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Young v. Hawk

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 30, 2017

DANA E. YOUNG, Plaintiff,
v.
COUNSELOR HAWK, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          John E. Jones III, Judge

         This matter is presently proceeding via an amended complaint filed on September 5, 2014, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1893, by Plaintiff Dana E. Young (“Plaintiff” or “Young”). (Doc. 27). Named as defendants are Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”) employees, Counselor Hawk (“Hawk”) and Pam Tomko (Tomko”). Young alleges that the failure of Hawk and Tomko to address his concern, that information pertinent to his ability to be released on parole is missing from his DOC inmate file, violates his due process rights. (Doc. 27).

         Presently before the Court is Defendants Hawk and Tomko's motion (Doc. 51) for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Summary judgment “should be rendered 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 judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Turner v. Schering-Plough Corp., 901 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1990). “[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original); Brown v. Grabowski, 922 F.2d 1097, 1111 (3d Cir. 1990). A disputed fact is “material” if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Id.; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is “genuine” if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

         The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue as to any material fact. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Orson, Inc. v. Miramax Film Corp., 79 F.3d 1358, 1366 (3d Cir. 1996). Once such a showing has been made, the non-moving party must go beyond the pleadings with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories or the like in order to demonstrate specific material facts which give rise to a genuine issue. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56; Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986) (stating that the non-moving party “must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts”); Wooler v. Citizens Bank, 274 F. App'x. 177, 179 (3d Cir. 2008). The party opposing the motion must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case, which it bears the burden of proving at trial, because “a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial.” Id. at 323; see also Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir. 1992). “[T]he non-moving party ‘may not rely merely on allegations or denials in its own pleadings; rather, its response must . . . set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial.'” Picozzi v. Haulderman, 2011 WL 830331, *2 (M.D. Pa. 2011) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2)). “Inferences should be drawn in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, and where the non-moving party's evidence contradicts the movant's, then the non-movant's must be taken as true.” Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America. Inc., 974 F.2d 1358, 1363 (3d Cir. 1992).

         II. STATEMENT OF MATERIAL FACTS

         In 1983, Young was convicted of rape and kidnaping in the Court of Common Pleas of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and sentenced to an aggregate term of imprisonment of twenty-one to forty-two years. (Doc. 52, ¶ 3; Doc. 59, ¶ 3). He became eligible for parole in 2004. (Id. at 4; Id. at 4). He has been denied parole on approximately five occasions because he has not successfully completed sex offender therapy. (Id. at 5, 6; Id. at 5, 6).

         According to prison records attached to Young's Amended Complaint, he completed the sex offender Structured Treatment Education Program (“STEP”) while housed at the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon (“SCI-Huntingdon”). (Id. at 7, 8, 13; Id. at 7, 8, 13). The prison records include the following: 1) “Information Report” dated August 25, 1993, indicating he “Completed STEP [sex offender programming] satisfactory by attending 14 of 15 sessions. The program began April 17, 1993 and ended August 25, 1993”; 2) “Prescriptive Program Plan” document dated January 31, 1997, noting under “RESULTS ACHIEVED” that he “completed SOP [sex offender programming] at Huntingdon”; 3) “Prescriptive Program Plan” document dated September 1, 1998, recommending participation in sex offender program. (Id. at 8, 11-20; Id. at 8, 11-20). These records are not in Young's inmate file. (Id. at 10; Id. at 10). Young has notified corrections officials that his file is inaccurate because it does not contain these records. (Id. at 9; Id. at 9).

         Kenneth Ley (“Ley”), a Licensed Psychologist Manager employed by the DOC, declares that he is familiar with the STEP Program, which is a non-admitter program designed to help sex offenders accept a degree of responsibility for their actions. (Id. at 21; Id. at 21; Doc. 54, p. 9, ¶¶ 7-11). The program did not contain an admitter's requirement. (Doc. 52, at 22; Doc. 54, p. 9, ¶ 11). The program is no longer in use. (Doc. 54, p. 9, ¶ 9). Ley indicates that successful completion of the DOC's sex offender treatment for purposes of a parole recommendation requires admission of the wrongdoing and that completion of the STEP program “would not be a basis to give petitioner [Young] credit for completing the sex offender therapy with an admitter's requirement, as required by the Department for recommendation for parole.” (Doc. 52, at 23; Doc. 59, at 23; Doc. 54, p. 10, ¶ 15).

         James Hawk (“Hawk”), who is employed by the DOC as a Corrections Counselor 2, echoes that completion of the STEP program would not be a basis to give Young credit for completing the sex offender therapy with an admitter's requirement. (Id. at 31; Id. at 31; Doc. 54, p. 2, ¶ 13). Since at least 2003, Young has repeatedly been advised of the need to complete sex offender therapy that contains the admitter's requirement, but refuses to take the sex offender therapy containing the admitter's component. (Id. at 24, 28; Id. at 24, 28; Id. at p. 3, ¶ 10). Defendants have refused to credit Young with completion of sex offender therapy because he did not complete the program with an admitter's requirement. (Id. at 25, 30; Id. at 25, 30).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party ...

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