United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JOSEPH G. AULISIO, Plaintiff
ANN CHIAMPI, ET AL., Defendants
MATTHEW W. BRANN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
G. Aulisio, an inmate presently confined at the Retreat State
Correctional Institution, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania
(SCI-Retreat) initiated this pro se civil rights
action. Named as Defendants are three (3) SCI-Retreat
employees: Education Principal Ann Chiampi, Librarian Karen
Stroup, and Hearing Examiner Anne Plaska.
Memorandum and Order dated March 4, 2015, Defendants'
motion to dismiss the complaint was partially granted.
See Doc. 20. Specifically, this Court agreed that
dismissal was warranted on the claim that the DOC's
grievance procedure was unconstitutional as well as the
retaliation allegations against Defendants Plaska and Stroup.
Dismissal was also granted with respect to the due process
claims against Hearing Examiner Plaska and the contentions of
denial of equal protection. As a result, Aulisio's
surviving claims are (1) a retaliatory confiscation of the
second folder by Education Principal Chiampi; (2) denial of
access to the courts; (3) conspiracy; (4) violation of
Plaintiff's right of freedom of speech.
undisputed that Aulisio was employed as a law clerk/legal
reference aide in the SCI-Retreat library on May 24, 2012.
According to the Complaint, on that morning the Plaintiff was
singled out for harassment by Education Principal Chiampi.
Specifically, it is alleged that Chiampi entered the library
asked Aulisio whether two closed file folders which were
sitting on his work desk were personal or work related.
Aulisio maintains that although he responded numerous times
that the folders were work related and that he was studying
for a scheduled job related test Chiampi seized both folders.
Plaintiff describes the confiscation as being enforcement of
“a never before enforced rule.” Doc. 1, Section
IV, ¶ 12.
the confiscated folders is described by Plaintiff as a
seventy-four (74) page civil rights manuscript containing
hundreds of prison litigation cases with a copy of the Bill
of Rights as the first page. See id., ¶ 8.
Aulisio adds that this manuscript was intended to be
published as a handbook for inmates wishing to pursue civil
rights claims. The second folder is described as consisting
of handwritten notes.
ten (10) minutes after seizing the folders, Chiampi
purportedly returned for the purpose of returning the folder
containing the handwritten notes to the Plaintiff. However,
when Aulisio informed Chiampi that the confiscation of the
other folder (manuscript) was improper because he was engaged
in constitutionally protected activity, Chiampi allegedly
became angry, decided to keep both folders as a retaliatory
measure, and ordered the prisoner to return to his cell
block. As a result of the incident Aulisio was issued a
misconduct charge by Librarian Stroup which charged him with
lying to an employee and possession of contraband. He was
later found guilty of the charge by Hearing Examiner Plaska.
contends that the improper confiscation of the manuscript and
notes impeded his ability to pursue litigation. On June 13,
2012, Plaintiff purportedly discovered that Chiampi did not
follow proper procedure with respect to the confiscation.
Specifically, on that date the folder containing the
handwritten notes was apparently offered back to the
Plaintiff and the inmate was told that the other confiscated
folder (manuscript) had not been turned into
“Control” as required under prison policy.
Id. at ¶ 10. The Complaint assumes that the
confiscated manuscript folder was destroyed in an effort to
prevent Aulisio from pursuing litigation against Chiampi in
violation of his right of access to the courts.
other surviving claims contend that Defendants engaged in a
conspiracy and violated his right of freedom of speech.
See Id. at ¶ ¶ 17-18. The Complaint seeks
compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory
pending is the Remaining Defendants' motion for summary
judgment. See Doc. 69. The opposed motion is ripe
for consideration. For the reasons that follow, the motion
will be granted.
claim entitlement to entry of summary judgment on the grounds
that: (1) the undisputed facts show that the confiscation of
Plaintiff's documents was not retaliatory; (2) the
Complaint does not allege a viable denial of access to the
courts claim; (3) Defendants' action did not violate the
inmate's right to freedom of speech; and (4) Plaintiff
cannot prove a conspiracy claim.
Standard of Review
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. Sybron Transition Corp., 142
F.R.D. 607, 609 (M.D. Pa. 1992). Unsubstantiated arguments
made in briefs are not considered evidence of asserted facts.
Versarge v. Township of Clinton, 984 F.2d 1359, 1370
(3d Cir. 1993).
the moving party has shown that there is an absence of
evidence to support the claims of the non-moving party, the
non-moving party may not simply sit back and rest on the
allegations in its complaint. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324 (1986). Instead, it must
“go beyond the pleadings and by [its] own affidavits,
or by the depositions, answers to interrogatories, and
admissions on file, designate specific facts showing that
there is a genuine issue for trial.” Id.
(internal quotations omitted); see also Saldana, 260
F.3d at 232 (citations omitted).
judgment should be granted where a party “fails to make
a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element
essential to that party's case, and on which that party
will bear the burden at trial.” Celotex, 477
U.S. at 322-23. “‘Such affirmative evidence -
regardless of whether it is direct or circumstantial - must
amount to more than a scintilla, but may amount to less (in
the evaluation of the court) than a
preponderance.'” Saldana, 260 F.3d at 232
(quoting Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891
F.2d 458, 460-61 (3d Cir. 1989)).
Plaska and Stroup's request for dismissal of the
retaliation claims against them was granted by this
Court's March 4, 2015 Memorandum and Order. Aulisio's
remaining limited retaliation claim alleges that Chiampi
changed her mind about returning legal property to him
because it followed his threat to file a lawsuit against her.
pending summary judgment motion asserts that because there
“were no ongoing hostilities between the two
parties” at the time of the confiscation, a viable
retaliation claim has not been asserted. Doc. 71, p. 6.
Defendants add that the allegation of retaliation fails
because the confiscation was not undertaken for any improper
or retaliatory reason and it was Defendant Stroup who issued
Aulisio a misconduct. Finally, they argue that since Aulisio
was offered the return of the confiscated materials at a
later date, it was his own conduct which caused him to suffer
support of their argument, Defendants have submitted a
declaration under penalty of perjury signed by Defendant
Chiampi. See Doc. 72, p. 82. Chiampi acknowledges
that she was employed as the SCI-Retreat Corrections School
Principal during the relevant time period. She indicates that
her duties included making rounds in the prison's
Educational Building which housed the library where the
Plaintiff was employed. Chiampi states while performing that
task in the library on the morning of May 24, 2012 she
noticed that all the inmates were performing janitorial
duties with the exception of Aulisio, who was using the
further investigation, Chiampi discovered that although
Plaintiff indicated he was performing a work related duty, he
had not been assigned any photocopying duties by his
supervisor, Librarian Stroup. As a result, the Defendant
ordered the Plaintiff “to get to work.”
Id. at p. 83, ¶ 4. Aulisio put away his copies
and walked away from the photocopier. As Chiampi was
subsequently preparing to exit the library, she noticed that
while the other inmates were still performing janitorial
duties, Plaintiff was now on a law library computer. When she
questioned Aulisio about this activity, he repeatedly stated
that he was doing a work related task and became
“confrontational and argumentative” when Chaimpi
asked if she could see his folder. Id. at ¶ 6.
Chiampi notes that she only recalls Aulisio possessing one
folder. Chiampi took the folder which Aulisio was using and
gave it to Stroup to determine if the prisoner was doing
personal work. Chaimpi then escorted Aulisio from the library