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Jackson v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 4, 2015



THOMAS O'NEILL, Jr., District Judge.

On July 22, 2011, plaintiff William Jackson, represented by counsel, filed a complaint against defendants the City of Philadelphia, Commissioner Louis Giorla, Warden John P. Delaney, Correctional LT Adella Hold and Correctional Officer Damien Woodards. Dkt. No. 1. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on October 11, 2011 in which he alleges violations of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to be free from excessive force and cruel and unusual punishments and his Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. Dkt. No. 5.

Plaintiff's case was placed in suspense on December 1, 2011 pending resolution of criminal charges against plaintiff. Dkt. No. 9. My Order placing the matter in suspense required Rania Major Trunfio, counsel for plaintiff, to notify the Court when the criminal charges against plaintiff had been resolved. Dkt. No. 9. Although plaintiff pled guilty on December 15, 2011 to multiple charges against him, his counsel did not inform the Court of this fact. On October 24, 2013 - more than twenty-two months later - the City wrote the Court and requested the case be removed from civil suspense and also filed a motion for summary judgment. Dkt. Nos. 10, 11. After numerous extensions, plaintiff responded to defendants' motion for summary judgment on February 4, 2014. Dkt. No. 27. On March 27, 2014, I entered an order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment without prejudice. Dkt. No. 29. In the accompanying memorandum of law I explained that "Counsel for plaintiff obviously has neglected this case but I do not wish to penalize Mr. Jackson for the omissions of his counsel." Dkt. No. 28 at ECF p. 3. Accordingly, I granted the parties "ninety days within which to conduct discovery." Dkt. No. 29.

On December 2, 2014, defendants filed a second motion for summary judgment. Dkt. No. 32. On January 12, 2015, after having approved two stipulated extensions of the time permitted to respond, I ordered plaintiff to respond to defendants' second motion for summary judgment on or before January 26, 2015.[1] Dkt. No. 38. To date, plaintiff, through his counsel has not filed a response to defendant's motion. Nor has his counsel submitted any further requests for an extension of time to respond. While I am reluctant to deprive plaintiff of the right to have his claim adjudicated on a factual record which is less than fully developed, the time has come.[2] For the reasons that follow, I will grant defendant's motion.[3]


Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee in the Philadelphia Prison System at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility from on or about June 29, 2009 until January 14, 2011 when he was sentenced in an matter unrelated to this matter and transferred to state custody. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶ 2b. On July 23, 2009 a cellmate of plaintiff's informed Correctional Sergeant Janelle Franklyn that plaintiff had drugs in his boxer shorts. Id. at ¶ 2i. Philadelphia Prison System staff, "including CO Damien Woodards, was organized to conduct a strip search of [plaintiff] and two other inmates, including the one who had tipped the SGT about [plaintiff's] hidden drugs." Id. at ¶ 2j. "During the search, CO Woodards noticed that plaintiff had something in his mouth and alerted the SGT." Id. at ¶ 2k. Plaintiff "ran out of the cell and into the yard, where he was seen removing something from his mouth and trying to put it in the drain." Id. at ¶ 2l. Plaintiff" was eventually handcuffed and taken to medical after he had assaulted CO Woodards, CO Robinson and LT Adella Holt." Id. at ¶ 2m.

Plaintiff was a pretrial detainee in the Philadelphia Prison System again from December 14, 2011 until December 15, 2011 when he pled guilty to the following charges arising out of the July 23, 2009 incident: recklessly endangering defendant CO Damien Woodards, aggravated assault on CO David Robinson, aggravated assault on defendant LT Adella Holt and possession of a controlled substance by an inmate. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶ 2a. Following his guilty plea he was transferred back to state custody and is currently an inmate housed at SCI-Coal Township. Dkt. No. 32 at ¶¶ 2a-2b.

