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Hill v. Bogan

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

April 27, 2018

VERNON HILL, Plaintiff,
CO BOGAN, et al., Defendants.


          Gerald Austin McHugh United States District Judge.

         Plaintiff Vernon Hill, a prisoner at SCI-Graterford proceeding pro se, filed this civil action challenging discipline he received for fighting. Mr. Hill names the following employees of SCI-Grateford as Defendants in this case: (1) Correctional Officer Bogan; (2) Correctional Officer R. Getz; (3) J. Yodis, a hearing examiner; (4) O. Nunez, a unit manager; (5) J. Terra; (6) J.H. Dupont, Chief Hearing Officer; (7) Cynthia Link, the former Superintendent; (8) Mascilino, a “Captain/Lieutenant;” (9) J. Gery; and (10) John/Jane Does. He seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Hill leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his Complaint.

         I. FACTS[1]

         On December 12, 2017, Officer Getz “alerted the Day Captain Office that Hill was fighting in the fieldhouse” with another inmate, identified as McClennan.[2] (Compl. ECF No. 2, at 6, ¶ 12.)[3] Mr. Hill, who was employed as a basketball referee at the time, contends that he stopped a basketball game to prevent McClennan from fighting with another inmate, so McClennan swung at him instead. Mr. Hill claims that he did not fight back because he did not want to adversely affect his upcoming parole hearing.

         Mr. Hill alleges that Getz is “known for issuing Black and Hispanic Prisoner misconduct reports based upon their skin color and in a discriminatory fashion.” (Id. at 6, ¶ 14.) Mr. Hill also alleges, however, that Getz did not issue misconducts to him or McClennan as a result of the incident, and notes that Getz also did not escort them to the medical department, which “is the normal procedure for when two or more Prisoners are captured fighting.” (Id.) Instead, Officer Bogan prepared a misconduct report, charging Mr. Hill with fighting. “Bogan alleged that at approximately 1850 hrs. Getz did in fact observe inmate V. Hill #DK9860 and inmate McClennan #LY5365 physically throwing closed fist punches as each other's faces, inside the fieldhouse.” (Id.)

         Mr. Hill appeared before Hearing Examiner Yodis, who found him guilty of fighting based on Officer Bogan's misconduct report, even though Officer Bogan did not personally observe the fight. Mr. Hill had requested review of a videotape but was informed that no videotape of the fight existed. He believes that Yodis found him guilty on the basis that he had previously been found guilty of fighting on two prior occasions. As a result of the infraction, Mr. Hill lost his job as a basketball referee and received thirty (30) days in disciplinary custody.

         Mr. Hill appealed his disciplinary sentence to the Program Review Committee, which consisted of Defendants Nunez, Gery, and Terra. However, the Program Review Committee denied his appeal. Mr. Hill also appealed to the Facility Manager, the Chief Hearing Examiner, and Superintendent Link claiming that he was innocent of the disciplinary charge, but his appeals were unsuccessful.

         In this civil action, Mr. Hill challenges the discipline imposed upon him. He claims that he was improperly found guilty of fighting and that “each Commonwealth Defendant imposed a punishment and sanctioned [him], which may very well effect [sic] his upcoming parole chances based upon an event that never occurred, [and] was racially and discriminatory motivated.” (Compl. ECF No. 2, at 8, ¶ 22.) Accordingly, he brings claims for damages, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, apparently for violation of his “First, Fifth, Eight[h], Ninth and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.”[4] (Id. at 9.)


         Mr. Hill is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is not capable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[5] As Mr. Hill is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies. That provision requires the Court to screen the Complaint and dismiss it if, among other things, it fails to state a claim. To survive dismissal, the complaint must contain “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). “[M]ere conclusory statements[] do not suffice.” Id. As Mr. Hill is proceeding pro se, the Court is obligated to construe his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).


         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The facts pled by Mr. Hill do not establish a plausible constitutional violation.

         A. First Amendment Claims

         The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” U.S. Const. amend. I. The facts alleged in the Complaint do not implicate any of the ...

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