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Jessica Elaine Wolfe v. Jeffrey A. Beard

February 28, 2012

JESSICA ELAINE WOLFE
v.
JEFFREY A. BEARD, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

The plaintiff brings this suit alleging constitutional violations by staff at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford. The defendants moved for summary judgment. The Court will deny that motion.

Because the plaintiff is pro se, the Court considers both the plaintiff's response and any available arguments in her favor.

I. Procedural History

The plaintiff in this case is Jessica Elaine Wolfe,*fn1 a self-described pre-operative male-to-female transsexual person. Her claims are based on events that occurred at SCI Graterford while she was incarcerated there. Since this suit began, the plaintiff has been released.

The plaintiff's original complaint included nine separate counts against a nine officials at SCI Graterford. Following a motion to dismiss, the Court held a telephone conference with the parties on October 28, 2010 so the plaintiff could explain her allegations. On December 9, 2010, the Court dismissed seven of the plaintiff's claims against all but two of the defendants. With Court permission, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. After a second motion to dismiss, these two claims remained.

The plaintiff alleges retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights by Unit Manager Sylvia Pallott, for transferring the plaintiff to a different cell after she filed a grievance, and an Eighth Amendment violation by Sargent Andre Zimmer, for excessive use of force during an intake search of the plaintiff.

II. Summary Judgment Record

The facts described here are undisputed unless

otherwise stated. Because the plaintiff is pro se, the Court treats the plaintiff's statements in her complaint and amended complaint, at her deposition, and in telephone conferences with the Court as part of the summary judgment record.

A. The Eighth Amendment Claim

On October 21, 2009, the plaintiff returned to SCI

Graterford after spending several days at Allegheny County Prison in Pittsburgh in order to attend a hearing. The plaintiff entered the prison intake area wearing handcuffs. Zimmer instructed the plaintiff to kneel on a chair. She complied with this request. While she was on the chair, Zimmer grabbed the plaintiff by the back of the neck and slammed her face into a metal window frame on the nearby wall. Zimmer continued to press her face into the frame while conducting a pat-down search of her body. Tr. 10/28/10 at 29-30; Am. Compl. ¶ 22.

This incident caused a lump on the plaintiff's forehead, stiffness in her neck for a week, and tenderness in her cheek. Def. Mot, Ex. A, ("Pl. Dep.") 30-34; 38-42. The plaintiff did not request medical attention for these injuries or report the injuries to a nurse she met with during the intake process. Id. 42-43, 78-82. Sometime after the search, the plaintiff experienced worsening migraine headaches and became sick after every meal and began spitting blood. She was told that she ...


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