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Shakur D. Gannaway v. Berks County Prison

March 30, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.



On October 1, 2009, pro se Plaintiff Shakur D. Gannaway ("Plaintiff") initiated this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 seeking damages against several Berks County Prison officials (collectively "Defendants"). In his complaint and "amendment complaint," Plaintiff asserts a potpourri of claims, complaints, and allegations stemming from a variety of alleged constitutional deprivations. For example, Plaintiff asserts that he was denied sanitary and appetizing food, a mattress, the ability to adequately practice his religion, and proper library access. Plaintiff's hand-written pleadings are lengthy, ranting, and overall difficult to decipher; however, the Court has undertaken the task of sifting carefully through Plaintiff's complaints.

For the reasons set forth below, the Court will grant Defendants' motion for summary judgment.*fn1


On May 25, 2009, Plaintiff was committed to Berks County Prison to await the disposition of robbery charges. On September 3, 2009, a search of Plaintiff's possessions indicated that he had destroyed prison property. A misconduct citation was issued, and Plaintiff was placed in administrative segregation. (Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at Exh. 2-Misconduct Citation, Exh. 3-Administrative Seg. Report.) Disciplinary charges were filed, a hearing was held, and Plaintiff was ordered to serve fifteen days in the disciplinary unit ("D-Unit"). (Id. at Exh. 4-Report of Disciplinary Proceedings.) Plaintiff filed an appeal from the disciplinary charges, but the appeal was denied. (Id. at Exh. 5-Appeal Form.)

While in the D-Unit, Plaintiff filed a grievance protesting the D-Unit's food and mattress restrictions. These restrictions are part of a Behavior Modification Plan that was announced to staff and inmates on or about June 8, 2008 via a memorandum. Staff and inmates were instructed to review the updated Disciplinary Orientation form which outlines the restrictions. (Id. at Exh. 8-Memo to Staff and Inmates.) In his grievance, Plaintiff argued that such restrictions constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (Id. at Exh. 7-Inmate Comm. Form.) This is the only grievance relating to the mattress restrictions. Plaintiff never filed a grievance indicating that the mattress restriction is cruel and unusual as to him because he suffers from back problems. (Pl.'s Dep. at 146:1-7.)

On November 24, 2009, Plaintiff received his second misconduct citation while being housed with the general population. Plaintiff was issued this citation for not taking his medication in front of the nurse who provided the medication. (Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at Exh. 18-Misconduct Citation.) When Plaintiff did not obey the nurse's instruction to swallow the medicine, a corrections officer approached Plaintiff and asked to see inside Plaintiff's mouth to determine if Plaintiff swallowed the medicine. Plaintiff refused and swore at the corrections officer. (Id.) In his deposition, Plaintiff admitted that he was aware the prison had a policy requiring all medication taken off the cart to be taken in front of medical staff. (Pl.'s Dep. at 142:22-24; 143:1-7; 274:22-24; 275:1-3.)

As a result, Plaintiff was charged with refusal of orders and abusiveness. On November 25, 2009, a hearing was held on these charges and Plaintiff was found guilty and placed in the D-Unit for twenty-two days. (Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at Exh. 20-Report of Disciplinary Proceedings.) In response, Plaintiff filed a two page appeal claiming that the discipline was harassment due to his pending lawsuit against the prison and its employees. Additionally, Plaintiff claimed that the prison was racist and was starving him while he was in the D-Unit because the nutra-loaf made him nauseous. (Id. at Exh. 21-Appeal Form.)

On December 15, 2009, Plaintiff was issued his third misconduct citation for filing numerous grievances and emergency grievances concerning his mail's handling because prison authorities had already addressed this matter and warned Plaintiff that he should not file any more grievances on the matter. (Id. at Exh. 23-Misconduct Citation.) Plaintiff was provided a hearing on the charges of refusal of orders and harassment by communication. (Id. at Exh. 27-Appeal Form.) Plaintiff was found guilty, and he filed an appeal. On January 2, 2010, Plaintiff was issued his fourth misconduct citation for refusal of orders and disturbance after refusing to clean up a toilet overflow in his cell. (Id. at Exh. 30-Misconduct Citation.) Following a hearing, Plaintiff was placed in the D-Unit, and he appealed these charges. (Id. at Exh. 32-Appeal Form.)

Plaintiff also filed many grievances relating to his medical condition. On November 23, 2009, Plaintiff filed an emergency grievance requesting to be sent to an outside hospital for X-rays. The medical administrator responded to this grievance reminding Plaintiff that when he had the same complaint a few months prior, he received a work-up which came back negative. (Id. at Exh. 43-Grievance and Response.) During his deposition, Plaintiff requested outside treatment for internal and external injuries and stated that such care was necessary because the medical department at Berks County Prison is inadequate. (Pl.'s Dep. at 231:14-24, 232:1-4.) Plaintiff has been treated by medical providers at the prison on an inordinate number of occasions and the prison medical unit has more than a hundred pages of notes concerning Plaintiff's treatment. (Def. Mot. for Summ. J. at Exh. 45-Medical Records.)

Plaintiff has filed numerous other grievances. As to these many other grievances, Plaintiff never appealed the denial of his grievances relating to lack of access to the law library, lack of adequate material in the library, lack of sanitary food, and alleged tampering with mail and untimely delivery of mail.

Plaintiff's original complaint was filed on February 2, 2010, and he filed an amended complaint on March 23, 2010. Subsequently, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which was denied on March 25, 2010. Thereafter, Defendants were ordered to depose Plaintiff and file a motion for summary judgment. Shortly after Defendants deposed Plaintiff, they filed their motion for summary judgment, and the Court held a telephone conference to determine if Plaintiff needed additional discovery. On November 23, 2010, Plaintiff filed a response to Defendants' motion for summary judgment. Defendants' motion is now ripe for review.

For a myriad of reasons, Plaintiff alleges that the prison and its officers violated many of Plaintiff's constitutional rights. After a close examination of Plaintiff's complaints and the discovery materials of record, the Court finds that Plaintiff's claims are either legally insufficient or unsupported by the record. Consequently, Defendants' motion for summary judgment will be granted.


A. Summary Judgment Standard

Summary judgment is appropriate if there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). "A motion for summary judgment will not be defeated by 'the mere existence' of some disputed facts, but will be denied when there is a genuine issue of material fact." Am. Eagle Outfitters v. Lyle & Scott Ltd., 584 F.3d 575, 581 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-248 (1986)). A fact is "material" if proof of its existence or non-existence might affect the outcome of the litigation, and a dispute is "genuine" if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248.

In undertaking this analysis, the court views the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. "After making all reasonable inferences in the nonmoving party's favor, there is a genuine issue of material fact if a reasonable jury could find for the nonmoving party." Pignataro v. Port Auth. of N.Y. & N.J., 593 F.3d 265, 268 ...

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