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Williams v. PA Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 8, 2019


          Rambo Judge



         I. Introduction.

         This is a prisoner civil rights case in which the plaintiff, Kevin Williams (“Williams”) alleges that his rights were violated through a series of seemingly disconnected events involving the confiscation of his watch, damage to his typewriter, denial of a spot in an educational program, and a botched haircut. The case is presently before the court on the defendants' motion to dismiss Williams's amended complaint. Because the amended complaint is essentially indistinguishable from Williams's original complaint and similarly fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the undersigned ultimately recommends that the case be dismissed.

         II. Background and Procedural History.

         Williams, a prisoner in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), initiated this case on September 15, 2015 by filing a complaint against John Kerestes (“Kerestes”), Dorina Varner (“Varner”), Jane Hinman (“Hinman”), Nelson A. Iannuzzi (“Iannuzzi”), Lieutenant Hart (“Hart”), Ms. Jones (“Jones”), Deputy Warden Beggs (“Beggs”), “McKnight, ” “Vougahta, ” the DOC, the Program Review Committee (“PRC”) at SCI Mahanoy, and the educational and medical departments at SCI Mahanoy. Doc. 1 at 2-3.

         Williams's complaint alleged a series of seemingly disconnected events that purportedly amounted to a violation of his civil rights. The events began when he was transferred from SCI Somerset to SCI Mahanoy on January 28, 2013, at which point “two defendants in another civil action” inventoried his belongings. Id. at 3. He alleges that during this inventory, those defendants confiscated his Casio G-Shock Watch. Id. Williams alleges that shortly after the incident involving his watch he spoke with Hart, who informed him that he would not be getting the watch back. Id. at 4. Williams then asked Beggs why his watch was confiscated while other inmates had the same watch. Id. Beggs told him this was because the other inmates had been at the prison when it first opened. Id.

         Following his transfer, Williams's other possessions were taken to the prison. Id. Upon unpacking his belongings, Williams allegedly discovered that his typewriter[1] did not work. Id. Williams then filed a grievance related to the typewriter. Id. at 4-5. Around this time, Williams was placed in the Restricted Housing Unit (“RHU”) and threatened by Hart and Kerestes. Id. at 5. Hart allegedly told Williams that the Aryan Brotherhood “runs” SCI Mahanoy, while Kerestes said that Williams “need[ed] to get some patience.” Id.

         Williams alleged that he was given a haircut while in the RHU and was cut on his neck by the clippers that the barber used. Id. Williams went to the medical unit about the cut, at which point “puss [sic] was discharging from [his] face.” Id. Instead of treating the cut, however, the attendant in the medical unit allegedly told Williams that his face was “just dirty” and that he needed to wash his face more thoroughly. Id. Williams alleged that the untreated cut eventually resulted in a “staph or MRSA infection / unknown infection.” Id. at 6. Despite the infection, however, the prison did not provide him any medical care. Id.

         Williams alleges that he “wrote several request slips . . . requesting to be put into a vocational trade class, ” but was repeatedly denied on the grounds that he did not have the proper qualifications. Id. Williams then spoke about this issue with Beggs, who allegedly told him that he did have the proper qualifications but that it would likely be a significant wait time before he could attend the class because he was serving a life sentence. Id. at 7.

         Williams alleged that the defendants' actions violated his rights under the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Id. at 8. He sought declaratory and injunctive relief, “permanent separation” from SCI Mahanoy, SCI Coal Township, and SCI Frackville, and damages in the amount of $50, 000 “against each defendant jointly and severally.” Id. at 10-11.

         On the same day as his complaint, Williams filed an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but did not do so according to the court's procedures. See doc. 2. Responding to that motion, the court issued a 30-day administrative order on May 26, 2015, requiring Williams to either pay the filing fee within thirty days or file a proper application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Doc. 6. Thereafter, Williams filed a renewed application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis in which he checked a box indicating that he had previously brought three or more actions or appeals in federal court that had been dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim. Doc. 8 at 1.

         Responding to Williams's admission regarding his previous cases in federal court, the undersigned issued an order on August 4, 2015 denying his application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to the Three Strikes Rule under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(g) and directing him to either (1) pay the filing fee, (2) show that he was under imminent danger, or (3) show that he had not actually amassed three strikes. Doc. 13. Williams objected to that order on August 14, 2015, and United States District Judge Sylvia H. Rambo then affirmed the order on August 17, 2015. Docs. 14-16. Judge Rambo directed Williams to pay the filing fee on or before September 4, 2015. Doc. 16 at 1.

         In early 2016, Williams, without having paid the filing fee, filed two dispositive motions: a motion for summary judgment on January 25, 2016, and a motion for judgment as a matter of law on February 22, 2016. Docs. 21, 23. The undersigned then issued a report and recommendation on March 31, 2016, recommending that the case be dismissed for Williams's failure to pay the filing fee. Doc. 26 at 3. The report and recommendation further recommended that Williams's two pending dispositive ...

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