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Wayne Prater v. City of Philadelphia

November 8, 2012

WAYNE PRATER
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Wayne Prater is an inmate in the Philadelphia Prison System. He commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and state law, asserting that he has been denied access to the prison law library and his lawyers, and that prison officials retaliated against him for filing grievances. Defendants the City of Philadelphia, Commissioner Louis Giorla, Warden John P. Delaney, Deputy Warden Whitaker, Lieutenant Knight, Lieutenant Hamilton, Correctional Officer Lock, and Correctional Officer Faison have filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, seeking judgment in their favor on all of Plaintiff‟s claims. For the following reasons, we grant Defendants‟ Motion.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has been incarcerated in the Philadelphia Prison System since December 4, 2009, with the sole exception being a brief period from July 15, 2010 to August 22, 2010, when he was out on bail. (See Inmate Housing Summary ("Housing Summ.") at 1-8, attached as Ex. A to Summ. Judg. Mot.) In September 2009, prior his incarceration, Plaintiff commenced a civil action in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, seeking a partition of property. (See Pl. Ex. I at 2.) According to the Complaint in that action, Plaintiff had an equity interest in a property owned by the defendant, and requested that the court force the sale of the property, so that Plaintiff could monetize his equity interest. (Id. at 5-6; see also Pl. Dep. at 10-11, attached as Ex. B to Summ. Judg. Mot.) Plaintiff‟s attorney in the partition action was Tracy Brandeis-Roman. (See Pl. Dep. at 11.)

The Philadelphia court dockets reflect that Plaintiff‟s December 2009 incarceration was due to a variety of criminal charges arising from conduct on November 30, 2009, including alleged stalking and criminal mischief, as well as charges arising from conduct on December 2, 2009, including alleged burglary. (See Phila. Mun. Ct. Dockets, Case Nos. MC-51-CR-0055256-2009, MC-51-CR-0057620-2009.) Between December 2009 and his release on July 15, 2010, Plaintiff was incarcerated very briefly at Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility ("CFCF") and then moved to the House of Corrections. (See Housing Summ. at 5-8.)

On August 20, 2010, while out of state custody, Plaintiff was arrested for a variety of new criminal offenses, including burglary and aggravated assault. (See Phila. CCP Docket, Crim. A. No. CP-51-CR-0000375-2011 ("Phila. CCP Crim. Docket");*fn1 see also Phila. Mun. Ct. Docket, Case No. MC-51-CR-0036492-2010.) The Court appointed George Yacoubian, Esq. to represent Plaintiff in that criminal matter. (Phila. CCP Crim. Docket at 9.) After his August arrest, Plaintiff was incarcerated at CFCF. (See Housing Summ. at 2-5)

While at CFCF, Plaintiff and his fellow inmates were subjected to "continuous" lockdowns, during which they were not allowed access to the law library or permitted to make legal calls from the library between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. (See Decls. of J. Swain and O. Sutton, Pl. Exs. J and K.) At the same time, Plaintiff admits that, at least in late 2011, he was able to visit the CFCF law library four to six times per month. (Pl . Dep. at 16-17.)

On October 30, 2010, Plaintiff sent a Memorandum to Defendant Lieutenant Knight. (Pl. Ex. F.) Plaintiff states in the Memorandum that, during the week of October 11, 2010, he attempted to get the attention of a social worker, seeking access to her office in order to call one of his attorneys. (Id. at ¶ 3.) Plaintiff asserts that the social worker responded that Plaintiff could not make calls from her office. (Id.)

In November 2010, the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas dismissed Plaintiff‟s partition action. (See Phila. CCP Civ. Div. Docket, Sept. Term 2009, No. 001104 ("Phila. Civ. Docket"), at 9). According to Plaintiff, the dismissal was due to his inability to contact his attorney. (Pl. Dep. at 8, 12, 15; Pl. Resp. to Def. Interrogs. at ¶ 2a, Pl. Ex. L at 15.) The civil docket reflects that Ms. Brandeis-Roman stopped communicating with the court and that the case was non-prossed. (See Phila. Civ. Docket at 7-9.)

On December 22, 2010, Defendant Commissioner Louis Giorla wrote a letter to Plaintiff, stating in response to a request from Plaintiff that he would make both Mr. Yacoubian‟s and Ms. Brandeis-Roman‟s phone numbers available to Plaintiff to make legal phone calls. (Pl. Ex. G.) However, on January 31, 2011, Commissioner Giorla wrote Plaintiff a second letter, stating that Mr. Yacoubian‟s name could not be included in the legal database because Mr. Yacoubian was not a "locally based" attorney. (Pl. Ex. H.) Commissioner Giorla recommended that Plaintiff add Mr. Yacoubian‟s number to his personal phone list, which would enable Plaintiff to call Mr. Yacoubian either collect or debit. (Id.)

On June 3, 2011, prison officials charged Plaintiff with "rioting or inciting others to riot," among other offenses. (See Inmate Misconduct Summary ("Misconduct Summ.") at 2, attached as Ex. E to Summ. Judg. Mot.) The report of inmate misconduct states that Plaintiff overheard a fellow inmate "enticing a riot" and then "went into the day room and stated to the inmates, "Now is our chance to do what we gotta do.‟ "Let‟s get started.‟" (Pl. Ex. L at 2.) According to the report, when officers warned Plaintiff not to get involved, Plaintiff cursed at and was insubordinate to the officers. (Id.) Prison records reflect that Plaintiff was placed in Administrative Segregation that same day. (See Ex. D to Summ. Judg. Mot. at 3.) At a hearing on June 8, Plaintiff was ultimately found guilty of only two minor infractions. (See Misconduct Summ. at 1-2.) The adjudication was processed on June 11, 2011, and Plaintiff was returned to the general population on June 12, 2011. (Id. at 2; Housing Summ. at 3.) In the meantime, however, Plaintiff filed a grievance, complaining that he had not been promptly returned to the general population after his hearing but, instead, remained in punitive segregation. (Pl. Ex. L at 7.)

In March of 2011, Plaintiff commenced the instant action. In the Amended Complaint, which was filed in January of 2012, Plaintiff alleges, among other things, that he was systematically deprived of access to the law library and denied phone access to his attorneys, in violation of his constitutional rights. He also alleges that his placement in administrative segregation in June 2011 was in retaliation for grievances he had submitted.

On April 3, 2012, Plaintiff was moved from CFCF to the Philadelphia Industrial Corrections Center. (Housing Summ. at 2.) Three weeks later, on April 24, 2012, Mr. Yacoubian withdrew as Plaintiff‟s counsel in his Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas criminal matter, and Gary Server was appointed to represent Plaintiff. (See CCP Crim. Docket at 12-13.) On June 28, 2012, a Philadelphia jury found Plaintiff guilty of all charges in his ...


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