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Hill v. Barnacle

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 19, 2014

DONNA M. HILL, Plaintiff,
v.
JAMES BARNACLE, et al. Defendants.

AMENDED REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

I. Recommendation

It is respectfully recommended that the complaint be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(ii).

II. Report

Plaintiff, Donna M. Hill, has submitted a civil rights action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983, which she has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. In the complaint, she alleges that when the defendants, who are state correctional officers, suspended her privilege to visit her incarcerated husband, Dwayne Hill, they engaged in retaliation "in violation of the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and her marital communications privilege." (Compl. at 1.) She "also alleges the torts of neglect and mental anguish." For the reasons that follow, the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(ii).[1]

Facts

Plaintiff is a United States citizen and a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Her husband, Dwayne Hill, is an inmate currently incarcerated at SCI Houtzdale and she also indicates that her daughter is serving a life sentence in prison as well. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-4.) She alleges that she received reports from her husband that he had been sexually fondled by an officer and his complaints about this abuse were rejected; that she received correspondence from him that the mental health unit stopped giving him medication and stopped seeing him for counseling sessions; that they removed him from Z-code (single cell) status after he had been living in a single cell for approximately 20 years; that when they put him in a double cell he could not handle it and set a mattress on fire, which resulted in him being sent to the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU); that in response, she conducted a letter campaign, writing to various news media outlets, state law makers and prison officials out of concern for her husband's health and safety; that she received a report that he had been assaulted by staff on April 5, 2012 and later that month she received reports that he was being denied mental health treatment; that most of his personal property had been confiscated or stolen by staff; that he was held in a stripped cell for almost a month and denied all hygiene practices, that staff had been spitting in his food and had placed disinfectant in his food and denied him medical treatment based on attempts at acute poisoning, but when he filed a grievance, they twisted his words around and denied it; that she traveled to SCI Houtzdale on April 12, 2012 to visit him only to be informed that her visiting privileges were suspended and was told to leave without explanation; that a week later she received correspondence from Glunt stating that her privileges were revoked pending an investigation by Captain Brumbaugh; that she learned through other correspondence that her mail privileges had been suspended as well; that on June 19, 2012, she filed a "writ of mandamus" in the Commonwealth Court seeking an order directing Defendants to explain her suspension and return or deliver her mail; that four days later she received correspondence from Glunt stating that her visiting privileges had been suspended indefinitely; that Defendants gave no reason for their actions; that on July 17, 2012, she wrote to Glunt asking him a reason for her suspension; that on July 30, 2012, Glunt responded that her actions and support of her husband's behavior posed a threat to the safety and security of the facility, but they did lift the visiting ban regarding visits with her daughter, stating that she had a continued positive adjustment. (Compl. ¶¶ 10-21 & Exs. 2-12.)

Prior Cases

On August 10, 2012, Plaintiff submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis in a case which was docketed at Civ. A. No. 12-1145, Hill v. Barnacle. The motion to proceed IFP was granted on August 13, 2012 and the complaint was filed that same day (ECF No. 3). The complaint alleged that the defendants violated her First Amendment right to intimate association by suspending her visitation privileges in retaliation for her investigation and complaints about her husband's treatment; that they violated her right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment; and that they violated her property interest in her mail. On November 6, 2012, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss (ECF No. 13), in which they argued that the Court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction pursuant to Younger v. Harris , 401 U.S. 37 (1971), because Plaintiff had pending a petition for review in the Commonwealth Court.[2] Plaintiff filed her brief in opposition on December 4, 2012 (ECF No. 19). On January 3, 2013, a Memorandum and Order was entered (ECF No. 20), granting the motion to dismiss on the ground of Younger abstention. Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal (ECF No. 21), but on May 17, 2013, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of this Court (ECF No. 24).

Meanwhile, on November 20, 2012, Plaintiff initiated a second case, Hill v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, docketed at No. 12-1697, which purported to raise civil rights claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the defendants for alleged violations of Dwayne Hill's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights, as well as state law claims of negligence and mental anguish. On November 28, 2012, a Report and Recommendation was filed (ECF No. 3), recommending that the complaint be dismissed for lack of standing. The Court concluded that Plaintiff had no right to bring claims on behalf of her husband as she had not been appointed his legal representative and, in any event, claims on behalf of another individual must be presented by counsel. Plaintiff filed objections (ECF Nos. 4, 5), but on December 18, 2012, the Court entered an order adopting the R&R and dismissing the case (ECF No. 6). Again, Plaintiff filed a notice of appeal (ECF No. 7), but on April 25, 2013, the Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of this Court (ECF No. 10).

Procedural History

Plaintiff filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis on November 7, 2013. The motion was granted on November 8, 2013 and the complaint was filed that same day (ECF No. 3). She invokes § 1983 and alleges "retaliatory suspension of her visiting and mail privileges and the confiscation of her correspondence in violation of the First, Fourth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and her marital communications privilege." (Compl. at 1.) She "also alleges the torts of neglect and mental anguish."[3]

Standard of Review

The in forma pauperis statute ...


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