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Mack v. Klopotoski

September 21, 2010

DERRICK MACK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SUPERINTENDENT MICHAEL KLOPOTOSKI, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

THE BACKGROUND OF THIS MEMORANDUM IS AS FOLLOWS:

Plaintiff Derrick Mack, an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("SCI Dallas") in Dallas, Pennsylvania, initiated the above civil rights action pro se by filing a Complaint under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Presently before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment filed on behalf of Defendants. (Doc. 28.) For the reasons set forth herein, the Motion will be granted.

In his Complaint, filed on June 9, 2008, Mack names the following Defendants who, at the time of the events that form the basis for his Complaint, were employed in the following positions at SCI Dallas: Michael Klopotoski, Superintendent; Norman Demming, Corrections Classification Program Manager; Martin Walsh, School Principal; Patricia Haradem, Chief Librarian; and Thomas Rovinski, Activities Director. (Doc. 4, Complaint, at 3.) Mack alleges that Defendants were deliberately indifferent to the dangerous condition of the basketball courts at SCI Dallas and that, as a result of the dangerous condition, during an organized basketball game, he fell and sustained a serious injury that required surgery. Mack also alleges that he was subject to "official retaliation"; that, as a result of the inadequate library at SCI Dallas, he was denied access to the courts, resulting in his loss of an appeal; and that, in violation of the First Amendment, a legal book mailed to him by his sister was intercepted and confiscated without any valid justification. Mack also alleges that Defendant Klopotoski's denial of his appeals from the grievances regarding these issues deprived him of his constitutional rights and extended his pain and suffering. (Id. at 3 ¶ 2.) Mack's allegations in support of each of his claims are as follows:

Deliberate Indifference Claim

Mack states that, in Grievance Number 211273, filed on December 11, 2007, he presented the following issue:

Mack had been complaining about the danger of hurting himself while playing organized sports at SCI Dallas due to the damaged basketball court. (Id. at 3 ¶ 7; Id. at 16, Copy of Grievance No. 211273.) He had filed a Request to Staff Member Form with Defendant Rovinski asking when he would put in a work order to fix the "unlevel spots" on the basketball court because people were getting hurt. (Id. at 3 ¶ 7; Id. at 16; Id. at 14, Copy of 6/25/07 Request to Staff Member.) Rovinski responded that "Work orders have been entered for months. Reported on Fire & Safety weekly." (Id. at 3 ¶ 7; Id. at 16; Id. at 14.) Mack also alleges that, during an organized game at SCI Dallas, he was seriously injured on the broken court and suffered severe physical injuries, including a knee injury which required emergency medical care and surgery. (Id. at 3 ¶ 7; Id. at 16.)

Mack recounts that Defendant Demming responded to his grievance by stating that repairs could not be made in the cold weather, and that they would do their best to repair the courts in warm weather. (Id. at 7 ¶ 26.) He claims that this response is evidence that staff was fully aware of the dangerous area, yet failed to do anything, and even opened the courts for use by SCI Dallas inmates a month later. (Id.) Mack alleges that the failure by SCI Dallas staff to act by fixing the problem or preventing inmates from using the basketball courts, which resulted in his "permanent" injury, constitutes deliberate indifference. (Id. at 5 ¶ 14.)

Retaliation Claim

Mack next avers that, in Grievance Number 211037, filed in December 2007*fn1 , he presented the following issue:

Mack claimed that he was suffering from "official retaliation" for exercising his constitutional rights. (Id. at 4 ¶ 8; Id. at 15, Copy of Grievance No. 211037.) Mack does not explain in the grievance how the alleged failure of SCI Dallas staff to maintain an adequate library constitutes "official retaliation." (See Doc. 4 at 15.) However, in his Complaint, Mack claims that he satisfies the essential elements to sustain a retaliation claim in the Third Circuit for the following reasons:

(1) The retaliation was constitutionally protected as outlined above; (2) I suffered an 'adverse action' when my appeal was denied and I needed surgery, due to the Defendants' actions and inactions; (3) There is a causal connection between the first two elements when I presented the Defendants with my complaints, and desire to exercise my U.S. Constitutional rights, and their retaliation was a substantial or motivating factor in the adverse actions (and inactions) taken against me; (4) The Defendants would 'not' have taken the same adverse actions (or inactions) in the absence of my Grievances. (Doc. 4 at 6 ¶ 23.)

Access to the Courts Claim

In Grievance Number 211037, Mack also presented the following issue: Mack explained that, although he is incarcerated in Pennsylvania, he was convicted in New Jersey, and that the SCI Dallas law library was inadequate in that it is understaffed, it does not have New Jersey court rules, the printer attached to the only computer with Encyclopedia Encarta software is broken, and the copier is broken. (Id. at 4 ¶ 8; Id. at 15, Copy of Grievance No. 211037.) As relief, Mack requested that the SCI Dallas law library be updated. (Id. at 15.)

In his Complaint, Mack elaborates on his claim regarding the inadequate law library at SCI Dallas by alleging that, contrary to Defendant Walsh's response to his grievance that the computer with Encarta software has nothing to do with the law library, and that other hardbound encyclopedias are available in the library for photocopying, the only way that he could obtain New Jersey "'legal' issues" was through Encarta software. (Id. at 4 ΒΆ 12.) As a result, Mack alleges that his right of access to the courts was violated when the printer attached to the only computer with Encarta software was ...


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