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David L. Mohorcic v. David Hogue

August 17, 2012

DAVID L. MOHORCIC,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
DAVID HOGUE, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan

ECF No. 46

MEMORANDUM ORDER

This case is before the Court on the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Robert Crouse and John Wetzel. (ECF No. 46.) For the following reasons, the Motion will be granted.

I.Background and Procedural History

Plaintiff, David L. Mohorcic, filed a Complaint on May 3, 2011, against numerous employees of the Armstrong County Jail ("ACJ"). (ECF No. 3.) The Complaint alleged, inter alia, unconstitutional conditions of confinement in the ACJ in violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on December 13, 2012, wherein he asserted various other claims against the ACJ Defendants in addition to those previously asserted and sued four additional Defendants, including Defendants Robert Crouse ("Crouse") and John Wetzel ("Wetzel"), based on an alleged contract between the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and Armstrong County whereby prisoners in state custody were to be housed in the ACJ. (ECF No. 39.) Essentially, Plaintiff alleges that this contractual arrangement caused overcrowding in the ACJ which, in turn, has led to the poor conditions of confinement to which he has allegedly been subjected. Defendants Crouse, Comptroller for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, filed a Motion to Dismiss along with a supporting brief on February 21, 2012. (ECF Nos. 46, 47.) Plaintiff filed a response in opposition to the Motion on March 7, 2012. (ECF No. 52.)

II.Plaintiff's Allegations

According to Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, on August 9, 2009, Defendants Crouse and Wetzel, along with the President of the Armstrong County Prison Board, Defendant Richard Fink ("Fink"), and Armstrong County Commissioners, Defendants James Scahill ("Scahill") and Patricia Kirkpatrick ("Kirkpatrick"), signed an agreement to house state prisoners in the ACJ due to a shortage of bed space in the Pennsylvania state correctional institutions. (ECF No. 39 at 3 ¶ 1.) Per the agreement, state prisoners were transferred to the ACJ on August 24, 2009, at which time the ACJ experienced an immediate crisis of overcrowding. (ECF No. 39 at 4 ¶¶ 3, 4.) Plaintiff was admitted into the ACJ on March 10, 2010, and upon arrival he was strip and cavity searched and placed in the classification unit for mandatory 72-hour confinement. (ECF No. 39 at 4 ¶¶ 5, 6, 7.) He was later transferred to a cell and assigned to a cot. (ECF No. 39 at 4 ¶ 8.)

Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to strip and cavity searches upon returning from hearings on March 17, 2010, March 24, 2010, May 14, 2010, and May 17, 2010. (ECF No. 39 at 5 ¶¶ 9, 11, 12, 15.) On March 20, 2010, he was transferred to a cell and assigned to a cot, where he remained until May 17, 2010. (ECF No. 39 at 4 ¶ 10.) During that time, Plaintiff claims that he was "forced to endure disgusting, degrading and unconstitutional conditions." (ECF No. 39 at 5-6 ¶ 13.) He claims that his cot was directly next to the toilet and that his bedding was constantly splashed with urine. (ECF No. 39 at 6 ¶ 14.) He claims that he was tripped over by the other inmates in the cell and also claims that because his cot blocked the entrance and exit to the cell the inmates stepped on his bedding which caused confrontation. (ECF No. 39 at 6 ¶ 14.)

Plaintiff was released from custody on May 17, 2010, but arrested on probation violations and transported back to the ACJ on June 9, 2010. (ECF No. 39 at 6-7 ¶¶ 15, 17.) Plaintiff was again strip and cavity searched upon arrival. (ECF No. 39 at 7 ¶ 19.) He was seen by medical staff on June 10, 2010, at which time he was issued crutches, an ace bandage and a leg brace due to a small fracture in his knee. (ECF No. 39 at 8 ¶ 24.) Plaintiff was then assigned to a bottom bunk in a cell that also contained a cot. (ECF No. 39 at 8 ¶ 25, 26.) He claims that while attempting to exit his cell on June 11, 2010, his crutch was obstructed by the cot which caused him to fall and strike his head against the concrete wall. (ECF No. 39 at 8-9 ¶ 27.) Plaintiff allegedly lost consciousness and awoke when Defendant Kevin Sheppard ("Sheppard"), former ACJ Lieutenant, came to his aid and told him to go lay down on his bunk. (ECF No. 39 at 9 ¶ 28, 29.) He claims to have received a protrusion just above his left temple and suffered vision impairment and dizziness as a result of the incident. (ECF No. 39 at 10 ¶ 32.) He states that he pleaded with Sheppard to take him for emergency care but was refused and told that he would be fine and to go lay down. (ECF No. 39 at 10 ¶¶ 33, 34.)

