinement," unless a number of requirements are met. Id. § 7 (emphasis added). Until this subsection is effective in November 2011, sentencing judges in the Philadelphia court system retain their discretion over where to confine inmates with sentences of at least two years, but less than five years. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9762. This discretion rests exclusively with the sentencing judge.*fn3 See id. The amendment does not affect the Secretary's discretion "to transfer inmates located in county prisons to the State correctional system for such reasons and upon such terms and conditions as the secretary may determine." See 61 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 1151 (2009). Neither the current statute nor the amended statute vests sentencing discretion in the President Judges of the Philadelphia court system. The President Judges serve as "the executive and administrative head of the court." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 325(e) (2007). The role of the President Judges is to "supervise the judicial business of the court, promulgate all administrative rules and regulations, make all judicial assignments, and assign and reassign among the personnel of the court available chambers and other physical facilities." Id.

The gravamen of Third-Party Plaintiffs' third-party complaint is the allegation that the Secretary's failure to accept discretionary transfer of inmates confined to the PPS at less-crowded state correctional institutions, and the President Judges' failure to ensure that sentencing judges confined persons with sentences of at least two years, but less than five years, in state correctional institutions, has contributed to the alleged overcrowding and triple-celling at the PPS.*fn4 Third-Party Plaintiffs contend that these allegations give rise to a contribution claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which grounds their third-party complaint on federal common law. Third-Party Plaintiffs also contend that joinder of the Secretary and the President Judges is necessary to accord Plaintiffs full relief. Third-Party Defendants respond that Third-Party Plaintiffs fail to state a claim against the Secretary and the President Judges on which to ground joinder or the third-party complaint. Third-Party Defendants also respond that even if Third-Party Plaintiffs could state a claim for contribution, the Eleventh Amendment provides immunity to the Third-Party Defendants as state actors.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court set forth a two-part analysis that district courts must conduct when reviewing a complaint challenged under Rule 12(b)(6). See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (describing Iqbal'stwo-step inquiry). The district court must first separate "the factual and legal elements of a claim," accepting all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true but rejecting legal conclusions. Id. at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949); see also Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.at 1949-50 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice [to state a claim]."). Under this analysis, well-pleaded factual allegations are to be given a presumption of veracity. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950. The district court must then "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). A complaint that merely alleges entitlement to relief, without alleging facts that show entitlement, must be dismissed. Id. By contrast, a complaint that demonstrates entitlement to relief through well-pleaded facts will survive a motion to dismiss. Seeid. Given the nature of the two-part analysis, "'[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" See McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1950). Dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6) is proper when a doctrine of immunity, such as the Eleventh Amendment, bars the suit. See Reames v. Oklahoma, 411 F.3d 1164, 1168 (10th Cir. 2005) (affirming district court's grant of motion to dismiss action against state officials where immunity under the Eleventh Amendment barred the claim); Anderson v. Williamson, 100 F.3d 956 (Table), 1996 WL 640464, at *1 (6th Cir. Nov. 5, 1996) (holding same).

III. ANALYSIS

A. Eleventh Amendment

The doctrine of sovereign immunity is a major limitation on the judicial power of federal courts. Sovereign immunity in the federal courts is based on the Eleventh Amendment, which provides that "[t]he Judicial Power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any foreign state." U.S. Const. amend. XI. "That amendment has been interpreted to make states generally immune from suit by private parties in federal court." MCI Telecom. Corp. v. Bell Atlantic - Pa., 271 F.3d 491, 502 (3d Cir. 2001) (citations omitted). The amendment also makes states generally immune from "suit brought by a citizen of a state against his own state," O'Hara v. Ind. Univ. of Pa., 171 F. Supp. 2d 490, 495 (W.D. Pa. 2001) (citing Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1, 13-16 (1890)), including suits brought against state agencies and departments, MCI Telecom., 271 F.3d at 502 (citing Z.H. v. Oliva, 226 F.3d 198, 201 (3d Cir. 2000) (en banc)). In addition, the amendment has been interpreted to make states generally immune from suits brought by political subdivisions. See, e.g., County of Monroe v. State of Florida, 678 F.2d 1124, 1130-31 (2d Cir. 1982) (holding that a county in New York was a "citizen" of New York for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.