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Darnell Hutchinson v. Shirley Moore Smeal

March 27, 2012


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

Hon. J. Andrew Smyser



Before the Court is a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser filed on January 18, 2012 (Doc. 43), that recommends we grant in part and deny in part the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 24). Specifically, the Magistrate Judge recommends that we dismiss all of the claims contained within pro se Plaintiff Darnell Hutchinson's ("Plaintiff" or "Hutchinson") amended complaint, save for his retaliation claims against Defendants Cook, Wiedel, Clapper and Johnson. After being granted an extension of time within which to do so, Hutchinson filed objections to the R&R on March 22, 2012. (Doc. 48). Accordingly, this matter is ripe for our review.


When objections are filed to the report of a magistrate judge, the district court makes a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980). The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge's findings or recommendations. Id. Although the standard of review is de novo, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).


As noted above, Magistrate Judge Smyser recommends that all of Plaintiff's claims, save for his retaliation claim against Defendants Cook, Wiedel, Clapper and Johnson, be dismissed. Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation of dismissal of his due process, equal protection and conspiracy claims. Before we turn to an analysis of the Magistrate Judge's recommendations and the Plaintiff's objections, we shall briefly summarize the salient facts that give rise to this action.*fn2

1. Factual Background

Plaintiff is an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Huntington, Pennsylvania. He claims that, during the interview process for prerelease and parole, he was wrongfully accused of certain things in his past, including being questioned about whether he had a previous rape conviction and whether he had physically abused his spouse. This information concerning his spouse was gleaned from information contained in a presentence report, wherein it states that Plaintiff's ex-wife had told the preparer of the report that he had physically and mentally abused her. Based on this information, Defendant Cook recommended that Plaintiff participate in the "Batterer's Group," which is a type of therapy treatment program at the institution. Plaintiff responded by accusing Cook of lying and retaliating against him for filing grievances. Plaintiff alleged thatDefendant Wiedel said that she did not have time to check out the information at that time and that she would continue his participation in the program. Plaintiff left Wiedel's office and stopped at the sergeant's desk to ask Defendant Clapper for a grievance form.

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Clapper informed Wiedel and Cook that he was about to file a grievance, and that Plaintiff was then called back into Wiedel's office and questioned about why he was filing a grievance. Wiedel told Plaintiff that she had checked with the records office and had been told that Plaintiff did not have any rape convictions. Plaintiff told Wiedel that he was still going to file a grievance against Cook because he felt Cook was retaliating against him for prior grievances he had filed.

Plaintiff alleges that Wiedel then began questioning him about a 1972 conviction for assault, asking him whether he had assaulted his girlfriend. Plaintiff told Wiedel to "check the records to see for herself," and Wiedel allegedly responded by insulting and belittling Plaintiff by saying: "You look much older than fifty-six years old and you won't get out of jail until you are about eighty years old." Plaintiff responded by saying this was "retaliatory BullSh" to prevent him from getting prerelease and making parole. After Wiedel told Plaintiff he could return to his cell, Defendant Clapper allegedly came to his cell and told Plaintiff to pack because he was going to the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU").

Plaintiff next alleges that he was taken to the RHU and was given a misconduct report charging him with using abusive language, disobeying an order and threatening a staff member.*fn3 Wiedel did write on the misconduct report that Plaintiff had been correct about not having a rape conviction. She also wrote that he had admitted to assaulting his girlfriend, ...

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