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Hyman v. Giorla

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 5, 2014

FRANK HYMAN Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER LOUIS GIORLA, et. al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

LAWRENCE F. STENGEL, District Judge.

Frank Hyman brings this prisoner's civil rights civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983. Mr. Hyman has sued the City of Philadelphia and various prison officials claiming he was subjected to conditions of confinement in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. He asserts a second count for and First Amendment retaliation. Defendants move for summary judgment. I will grant defendants' motion as to Mr. Hyman's First Amendment claims. Otherwise, the motion is denied. I will also deny Mr. Hyman's request for oral argument.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 22, 2006, Frank Hyman was incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) as a pre-trial detainee.[1] Defs.' Statement of Material Facts (doc. No. 53-2) ¶¶ 1-3. While awaiting trial, Mr. Hyman had a number of disciplinary problems. During 2007 and 2008, prison authorities searched Mr. Hyman's cell and found contraband on four separate occasions.[2] Id . ¶¶ 9, 11, 12 and 14. The contraband included weapons, money, cell phones and marijuana. Id . On July 10, 2008, Mr. Hyman was paced in administrative segregation at CFCF due to his disciplinary history involving contraband. Id. at ¶¶ 16 and 17.

Administrative segregation is a secure housing unit reserved for violent inmates, inmates who need protection from the general prison population and high-profile inmates. Pl.'s Statement of Material Facts (doc. No. 54-2) ¶¶ 1, 2. Inmates in administrative segregation are allowed out of their cells for one hour a day and have no interaction with other inmates during this time. Id . ¶ 7. Inmates are placed in a full system of mechanical restraints[3] for the recreation period and can spend their one hour in the yard, the recreation cage or the law library cage.[4] Id . ¶¶ 4, 9, 10 and 14. The restraints caused Mr. Hyman pain, lacerations, rash, soreness, bruising, numbness and edema of his extremities. Id . ¶¶ 32 and 36. The prison medical staff treated his injuries. Id . ¶¶ 33-37.

An inmate stays in administrative segregation until the Special Management Review Committee (SMRC) recommends the inmate's release and the warden approves. Id . ¶¶ 17, 20. Deputy Warden May chaired the committee. Id . ¶ 47. Mr. Hyman filed eleven grievances against Deputy Warden May while in administrative segregation. Id . ¶ 39. The SMRC considered and denied releasing Mr. Hyman into the general prison population seventeen times. Id . ¶ 44. At Mr. Hyman's request, Deputy Warden May approved Mr. Hyman's transfer to the Philadelphia Institutional Corrections Center (PICC) on March 11, 2009. Id . ¶ 65. On April 14, 2009, the SMRC at PICC released Mr. Hyman into the general prison population. Id . ¶ 68.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

A motion for summary judgment may be granted when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). Summary judgment is proper when no "reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc. , 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A party seeking summary judgment initially bears the burden of identifying those portions of the record that it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett , 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Summary judgment is therefore appropriate when the non-moving party fails to rebut the moving party's argument by pointing to evidence that is "sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." Celotex , 477 U.S. at 322. "Evidence of the non-movant is to be believed, and all justifiable inferences are to be drawn in his favor." Anderson , 477 U.S. at 255.

III. DISCUSSION

A.) Count 1 - Conditions of Confinement in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Plaintiff charges defendants with unconstitutional conditions of confinement based on the defendants' excessive and unnecessary use of handcuffs and mechanical restraints. Defendants move for summary judgment arguing that "courts have found conditions of confinement more restrictive than those experienced by the plaintiff in the instant matter, to not be in violation of the 8th Amendment." Defs.' Br. (doc. no. 53) 7. Defendants have completely misinterpreted the law governing Fourteenth Amendment conditions of confinement claims; therefore, I will deny summary judgment.

Because Mr. Hyman was a pre-trial detainee, he was protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, not Eighth Amendment, when he sustained his alleged injuries. While the Eighth Amendment protects a convicted prisoner from cruel and unusual punishment, "a detainee may not be punished prior to an adjudication of guilt in accordance with due process of law." Bell v. Wolfish , 441 U.S. 520, 535 (1979) (emphasis added) (citations omitted). Thus, a restraint is permissible if it is "rationally related to a legitimate non-punitive government purpose." Id. at 561. On the other hand, a court may infer a punitive intent if it appears that the restraint is arbitrary, purposeless or excessive in relation to the stated non-punitive reason. Id. at 539, 61. As such, Bell's prohibition against punishment provides greater protection than that which the Eighth Amendment affords.

Defendants' motion relies on Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. While defendants recognize that this is a Fourteenth Amendment claim, they argue that "the parameters of such an interest are coextensive with the [Eighth] Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment." Defs.' Br. 5-6. This is an incorrect statement of the law and is based on a First Circuit case.[5] Suprenant v. Rivas , 424 F.3d 5, 18 (1st Cir. 2005).[6] The Third Circuit has consistently applied Bell's "no-punishing-pretrial-detainees" rule; therefore, I too must analyze the defendant's legitimate non-punitive purpose to determine if the complained of restraint violated Mr. Hyman's constitutional rights. See Bistrian v. Levi , 696 F.3d 352, 373 (3d Cir. 2012) (collecting cases).

Because defendants have not applied the correct law, there is no basis to grant summary judgment. For a pre-trial detainee, it is wholly irrelevant that courts have found more restrictive conditions to pass muster under the Eighth Amendment, because the Fourteenth Amendment provides greater protection. Here, Mr. Hyman complains that he was kept in mechanical restraints for his daily one hour retreat from his solitary cell. During these retreats, he had no contact with any other prisoners. Since defendants rely on the Eighth Amendment, they have not offered any non-punitive explanation. Lacking such justification, I see no reason why a detainee should be handcuffed when there was no possibility of interaction with ...


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