The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Rambo
Plaintiff David F. Kelly Bey, an inmate currently confined at the Franklin County Jail in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, initiated this civil rights action with a complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 19, 2012, as amended June 1, 2012. (Doc. 33.) Named as Defendants are several prison officials from Franklin County Jail.*fn1 In his second amended complaint,*fn2 Plaintiff alleges that Defendants are violating a consent decree approved in 1989 and relating to prison conditions at Franklin County Jail. He also alleges several constitutional violations relating to Franklin County Jail's prison inmate account system, the law library, and the grievance process. Finally, he alleges that Defendants have engaged in a conspiracy against him and have retaliated against him. As relief, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages as well as declaratory relief.
Presently before the court are two motions filed by Defendants: (1) a motion to terminate the consent decree (Doc. 46), and (2) a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's second amended complaint (Doc. 56). In addition, Plaintiff has filed a motion to amend/correct his second amended complaint. (Doc. 62.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendants' motions will be granted, and Plaintiff's motion will be denied.
In his second amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that since April 27, 2011, Defendants have been illegally deducting funds from his inmate account for legal copies and postage in violation of his due process and equal protection rights. (Doc. 33 ¶¶ 9, 12.) He also claims that the deductions from his inmate account are in violation of a consent decree approved in 1989 ("Walentukonis Consent Decree"). (Id. ¶ 10.) He further claims that he filed several grievances related to this claim, but they were all denied. (Id. ¶¶ 23-27.)
In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendants have denied him access to the courts by failing to provide him with a law library area "that contains sufficient and adequate tables and seating arrangement to perform legal research and writing task." (Id. ¶ 35.) Further, he claims that Defendants are denying him access to "sufficient books, typewriters, [and] legal materials" in the existing law library. (Id. ¶ 36.)
In connection with these claims, Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants have conspired to violate his constitutional rights under the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 32.) He also alleges that Defendants are retaliating against him for exercising his First Amendment rights. (Id. ¶ 37.)
With respect to the Walentukonis Consent Decree, in their motion to terminate the consent decree, Defendants assert the following. On September 12, 1989, in an action captioned Albert J. Walentukonis v. Robert Holland, 3:85-CV-00617 (M.D. Pa. 1989), the Honorable R. D. Herman approved a consent decree signed by the parties, (85-0617, Doc. 62). (Doc. 48 at 6.) The consent decree addressed issues related to the access to the courts for Franklin County Jail inmates. (Doc. 47-2, Ex. B, Walentukonis Consent Decree.) As stated in the consent decree,
The principal feature of the proposed Consent Decree is provisions requiring Franklin County to obtain a legal services contract with an attorney to assist inmates in the preparation and filing of civil rights actions, and petitions seeking post-conviction and federal habeas corpus relief. It also contains provisions governing the use and availability of notary services, writing materials, forms, and a small library. (Id. at 2.) Defendants assert that to this day, the Franklin County Jail:
(1) Provides the services of a contract attorney (Attorney Mahesh Rao has been the contract attorney since at least 2007) who, is available upon request, to assist inmates in the preparation of meaningful legal documents, including civil rights actions and federal habeas corpus petitions;
(2) Provides and maintains an adequate supply of post-conviction hearing petition forms, forms for filing a Complaint under § 1983, forms to proceed in forma pauperis and forms for filing habeas corpus petitions;
(3) Provides indigent inmates with free paper, pencils and envelopes (carbon paper is obsolete);
(4) Provides indigent inmates with reasonable free postage and reasonable free copies;
(5) Secures and maintains paper, pencils and envelopes in the Franklin County Jail commissary for purchasing by non-indigent inmates;
(6) Maintains and keeps up-to-date legal materials and resources (see list of books and materials available to inmates, Appendix of Exhibits, Exhibit "C") which may be checked out by inmates for a period of 3 days, with extensions granted upon availability; and
(7) Provides a mobile law library with internet access to the inmates (mobile law library is rotated between units such that each unit has access to the mobile law library once per week and, more often, upon request and availability).
(Doc. 48 at 17-18) (emphasis in original.)
Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on April 19, 2012. (Doc. 1.) On April 27, 2012, the court granted Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis and directed service of the complaint. (Doc. 8.) On May 18, 2012, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, (Doc. 20), and a second amended complaint on June 1, 2012, (Doc. 33). Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the second amended complaint on July 6, 2012. (Doc. 56.) Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss on August 24, 2012. (Doc. 86.) Thus, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.
Further, on May 7, 2012, Plaintiff filed a "motion for enforcement of proposed consent decree in the alternative motion for an order of contempt." (Doc. 11.) After receiving an extension of time, (see Doc. 42), Defendants responded to that motion on July 31, 2012, (Doc. 74). However, prior to filing their opposition brief, Defendants filed a motion to stay these proceedings and to terminate the Walentukonis Consent Decree. (Doc. 46.) On August 9, 2012, the court granted the motion to stay, pending a court ruling on the motion to terminate the Walentukonis Consent Decree. (Doc. 80.) On August 10, 2012, the court directed Plaintiff to respond to Defendants' motion to terminate the Walentukonis Consent Decree. (Doc. 82.) Thereafter, on August 24, 2012, along with his brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff responded to Defendants' motion to terminate the Walentukonis Consent Decree. (Doc. 86.) Thus, that motion is also ripe for disposition.
For purposes of discussion, the court will first address Defendants' motion to terminate the Walentukonis consent decree, followed by a discussion of the motion to dismiss the second amended complaint.
A. Motion to Terminate the Walentukonis Consent Decree
As stated above, Defendants have filed a motion to terminate the Walentukonis Consent Decree. (Doc. 46.) In the motion, Defendants argue that the court should terminate the consent decree pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b)(2) (the "termination provision"), as amended by the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996).
The PLRA provides, in part, for the immediate termination of prospective relief in certain civil actions concerning prison conditions. 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b). Specifically, the PLRA provides that prospective relief granted prior to the enactment of the PLRA is terminable upon the motion of any party two years after the date of the PLRA's enactment. 18 U.S.C. § 3626(b)(1)(iii). Because the PLRA was enacted in 1996, the court may consider the instant motion to terminate the Wakentukonis Consent Decree.
Further, Section 3626(b) of the PLRA's termination provision provides the following with respect to immediate termination of prospective relief:
(2) Immediate termination of prospective relief. - - In any civil action with respect to prison conditions, a defendant or intervenor shall be entitled to the immediate termination of any prospective relief if the relief was approved or granted in the absence of a finding by the court that the relief is narrowly drawn, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and is the least intrusive means necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right.
(3) Limitation. - - Prospective relief shall not terminate if the court makes written findings based on the record that prospective relief remains necessary to correct a current and ongoing violations of the Federal right, extends no further than necessary to correct the violation of the Federal right, and that the ...