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Coulston v. Glunt

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 7, 2014

TROY COULSTON, Plaintiff,
v.
STEVEN GLUNT, KENNETH HOLLIBAUGH, JEFFREY BEARD, SEAN DOMANICK, ROBERT ROSENBAUM, DAVID CLOSE, DAVID KESSLING, SERGEANT JOHN SAWTELLE, ROBERT REED, ROBERT MACINTYRE, TRACY WILLIAMS, DORINA VARNER, JOHN DOE, Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION ECF No. 50

LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

For the reasons stated herein, it is respectfully recommended that the Court construe Defendants' Motion to Dismiss as a Partial Motion to Dismiss and grant it on the grounds asserted therein.[1] It is recommended that Defendants Gunt, Beard, Close, Kessling, Sawtelle, MacIntyre, Williams and Varner be dismissed for lack of personal involvement. It is recommended that the John Doe Defendant be dismissed as there are no allegations directed toward him in the Second Amended Complaint. It is further recommended that Plaintiff's claim for money damages against the Defendants in their official capacities be dismissed based on Eleventh Amendment immunity. Finally, it is recommended that Plaintiff's due process claim against Defendant Reed be dismissed for failure to state a claim and that Defendant Reed be dismissed for lack of personal involvement to the extent Plaintiff asserts additional claims against him.

Defendants do not move to dismiss any portion of Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint against Defendants Domanick, Rosenbaum or Hollibaugh. As such, the claims asserted against them remain pending.

II. REPORT

Troy Coulston ("Plaintiff") is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale ("SCI-Houtzdale"). He initiated this pro se prisoner civil rights action on August 7, 2012. He alleges various violations of his federal constitutional rights, including his right to access the courts, freedom of speech, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, due process, equal protection, freedom from obstruction of justice, and freedom from tampering with evidence. Generally, he alleges that defendants denied him these rights when they confiscated and destroyed his legal materials, which he needed to prepare petitions for post-conviction relief and a civil rights complaint.

Defendants include the following individuals: Steven Glunt (Superintendent of SCI-Houtzdale), Kenneth Hollibaugh (Corrections Officer), Jeffrey Beard (Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections), Sean Domanick (Corrections Officer), Robert Rosenbaum (Corrections Offiicer), David Close (Deputy Superintendent), David Kessling (Deputy Superintendent), John Sawtelle (Corrections Classification and Program Manager), Robert Reed (Hearing Examiner), Robert MacIntyre (Chief Hearing Examiner, Misconduct Appeals), Tracy Williams (Chief Grievance Officer), Dorina Varner (Chief Grievance Officer), and John Doe.

Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Plaintiff responded by filing a Brief in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss, to which Defendants filed a Reply Brief. Plaintiff then filed a Brief in opposition to Defendants' Reply. The Motion is now ripe for review.

A. Background

The following allegations are included in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.

On August 3, 2010, Defendants Domanick and Rosenbaum conducted a property inventory with Plaintiff. (ECF No. 49 at ¶ 33.) Plaintiff had four boxes of extra legal material so Domanick gave Plaintiff an order to go through his property so that he could be in compliance with policy DC-ADM 815.[2] Id . at ¶ 34. Plaintiff's misconduct report indicates that Plaintiff told Domanick "no, " and to just give him confiscation slips for his extra property. (Plaintiff's Exh. N, ECF No. 49 at p.9.) However, Plaintiff alleges that he said no because he had a constitutional right to possess all four boxes of legal material so that he could file a petition for post-conviction relief and a related civil rights complaint. (ECF No. 49 at ¶ 35.) Plaintiff alleges that Domanick then stated that he was going to throw "all" of Plaintiff's legal material away, but his misconduct report indicates that Plaintiff's property was inventoried with him present, albeit in handcuffs, and that one pair of athletic shorts and the four boxes of legal material were confiscated. (Plaintiff's Exh. N, ECF No. 49-1 at p.9); (ECF No. 49 at ¶ 36.) Plaintiff was provided with an inventory and confiscation items receipt. (Plaintiff's Exh. O, ECF No. 49-1 at p.9); (ECF No. 49 at ¶ 37.)

Plaintiff was given a misconduct for refusing to obey an order and possession of contraband. (Plaintiff's Exh. N, ECF No. 49-1 at p.9); (ECF No. 49 at ¶ 37.) His misconduct hearing was held on August 6, 2010, at which time Defendant Reed, the hearing examiner, found Plaintiff guilty of both charges. (Plaintiff's Exh. P, ECF No. 49-1 at p.10); (ECF No. 49 at ¶¶ 38, 40.) According to Plaintiff, Reed confiscated Plaintiff's legal material because anything over two boxes is deemed "excess" and considered contraband pursuant to DC-ADM 815. (Plaintiff's Exh. P, ECF No. 49-1 at p.10); (ECF No. 49 at ¶¶ 38, 40.) Plaintiff was advised that the disposition of his property was to occur through R&D. (Plaintiff's Exh. P, ECF No. 49-1 at p.10.)

Plaintiff appealed the finding of the Hearing Officer Reed but the Program Review Committee ("PRC"), consisting of Deputy Superintendents Defendants Kessling and Close and Classification and Program Manager Defendant Sawteele, upheld the decision on August 27, 2010. (Plaintiff's Exhs. R & S, ECF No. 49-1 at p.11.) They advised Plaintiff of the means to request permission to retain extra boxes, which were for active legal cases, and encouraged him to make such a request. (Plaintiff's Exh. R, ECF No. 49-1 at p.11.)

Plaintiff next appealed the decision of the PRC to Defendant Glunt, the Superintendent, who, on September 14, 2010, upheld the decisions of the hearing examiner and the PRC. (Plaintiff's Exh. T, ECF No. 49-1 at p.12.) His final review appeal was denied by Defendant MacIntyre, the Chief ...


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