United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
ARNOLD J. HARRIS, Plaintiff
HEARING EXAMINER A. HIMES, et al., Defendants
instant civil rights action was filed by pro se
Plaintiff, Arnold J. Harris, confined at the State
Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
(“SCI-Huntingdon”), pursuant to 42 U.S.C §
1983. In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Correctional
Officer Frye retaliated against him by filing a false
misconduct report for a conversation Plaintiff had with Ms.
Snyder, the law librarian, that was protected under
Plaintiff's First Amendment right to free speech. (Doc.
No. 1.) Plaintiff also alleges that Hearing Examiner Himes
violated his procedural due process rights by failing to call
Plaintiff's witness, Ms. Snyder, during his disciplinary
hearing. (Id.) Currently pending before the Court is
Defendants' motion for summary judgment. (Doc. No. 28).
The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for
disposition. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants'
motion will be granted.
Allegations of the Complaint
claims that on August 19, 2015, while he was working at a
computer in the law library, Ms. Snyder approached him asking
if his work was legal in nature. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 6,
7.) Plaintiff explained to her that it was and showed her his
work, after which she allowed him to continue. (Id.
¶ 8.) When Plaintiff completed his work for that
morning, he started back to his block when Defendant Frye
stopped him, showing him a hangman's noose and stating
that he could make Plaintiff “disappear.”
(Id. ¶¶9-11.) The following day, Plaintiff
returned to the law library to complete his work from the
previous day. (Id. ¶ 13.) There were no
computers immediately available but at about 9:00 am, Ms.
Snyder called Plaintiff to her desk to inform him that a
computer was available and that she “hope[d] his work
was legal.” (Id. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff brought
his work to Ms. Snyder to prove that his work was of legal
nature at which time she assigned him to computer number
four. (Id. ¶ 15.)
Plaintiff was approaching computer number four, Defendant
Frye ordered him back to his block for an alleged argument he
had with Ms. Snyder. (Id. ¶ 16.) Plaintiff
stated to Defendant Frye that he had not been arguing with
her and that he did nothing wrong, to which Defendant Frye
said, among other things, “keep talking black
boy” and “I'm going to make you
disappear.” (Id. ¶¶ 17-21.)
Plaintiff retrieved his pass and returned to his block where
he then asked a staff officer for a grievance form.
(Id. ¶ 22.)
he was filling out his grievance form, several officers came
to Plaintiff's block to escort him to a restricted
housing unit (“RHU”). (Id. ¶¶
23, 24.) Within four hours of arriving at the RHU, Plaintiff
received a misconduct filed by Defendant Frye asserting four
class one charges. (Id. ¶ 24.) On August 25,
2015, Plaintiff had his hearing before Hearing Examiner
Himes. (Id. ¶ 26.) Despite Plaintiff's
request to call Ms. Snyder as a witness, Defendant Himes
denied this request, stating that Ms. Snyder “is not
necessary.” (Id. ¶ 27.) Two of the four
charges were dismissed and Plaintiff was given thirty (30)
days in the RHU. (Id. ¶ 28.)
appealed Defendant Himes' decision which was ultimately
remanded back to Defendant Himes for a rehearing.
(Id. at Ex. K.) On October 27, 2015, Defendant Himes
dismissed the entire misconduct without prejudice.
(Id. ¶ 38.) Plaintiff also alleges that on
September 16, 2015, he called the inmate abuse hotline to
report the threats of Defendant Frye to the office of special
investigations and intelligence and also mailed a complaint
to that office. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 35.)
avers that he was discharged from a treatment program on
September 3, 2015 for absenteeism as a result of being placed
in RHU. (Id. ¶ 42.) Because he failed to
complete the treatment program, his parole was denied until
he satisfactorily completes the 78 week treatment program.
(Id. ¶¶ 42, 43.)
Statement of Undisputed Facts
an inmate currently incarcerated at SCI-Huntingdon, signed
into the library on August 19, 2015 at approximately 8:40
a.m. and went to the back of the library. (Doc. No. 30
¶¶ 4, 5, Ex. 3, Attach. B.) Around 9:51 a.m., the law
librarian, Ms. Snyder, walked toward the back of the library
and returned to her desk at about 9:53 a.m. (Id.
