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Harris v. Barone

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 13, 2014

DAVID HARRIS, Plaintiff,


TERRENCE F. McVERRY, Senior District Judge.

Pending before the Court is DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (ECF No. 74) filed, with leave of Court, by Michael Barone and Debra Sauers ("Defendants"), two former superintendents of SCI-Forest. Defendants filed a brief and concise statement of material facts ("CSMF") in support of their motion (ECF Nos. 75, 76). David Harris ("Plaintiff"), a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), was ordered to file a response to Defendants' motion on or before May 12, 2014 (ECF No. 73). To date, however, no response has been filed.[1]

I. Background

This Court has already written extensively on this case. Thus, only those facts relevant to deciding the present motion will be set forth herein.

Plaintiff was transferred to SCI-Forest in early 2008, after he committed a violent assault on a female counselor while he was in custody at SCI-Fayette. The counselor had to be life flighted to the hospital following the incident.

After his transfer to SCI-Forest, Plaintiff committed a series of assaults of prison staff and other inmates, each of which occurred while Plaintiff was either exercising or using the showers. Specifically, on September 4, 2009, while he was being taken out of his cell to exercise, he pulled away from the escorting officers and kicked a nearby inmate in the back. After moving the other inmate back to his cell, the officers forcibly placed Plaintiff into an exercise cage, and Plaintiff responded by spitting on the officers. On September 7, 2009, Plaintiff spat on two corrections officers while he was using the showers. On December 15, 2009, corrections officers found a piece of sharpened metal hidden in Plaintiff's mattress. A month later, on January 13, 2010, Plaintiff spat on another officer while he was being moved to the showers.[2] On February 17, 2010, while placed in the exercise cage, Plaintiff attempted to pull the escorting officer into the cage with him, and when that failed, he spat on the officer's face.[3] Finally, on March 5, 2010, Plaintiff, again while in the exercise cage, spat on the face of two officers who were escorting another inmate into an adjacent cage.

After the last incident, Lieutenant Gill recommended that Plaintiff be placed under extended restrictions, including on outdoor exercise and showers.[4] Gill's recommendation was referred to Defendant Barone, who had to approve the restrictions before they went into effect because they exceeded seven days. Barone was aware of Plaintiff's history of assaults. He was also aware of Plaintiff's attack at SCI-Fayette, which precipitated his transfer to SCI-Forest. Barone thus signed off on Lt. Gill's recommendation, and Plaintiff's shower and outdoor exercise privileges were suspended for 90 days. According to Barone, the Program Review Committee ("PRC") was scheduled to review Plaintiff's status in 90 days to decide whether the restrictions should be lifted.

Defendant Barone retired as the prison's superintendent on March 28, 2010, and was replaced by Defendant Sauers. At that time, Sauers was not specifically made aware of the restrictions on Plaintiff's privileges, though Plaintiff alleges that he sent two DC-135A forms to Sauers asking her to put an end to the restrictions. In mid-May 2010, Plaintiff filed a grievance about the restrictions, complaining that he had been "prohibited from showering, attending yard, and utilizing the law library materials for 69 days consecutively."[5] A grievance coordinator processed the grievance on May 18 and brought it to Sauers' attention. Although the PRC was originally not scheduled to review Plaintiff's status for another few weeks, Sauers decided to accelerate the review process. To that end, the PRC met with Plaintiff on May 27, 2010. After the meeting, the PRC recommended that the outdoor exercise and shower restrictions be lifted; however, the other restrictions (secure food pass, videotaped movements, and presence of commissioned officer for escorts) remained in place.

Plaintiff initiated this action on December 12, 2011, by filing a Complaint which named Barone, Sauers, Lt. Murin, and Department of Corrections ("DOC") Secretary James Beard as Defendants.[6] Plaintiff alleged that the conditions of his confinement - specifically, the denial of access to showers and outdoor exercise for 82 days - violated the Eighth Amendment. He also claimed that Defendants violated his procedural due process rights by failing to afford him notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to imposing the restrictions.

On August 23, 2012, Defendants Beard and Murin moved for partial summary judgment on the ground that they were not personally involved in the alleged constitutional violations (ECF No. 26). The motion was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter, who recommended that it be granted (ECF No. 32). On January 15, 2013, former Chief District Judge Sean McLaughlin adopted the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation and summary judgment was entered on behalf of Beard and Murin (ECF No. 34).

On November 11, 2013, Defendants, with leave of Court, filed a second motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that Plaintiff had failed to establish a procedural due process violation. On February 3, 2014, the Court granted Defendants' motion. In doing so, the Court concluded that although the 82-day shower and exercise restrictions restrictions may have, in combination, amounted to a "significant and atypical hardship, " Plaintiff was accorded all of the process that he was due prior to the imposition of the restrictions. Thus, the Court held that there was no procedural due process violation.

As a result, the case was scheduled for a jury trial only with respect to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment conditions-of-confinement claim. The trial was set to commence on April 21, 2014.

Meanwhile, on April 4, 2014, Defendants filed a motion for leave to file a supplemental motion for summary judgment. In support of its motion, counsel for Defendants explained that, while preparing for trial, she discovered a case from the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Pearson v. Ramos, 237 F.3d 881 (7th Cir. 2001), which is "directly on point" and could be dispositive of Plaintiff's remaining claim (ECF No. 67). The Court granted Defendants' motion and continued the trial generally pending the outcome of Defendants' supplemental ...

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