Plaintiff was released on June 22, 2010, but again arrested on probation violations and transported to the ACJ on June 28, 2010. (ECF No. 39 at 11 ¶¶ 38, 39.) He was strip and cavity searched upon arrival and then transferred to a cell where he was again assigned to a cot next to the toilet. (ECF No. 39 at 12 ¶¶ 41, 42.) Plaintiff filed grievances and received a response stating that the cots were only temporary. (ECF No. 39 at 12 ¶ 43.) He was later assigned to a bunk in the same cell where he remained for approximately two months before being transferred to another cell and assigned to a cot. (ECF No. 39 at 12-13 ¶¶ 44, 45, 46.) Plaintiff states that he was forced to sleep on the cot until December 1, 2010, at which time a bunk became available in the cell. (ECF No. 39 at 13 ¶46.) However, during a routine cell search on December 27, 2010, "hooch" was discovered and Plaintiff was taken to intake and strip searched before being transferred to the secure housing unit ("SHU"). (ECF No. 39 at 13 ¶¶ 47, 48, 49.) Plaintiff states that he was placed in the SHU prior to his disciplinary hearing. (ECF No. 39 at 13-14 ¶¶ 49.) After thirty days of disciplinary confinement, he was transferred back to his cell and assigned to a cot where he remained for approximately two weeks. (ECF No. 39 at 14 ¶¶ 50, 51.)

Plaintiff alleges that he requested a prisoner civil rights complaint form but his request was denied by Defendant David Hogue ("Hogue"), Warden of the ACJ. (ECF No. 39 at 14 ¶¶ 52, 53.) He subsequently received a pro se prisoner civil rights package and prior to filing suit he requested a copy of his inmate account history for purposes of filing a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 39 at 14-15 ¶¶ 54, 55.) However, Plaintiff states that his request for his inmate account history was denied. (ECF No. 39 at 15 ¶ 55.)

Plaintiff states that on April 18, 2011, he sent three complaints to the Warden as part of the grievance procedure and that the following day officers were ordered to search his cell allegedly in retaliation for filing the grievances. (ECF No. 39 at 15 ¶¶ 56, 57.) During the search, officers found two bags of water, a piece of electrical tape and eleven bars of single use soap. (ECF No. 39 at 15 ¶ 58.) Plaintiff was then taken to intake and strip searched before being placed in the SHU. (ECF No. 39 at 16 ¶ 59.) He was given a disciplinary hearing but was allegedly denied the right to present witnesses. (ECF No. 39 at 16 ¶ 61.) Instead, he was told that the hearing officer was ordered by the Warden to give him thirty days disciplinary confinement. (ECF No. 39 at 16 ¶ 61.) Plaintiff appealed the decision of the disciplinary hearing officer but did not receive a response for eight business days. (ECF No. 39 at 16 ¶ 63.) Plaintiff states that he submitted several grievances regarding the ACJ's inability to follow rules set forth in their rulebook, all of which were denied. (ECF No. 39 at 17 ¶¶ 64, 65, 66, 67.) Once released from the SHU, Plaintiff was transferred to a cell and assigned to a cot for two days before being transferred to another cell and again assigned to a cot. (ECF No. 39 at 18 ¶ 69.) Plaintiff remained on the cot until June 21, 2011, when he was strip searched and released from custody. (ECF No. 39 at 18 ¶ 70.)

Plaintiff was again arrested and transported back to the ACJ on June 24, 2011. (ECF No. 39 at 21 ¶ 77.) Upon arrival he was strip and cavity searched and later transferred to a cell where he was once again assigned to a cot. (ECF No. 39 at 21 ¶ 79, 80.) On July 8, 2011, Plaintiff was placed in the SHU for removing a book from the law library. (ECF No. 39 at 21 ¶ 81.) He claims that it is neither posted in the law library nor stated in the inmate handbook that inmates are not permitted to remove articles from the law library for any purpose. (ECF No. 39 at 21-22 ¶ 82.) He alleges that he was not given the opportunity to present a defense or witnesses before being placed in the SHU. (ECF No. 39 at 22 ¶¶ 83, 84.)

Plaintiff claims that he was subjected to cruel and unusual conditions of confinement and denied medical treatment during the time he was incarcerated at the ACJ. (ECF No. 39 at 22-23 ¶ 86.) He also claims that Defendants failed to adhere to disciplinary hearing procedural rules, repeatedly subjected him to humiliating strip and cavity searches, retaliated against him for using the inmate grievance system and filing a civil rights complaint, denied him access to information regarding his inmate account, denied him access to sunlight except for court transports, and denied him access to adequate recreation. (ECF No. 39 at 23 ¶ 86, 87, 88, 89, 90, 91.) He requests that the Court issue a permanent injunction ordering the use of cots only in those areas inspected and approved for safety, that indigent inmates be supplied with items to attain adequate personal hygiene, that only a licensed professional decide wither a medical condition ...


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