¶ 6.) Plaintiff then sat at a table in the library and
around 10:17 a.m., he approached Ms. Snyder and then signed
out. (Id. ¶¶ 7-9.) As Plaintiff was
leaving, Defendant Frye said to him, “I'm going to
make you disappear, black boy.” (Id. ¶
32.) This was the first time that Plaintiff had contact with
Defendant Frye. (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff
“ignored the insults … took [his] pass and [he]
left.” (Id. ¶ 33.)
following day, Plaintiff signed into the library around 8:25
a.m. (Id. ¶ 10.) At 9:07 a.m., Ms. Snyder waved
her finger toward Plaintiff motioning him to come to her
desk. (Id. ¶ 11.) After a brief conversation,
Plaintiff returned to his table and picked up a couple of
papers and returned to Ms. Snyder's desk and showed her
the papers. (Id. ¶¶ 12-14.) Plaintiff
again returned to his table and picked up more papers and
returned to Ms. Snyder's desk and began showing her the
additional papers. (Id. ¶¶ 15, 16.) At
about 9:09 a.m., Plaintiff is seen making hand gestures and
becoming more animated towards Ms. Snyder. (Id.
¶ 17.) Inmates in the area can be seen looking at
Plaintiff and Ms. Snyder. (Id. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff
provided that Ms. Snyder paged through his documents to
confirm they were legal in nature and told him he could go to
word processor four. (Id. ¶ 36.) Ms. Snyder
also told Plaintiff that she was going to come over to the
computer and check on Plaintiff and as Plaintiff was walking
away from her, shaking his head and shrugging his shoulders,
he turned around and said, “that is your
prerogative” and kept walking. (Id.
¶¶ 37, 38.)
a.m., Defendant Frye walked into the library and appeared to
speak to Ms. Snyder. (Id. ¶ 21.) At about the
same time, Plaintiff began walking toward the right side of
the library towards word processor number four when Defendant
Frye motioned with his hand and told Plaintiff to return to
his block. (Id. ¶¶ 22, 39.) Plaintiff
questioned Defendant Frye as to what he did, to which
Defendant Frye responded “I'm ordering you to go
back to your block.” (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.)
While Plaintiff was looking for his pass, he said to
Defendant Frye, “I have a right to the library. Why are
you forcing me to go back to my block?” (Id.
¶ 43.) Plaintiff provides that Defendant Frye then
responded, “keep talking, nigger.” (Id.
¶ 44.) Plaintiff then returned to his cell block.
(Id. ¶ 46.)
same day, August 20, 2015, Plaintiff was issued Misconduct
#B589252 for: (1) threatening an employee; (2) sexual
harassment; (3) using abusive, obscene language to an
employee; and (4) refusing to obey an order. (Id.
¶¶ 47, 48.) Defendant Frye's misconduct report
provides that Plaintiff threatened him and alleged that he
was “fucking Ms. Snyder.” (Id. ¶
49.) On August 25, 2015, Plaintiff had his hearing before
Defendant Himes wherein Plaintiff requested that Ms. Snyder
be a witness. (Id. ¶¶ 52, 53.) In
Plaintiff's written version of events, there was no
mention of any racial allegations against Defendant Frye.
(Id. ¶ 54.) At the hearing, Defendant Himes
threw out the charges of threatening an employee and sexual
harassment but kept the charges of obscene abusive language
and refusing to obey an order. (Id. ¶ 55.)
Plaintiff asked Defendant Himes where his witness was, to
which Defendant Himes stated that Ms. Snyder was not
necessary to determine Plaintiff's guilt or innocence.
(Id. ¶¶ 56, 57.) Plaintiff was given
thirty days in the Diversionary Treatment Unit
(“DTU”), for which he only served twenty.
(Id. ¶¶ 58, 65.)
appealed this decision all the way to final review.
(Id. ¶¶ 59-63.) Plaintiff raised, for the
first time, racial allegations against Defendant Frye on his
appeal to the facility manager. (Id. ¶¶
59, 61.) On final review, the misconduct was remanded for a
rehearing before Defendant Himes so that Ms. Snyder's
testimony could be obtained and considered. (Id.
¶¶ 63, 64.) On October 22, 2015, a rehearing was
conducted but it was continued because Defendant Himes felt
that Plaintiff was “highly argumentative during this
hearing and makes some very serious racial allegations in his