In his amended complaint, plaintiff asserts claims for violations of his civil rights related to the events of July 23, 2009. He alleges that he was subjected "to an unlawful strip search in his cell where... defendants lacked reasonable suspicion to believe that the plaintiff harbored a weapon, drugs, other contraband, or other fruits, instrumentalities, or evidence of a crime or violation of prison regulations" and that "defendants were not carrying out a prison regulation and/or procedure reasonably related to institutional security, maintaining or restoring discipline or order, or any other legitimate penological interest." Id. at ¶ 2t. He alleges that "defendants' purpose was to harass, humiliate, degrade, and/or physically injure the plaintiff" and that it was the policy, practice and/or custom of Defendants, City, Delaney and Giorla' to fail to train correctional officers in proper methods and protocols of searching and/or restraining inmates within the Philadelphia Prison System and/or the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility." Plaintiff has also claimed "that during the search, he was assaulted, battered and subjected to malicious, sadistic and excessive force by CO Woodards and other prison staff while LT Holt stood by and did nothing to stop it; and that the use of unjustified unreasonable, unnecessary, malicious sadistic, and excessive force' was the policy, custom or practice of Defendants, City of Philadelphia, Commissioner Giorla and Warden Delaney." Id. at ¶ 2u.

Plaintiff's amended complaint alleges that as a result of defendants actions (or inactions), he

sustained multiple serious injuries, some or all of which may be permanent, including, but not limited to, broken and chipped teeth; concussions; post-traumatic cephalgia and headaches; facial and lip bruising; lacerations and scarring; severe shock and injury to his nerves and nervous system; mental, psychological and emotional distress, embarrassment, anxiety and humiliation; and other injuries some or all of which have yet to become manifest and/or be diagnosed.

Dkt. No. 5 at ¶ 43. Despite the allegations in his complaint, plaintiff "has produced no competent medical evidence of injury due to severe emotional distress." Dkt. No. 32 at ¶ 2dd.

Defendants also contend that "plaintiff has not developed any evidence that the [Philadelphia Prison System] has an unconstitutional policy or widespread custom or practice regarding searches of prisoners for contraband and the use of force by [Philadelphia Prison System] staff." Id. at ¶ 2w. Instead, defendants explain that "it is the policy of the [Philadelphia Prison System] that prison staff are responsible for maintaining professional deportment at all times towards inmates, ' will refrain from engaging in illegal behavior (while)... on... duty, ' and that [n]o [Philadelphia Prison System staff] shall use or condone excessive or unnecessary use of force.'" Id. at ¶ 2x. Defendants assert that the Philadelphia Prison System has a policy "that staff will search inmates, visitors, and official visitors to deter possession, trafficking or use of contraband items for the safety and security of its prison facilities." Id. at ¶ 2z. Defendants contend that "[w]hen there is reason to believe that an inmate is hiding items that could be detrimental to the safety and security of the [Philadelphia Prison System], a strip search will be conducted in the presence of a supervisor." Id. at ¶ 2aa. The Philadelphia Prison System has a policy "that all employees will be trained on proper search techniques." Id. at ¶ 2cc. Defendants also assert that "[s]earches are not to be used to punish or harass inmates, " instead, they are to be conducted "to discover and suppress trafficking in contraband." Id. at ¶ 2bb.

Plaintiff received an Inmate Handbook during the intake process at the Philadelphia Prison System which informed plaintiff that "[p]eriodic and special unannounced searches of inmates, housing units, and other facility areas are conducted as often as needed to discover and eliminate contraband and to ensure the safety and security of the facility." Id. at ¶ 2d (internal quotation omitted). During the intake process plaintiff was also "made aware of [ ] inmate grievance procedures and where they are posted." Id. at ¶ 2c. Inmates in the Philadelphia Prison System may grieve alleged violations of their civil rights through a grievance review procedure with two levels of review. Id. at ¶¶ 2f-2h. Under the Philadelphia Prison System policy on inmate grievances, "[a]n inmate may file a formal written grievance within ten days of the grievable event by completing an Inmate Grievance form...." Id. at ¶ 2e (internal quotation omitted, emphasis in Dkt. No. 32). Inmates are directed to keep copies of their grievance forms as proof that they filed grievances. Id.

Defendants contend that there is "no record evidence that plaintiff ever filed a grievance that specifically addressed the search of his body for contraband on July 23, 2009." Id. at ¶ 2s. Instead, on or about August 29, 2009 or September 14, 2009, plaintiff "submitted an Inmate Grievance Form (Grievance No. G092127) regarding the alleged assault by CO Woodard-Bey' (who is CO Woodards) on July 23, 3009. Id. at ¶ 2p. According to both the Philadelphia Prison System automated information system (known as Lock and Track or LAT), "plaintiff never appealed the Review Level I decision of Warden Clyde Gainey regarding grievance No G092127 to Review Level II (i.e., ...

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