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Williams v. Varano

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 31, 2014

LA-QUN RASHEED WILLIAMS, Plaintiff
v.
DAVID A VARANO, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Procedural History

La-qun Rasheed Williams (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Greene State Correctional Institution, Waynesburg, Pennsylvania (SCI-Greene) initiated this pro se civil rights action. Plaintiff's unopposed motion for leave to submit amendments to his Complaint was subsequently granted and his proposed accompanying amendments (Doc. 15, ¶¶ 167-212) were accepted.

By Memorandum and Order dated March 8, 2013, Plaintiff's second motion to amend his Complaint was granted and Correctional Officer Yoder was substituted for Defendant John Doe 1. See Doc. 35. In addition, the Memorandum and Order entered sua sponte dismissal in favor of Defendant SCI-Coal Twp and granted in part Defendants' motion seeking partial dismissal of the Complaint. See id.

Specifically, dismissal was granted with respect to Williams' damage claims brought against Defendants in their official capacities and in favor of Defendants Attorney Debra Rand, Grievance Coordinators Kandis Dascandi, Trisha Kelley, and Dorina Varner.[1] Second, dismissal was entered in favor of Defendants Klembara, Jellen, Tripp, Symons, and Behney on the basis of failure to allege personal involvement solely with respect to the allegations raised in the Original Complaint.

In addition, Plaintiff's procedural due process claims relating to disciplinary proceedings which did not result in a loss of good conduct time or otherwise extend the duration of his confinement were dismissed. However, any retaliation claims regarding denials of due process during misconduct proceedings which did not result in a loss of good conduct time were allowed to proceed. Williams' allegations of denials of due process during misconduct proceedings which resulted in a loss of good conduct time were also dismissed, however, dismissal of those allegations was entered without prejudice to any right Plaintiff had to challenge those proceedings via a federal habeas corpus petition.

Finally, Defendants' request for dismissal of the retaliation claims including the allegations of food tampering, mail interference, fabricated misconduct charges, and placement of Williams in situations so that he could be attack by an inmate with a history of assaultive behavior was denied.

Plaintiff's Allegations

Remaining Defendants are the following officials at Plaintiff's prior place of confinement, the State Correctional Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania (SCI-Coal Twp.): Superintendent David Varano; Deputy Superintendent Ronda Ellett; Majors George Miller, Michael Miller; Captain Charles Stetler; Unit Manager Tripp; Lieutenants J.B. Burns and Symons; Sergeants Green, Claudfelter, and Batiuk; Hearing Examiner Kerns-Barr; Correctional Officers A.A. Kitchen, Klembara, Kepner, Wiseman, Allen, Yoder, and Emrich; Tammy Behney, and two (2) John Does. Also named as a Defendant is Mail Inspector Therese Jellen of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC).

According to the Complaint, on June 5, 2011 while Plaintiff was assigned to the SCI-Coal Twp. Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), Defendants Emerich and Kitchen retaliated against him over his prior filing of a federal lawsuit and institutional grievances by serving him a meal tray which contained a dead mouse. See Doc. 1, ¶ 27. In a related claim, Williams indicates that he was issued a falsified misconduct on August 10, 2011 which alleged that he had fabricated his claim of being served a dead mouse. Williams further claims that he was denied due process during the ensuing disciplinary proceedings.

Plaintiff's second retaliation claim contends that on August 13, 2011 he was transferred to a disciplinary custody cell "so that his television, radio, and phone calls could be taken." Doc. 1, ¶ 40. Williams indicates that he was told in November 2011 that those items would be returned to him if he withdraw his pending federal law suit. See Doc. 15, ¶ 167. A third instance of retaliation occurred on September 18, 2011 when Williams was purportedly served a food tray by Defendants Wiseman and Enrich which had a dirty wash cloth in his food. See id. at ¶ 52.

It is next alleged that Sergeant Greene deliberately placed an inmate with a history of assaultive behavior[2] in a recreation cage near the Plaintiff so that the prisoner could throw human waste at Williams. See id. at ¶ 63. On November 4, 2011, Defendants including Kepner, put Plaintiff in harm's way by similarly ordering him into a recreation cage next to Inmate Besciglia. When Williams tried to refuse, he was threatened with the issuance of a misconduct charge. After Plaintiff reluctantly agreed to enter the recreation cage he was purportedly attacked for a third time by Inmate Besciglia. After Williams filed a grievance, Defendant Kepner purportedly responded by issuing him a fabricated disciplinary charge. The Complaint again asserts that Plaintiff's due process rights were violated during the ensuing misconduct proceedings.

The Complaint next maintains that CO Kitchen confiscated and intentionally destroyed Plaintiff's personal legal materials and that there was interference and destruction with his outgoing legal mail. Plaintiff also indicates he was subjected to verbal threats by Defendant Klembara, issuance of a retaliatory falsified disciplinary charge, and confiscation of personal property during February, 2012. See Doc. 15, ¶¶ 168-75. During that same time period, Defendant Behney allegedly discarded some of Williams' personal legal property and the Plaintiff was subjected to a retaliatory hard cell placement. While in the hard cell, Plaintiff allegedly received a food tray with a razor blade in his food. See id. at ¶ 183.

Presently pending is Defendants' motion for summary judgment. See Doc. 77. The opposed motion is ripe for consideration.

Discussion

Defendants seek entry of summary judgment for the following reasons no reasonable trier of fact could find that Plaintiff was related against with respect to; (1) the alleged placement of a dead mouse on Williams' meal tray; (2) placement of a wash cloth on his meal tray; and (3) the claim of being set up for an assault by another prisoner. It is also argued that viable claims of denial of access to the courts and conspiracy have not been stated and that Williams failed to exhaust his administrative remedies.

It is initially noted that once again the summary judgment motion does not address Plaintiff's supplemental allegations.[3] As a result those claims shall proceed and the motion will be deemed as seeking partial summary judgment.

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); See also Saldana 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; see also Reeder v. ...


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