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Jamar Matthews v. City of Philadelphia

March 25, 2011



Plaintiff Jamar Matthews filed this § 1983 civil rights action against the City of Philadelphia, a prison work-release center, and various correctional officers. The defendants have collectively moved for summary judgment, which Matthews opposes. For the reasons that follow, the court grants the motion in part and denies it in part.

I. Factual allegations

The following factual allegations are presented in Matthews's pro se complaint (Docket No. 4), as amended (Docket No. 35).

Plaintiff Matthews is paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair. At the beginning of the relevant time period, Matthews was an inmate at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF). He was transferred from CFCF to the Alternative Special Detention (ASD) unit in January 2008 to participate in a work release program. Soon thereafter, he was transferred to a satellite location of ASD at 600 University Avenue ("600 University"). Matthews alleges that members of the staff at 600 University conspired against him to move him out of the facility because they could not accommodate his disability. The events undergirding this allegation unfolded as follows.

On February 21, 2008, Matthews was talking to another inmate at 600 University, Khalil Turner, at around 10:10 p.m. that evening. Matthews claims that he was asking Turner for a dollar for the vending machine, which Turner then handed to him. At that time, Correctional Officer (C/O) Bakhit claims to have seen a suspicious item passed from Matthews to Turner. Both Matthews and Turner were stopped and taken into the locker room to be strip searched. No contraband was found on Matthews, but a white Nokia camera phone, a headphone wire, and a cell phone charger were found on Turner. Matthews was served with a misconduct report on February 22 and was referred to the Disciplinary Hearing Officer (DHO).

On February 27, 2008, a disciplinary hearing was held before DHO Gonzales. Matthews denied any involvement and testified that he did not pass anything. He was found guilty by the DHO and was sanctioned with 15 days of disciplinary segregation for the misconduct classified as "major." In accord with this sanction, he was placed in what Matthews describes as a "Protective Custody Pod" at CFCF. He alleges that he was not permitted to return to the work release program even though Turner, the other party in the disciplinary incident, was permitted to return.

Matthews attached three documents to his initial complaint that appear to be copies of documents he filed through the prison grievance system. The first is a grievance form filed by Matthews on February 28, 2008, in an attempt to appeal the DHO's decision. (See Docket No. 4 at 7.) Nowhere in this grievance does he make any complaint about handicapped-accessible facilities or a conspiracy to transfer him out of the work release program. He claims only that "[t]he DHO did not hear my side of the story. . . . Please allow me a fair hearing where both sides can be heard." (Id.) The second is an "Inmate Disciplinary Hearing Appeal" Matthews filed on March 4, 2008.*fn1 (Id. at 8.) He reiterated that he wanted "a fair hearing where both sides can be heard," including the ability to call "a witness and di[s]ciplinary representation." (Id.) The third is another such form filed on April 4, 2008, because he claimed that, having put in appeals and grievances, "no written answer ha[d] been given." (Id. at 9.) In this form he begins to make accusations about his "Due Process and Eighth Amendment rights" being denied. (Id.) Specifically, he alleged that he could "prove [his] innocence and falsifying of the report by C/Os." (Id.) Furthermore, he alleged, the "write-up is being used [as] a cloud to hide the truth about a PPS [Philadelphia Prisons Systems] facility." (Id.)

Matthews then brought this lawsuit, which was received by the clerk on August 14, 2008, and filed on September 11, 2008, upon grant of an application to proceed in forma pauperis. He amended his complaint on October 19, 2009.

II. Claims presented

In his amended complaint, Matthews sues a number of individuals and entities. The entity defendants are the City of Philadelphia (the "City") and the ASD Work Release Center, 600 University. The individual defendants are Sgt. Koshy, Sgt. Lloyd, DHO Gonzales, C/O Bakit, C/O Banks, and Social Worker Supervisor Heather Lockwood, all alleged to be from 600 University. Upon stipulation of the parties, all claims against Sgt. Lloyd were withdrawn, and Sgt. Lloyd was dismissed from the case by order of Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell on October 29, 2009. (Docket No. 38.)

Although Matthews's pro se complaint and amended complaint are not models of clarity, they purport to bring a civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The court divines the following claims asserted against the respective defendants:

1. Against Koshy, Gonzales, Bakit, and Banks,

a. conspiracy, presumably pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), to remove Matthews from 600 University and place him in a Protective Custody Pod at CFCF (Compl. ¶¶ V.4, V.10, VI.A.1);

b. violation of Matthews's 8th Amendment and 14th Amendment rights by removing him from 600 University (Compl. ¶¶ V.4, VI.A.1); and

c. negligence under state law for the same (Compl. ¶ VI.A.1);

2. Against Gonzales, a denial of due process in connection with Matthews's disciplinary proceeding ...

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