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Joye Williams v. Superintendent Klopotoski

December 12, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge James M. Munley United States District Court

Judge Munley



This pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 was filed by Joye Williams ("Plaintiff") regarding his prior confinement at the State Correctional Institution, Dallas, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Dallas").*fn1 Named as Defendants are the following SCI-Dallas officials: ex-Superintendent Michael Klopotoski; Major Lawrence Mahally; as well as Lieutenants Fritz Bleich and David Mosier.

According to the Complaint, Williams has been incarcerated since 1995. During September, 2007, Plaintiff was transferred to SCI-Dallas. Approximately one year later, Plaintiff was assigned to a single cell in the SCI-Dallas Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). See Doc. 2, ¶ 13. Williams claims that during the eight (8) months he was confined in the RHU he "was forced to live in constant illumination 24 hours a day." Doc. 2, ¶ 1. Specifically, the Complaint explains that the main florescent lights in the RHU were kept on from 6:00 a.m. until 12:00 p.m then the bright night light comes on from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m..*fn2 See id. at ¶ 19. Plaintiff contends that the policy/practice of allowing lights to be kept on for 24 hours each day is unconstitutional. See id. at ¶ 21.

Williams alleges that there is no legitimate penological justification for the excessive lighting which purportedly caused him to suffer lack of sleep, optical problems including seeing spots and perceptual spheres, headaches, a stoppage of sensory stimulation, and lack of concentration.*fn3 He concludes that the "constant illumination" and Defendants' deliberate indifference to that condition violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment. Id. at ¶ 34. His Complaint further asserts that Superintendent Klopotoski and Lieutenant Mosier acted improperly when they denied his administrative grievances wherein he complained about the alleged excessive lighting. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory relief.

By Memorandum and Order dated May 18, 2011, this Court partially granted Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. See Doc. 22. Specifically, Williams' monetary damage claims brought against Defendants in their official capacities were dismissed on the basis that such allegations are deemed to be claims against the state itself and thus, barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Second, dismissal was granted in favor of Defendants Klopotoski and Mosier with respect to any claims solely stemming from their review of Plaintiff's grievances and administrative appeals. Third, dismissal was granted with respect to any claim regarding the use of night security lights in Plaintiff's RHU cell.*fn4 However, Plaintiff's contention that excessive use of the main lights in the SCI-Dallas RHU violated his Eighth Amendment rights was allowed to proceed.

By Order dated January 20, 2012, page 8 of the May 18, 2011 Memorandum and Order was corrected to reflect that the SCI-Dallas main florescent lights at issue in this matter are located in Plaintiff's cell not in the RHU hallway. See Doc. 45. Presently pending is Defendants' motion requesting entry of summary judgment. See Doc. 48. The motion which has been fully briefed is ripe for consideration.


Defendants contend that they are entitled to entry of summary judgment with respect to Plaintiff's surviving claims on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff failed to exhaust his administrative remedies; (2) the SCI-Dallas RHU lights do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment; and (3) there was no deliberate indifference to any serious risk of harm to the Plaintiff.

Standard of Review

Summary judgment is proper if "the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c);SeealsoSaldana v. Kmart Corp., 260 F.3d 228, 231-32 (3d Cir. 2001). A factual dispute is "material" if it might affect the outcome of the suit under the applicable law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A factual dispute is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis that would allow a reasonable fact-finder to return a verdict for the non-moving party. Id. at 248. The court must resolve all doubts as to the existence of a genuine issue of material fact in favor of the non-moving party. Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232; seealsoReeder v. Sybron Transition Corp., 142 F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts. Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370 (3d Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party has shown that there is an absence of evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the allegations in its complaint. SeeCelotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must "go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits, or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. (internal quotations omitted);seealso Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted). Summary judgment should be granted where a party "fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden at trial."Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23. "'Such affirmative evidence -- regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial -- must amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in the evaluation of the court) than a preponderance.'" Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232 (quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)). Administrative Exhaustion

Plaintiff's Complaint acknowledges that there was an available administrative grievance procedure at SCI-Dallas during the relevant time period. See Doc. 2, ¶ 9. Williams adds that he filed grievances "relating to this complaint and completed the process to the greatest extent possible." Id. at ¶ 10.

Defendants concede that Plaintiff appealed to final administrative review one grievance regarding the SCI-Dallas RHU lighting, Grievance No. 249585 dated November 6, 2008. However, because this grievance only specifically named Lieutenant Bleich, Defendants' summary judgment motion argues that "Plaintiff is in procedural default as to the otherdefendants." Doc. 49, p. 6.

Section 1997e(a) of title 42 U.S.C. provides:

No action shall be brought with respect to prison conditions under Section 1979 of the Revised Statutes of the United States (42 U.S.C. 1983), or any other federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility until such administrative remedies as are available are exhausted.

Section 1997e(a) requires administrative exhaustion "irrespective of the forms of relief sought and offered through administrative avenues." Porter v. Nussle, 122 S.Ct. 983, 992 (2002); Booth v. Churner, 532 U.S. 731, 741 n. 6 (2001). Claims for monetary relief are not excused from the exhaustion requirement. Nyhuis v. Reno, 204 F.3d 65, 74 (3d Cir. 2000). Dismissal of an inmate's claim is appropriate when a prisoner has failed to exhaust his available administrative remedies before bringing a civil rights action. Ahmed v. Sromovski, 103 F. Supp. 2d 838, 843 (E.D. Pa. 2000). "[E]xhaustion must occur prior to filing suit, not while the suit is pending." Tribe v. Harvey, 248 F.3d 1152, 2000 WL 167468, *2 (6th Cir. 2000)(citing Freeman v. Francis, 196 F.3d 641, 645 (6th Cir. 1999)); Oriakhi v. United States, 165 Fed. Appx. 991, 993 (3d Cir. 2006).

The United States Supreme Court in Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199, 219 (2007), stated that the primary purpose of the exhaustion requirement is to allow "a prison to address complaints about the program it administers before being subjected to suit, reducing litigation to the extent complaints are satisfactorily resolved, and improving litigation that does occur by leading to the preparation of a useful record." Id. The administrative ...

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