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Talbert v. Carney

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 10, 2019

CHARLES TALBERT
v.
BLANCHE CARNEY, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          KEARNEY, J.

         Charles Talbert spent much of the last seven years in state prisons awaiting trials on a variety of criminal charges under Pennsylvania law. Like other prisoners, he complained about the conditions of confinement and challenged his medical care in prison. Unlike most prisoners, he pro se sued many of those who supervised his detention and he also sued the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and wardens not directly involved in his grievances. As we detailed in an April 5, 2019 Memorandum in No. 19-1340, he filed at least fifty-four lawsuits as a pro se civil rights litigant since 2012 challenging state actors without paying the filing fees based on his alleged pauper status.[1] Under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, Congress precludes a prisoner from bringing claims in forma pauperis if a court dismissed his claims as lacking merit under the Prison Litigation Reform Act at least three times.[2] By April 5, 2019, we dismissed at least four of his recent cases as frivolous, malicious, or for failing to state a plausible claim for relief. Consistent with Congress' mandate, we held Mr. Talbert may only proceed with new claims without paying filing fees when he shows the defendant places him in impending danger.

         Knowing Congress precludes him from filing new cases without paying fees after our April 5, 2019 Order in No. 19-1340, Mr. Talbert then tried an end run: add claims and defendants to cases against other correctional officers with no relation to the pending case. We reject this end run.

         Mr. Talbert may timely sue correctional officers and others he believes deprive him of civil rights while incarcerated. But Congress requires he pay the fees or show imminent harm from the named defendant to avoid paying fees. We today deny his motion to amend to add new claims to this case against state actors with no temporal or substantive connection to the underlying case. We also strike allegations against Officer Shaniqua Ford unrelated to the claims in the original case against Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark which resulted in a jury verdict against Mr. Talbert last month.

         I. Background

         Mr. Talbert began another term of pretrial detention at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in late October 2017.[3] Blanche Carney served as Philadelphia Department of Prisons Commissioner and Gerald May served as Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility Warden.[4] Mr. Talbert alleged Commissioner Carney and Warden May quickly reviewed and approved a transfer request transferring Mr. Talbert from Curran-Fromhold to the Detention Center.[5] They did so, Mr. Talbert claimed, "without notice, hearing, or chance to object."[6] Terrance Clark served as Detention Center's Warden during Mr. Talbert's period of incarceration.[7]

         Upon arrival at the Detention Center, Mr. Talbert alleged Commissioner Carney and Warden Clark "reviewed and approved [Mr. Talbert] being left in administrative segregation indefinitely."[8] While housed in administrative segregation, Mr. Talbert claims he experienced: "(A) lack of shower, sleep, eating, and recreational time due to the plague of mice and roach infestation on the entire administrative housing unit[;] (B) damaged commissary from mice chewing through its packages, costing hundreds of dollars in financial loss[;] (C) lack of out-of- cell, and outdoor exercise, that caused poor health conditions such as high cholesterol, and aggravation to [Mr. Talbert's] preexisting chronic lower back pain and spasms[;] (D) deprived equal access to Islamic literature, and Emam, that Christians had to Chaplains and Bibles[; and] (E) post-traumatic stress, mental anguish, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and forced to be on suicide watch."[9] Mr. Talbert complained these conditions persisted from his transfer to the Detention Center sometime after his arrest on October 31, 2017 until his release from pretrial detention on March 2, 2018.[10]

         At its core, Mr. Talbert complained Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark retaliated against Mr. Talbert because he filed numerous lawsuits against each of them, and they violated Mr. Talbert's procedural due process rights by placing him in administrative segregation without notice or an opportunity for him to object.

         We proceeded through discovery and prepared to try Mr. Talbert's case beginning in early September 2019.[11]

         Having dismissed at least three of his cases filed with leave to proceed in forma pauperis, we barred Mr. Talbert from filing new cases without either paying the required fees or demonstrating imminent harm from the named defendant.

         Mr. Talbert filed at least fifty-four cases against state actors in this Court since 2012. This Court granted him leave to proceed in forma pauperis in these cases, including this case against Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark. Upon review of a motion to proceed in forma pauperis in No. 19-1340, we entered detailed findings in a Memorandum supporting our denial of his motion for leave on April 5, 2019. We then held he could only proceed with new claims as a prisoner if he paid the filing fee or demonstrated imminent harm presented by the named defendant.

         Mr. Talbert amended to add claims against Officer Ford and Lieutenant Muhollan arising from alleged conduct in January and February 2019.

         About a month after we barred him from filing new lawsuits without paying fees or showing imminent harm, Mr. Talbert moved to amend this case to add new claims against new state actors challenging conduct occurring almost a year after the conduct at issue here.[12] Mindful of the liberal amendments under Rule 15, we allowed Mr. Talbert to amend his complaint and add claims against Officer Ford and Lieutenant Muhollan subject to our review on the merits. His amended allegations related to conduct allegedly beginning in January 2019 when "Defendant Muhollan, established, and maintained, a campaign of harassment in retaliation of [Mr. Talbert's] filing a slew of lawsuits against the [Philadelphia Department of Prisons]."[13] Mr. Talbert alleged Lieutenant Muhollan "called [Mr. Talbert] a jailhouse snitch," "threatened [Mr. Talbert] with serious bodily injury," "called [Mr. Talbert] a 'nigger, '" and "made false statements against [Mr. Talbert] in a prison misconduct, in which on Feb. 6, 2019, that misconduct, was declined by Cpt. Harmer, finding [Mr. Talbert], 'not guilty.'"[14] Mr. Talbert alleged this conduct occurred between January 10, 2019 and February 18, 2019.[15]

         Mr. Talbert made similar claims against Officer Ford. He alleged Officer Ford "established, and maintained a campaign of harassment and oppression, in retaliation of [Mr. Talbert] filing a lawsuit upon [Philadelphia Department of Prisons Commissioner] Carney."[16] Mr. Talbert alleged Officer Ford between February 20 and 27, 2019 told other inmates Mr. Talbert "was a jailhouse snitch, and needed stitches."[17] When another inmate, Zhyare Knox, reentered general population from disciplinary detention, Mr. Talbert claims Mr. Knox told him Officer Ford called him a snitch and "wanted [Mr. Talbert] assaulted."[18] Mr. Knox subsequently assaulted Mr. Talbert, and prison staff transferred Mr. Talbert to Torresdale Hospital for evaluation of a closed-head injury.[19] Mr. Talbert believed "[Officer] Ford caused [Mr. Talbert] to be assaulted by [Mr.] Knox, in retaliation of [Mr. Talbert] filing lawsuits against [Commissioner] Carney and other [Philadelphia Department of Prisons] staff members.[20] The entirety of Officer Ford's alleged conduct occurred between February 20, 2019 and February 27, 2019.

         We dismissed Mr. Talbert's claims against Lieutenant Muhollan as violative of the three strikes rule in the Prison Litigation Reform Act.

         Mr. Talbert effected service of his amended Complaint upon Lieutenant Muhollan who promptly moved to strike the allegations against him as violating the three strikes rule in the Prison Litigation Reform Act under our April 5, 2019 Order in No. 19-1340. He did not serve Officer Shaniqua Ford with the amended Complaint until mid-September.

         We granted Lieutenant Muhollan's request to strike Mr. Talbert's allegations against him.[21]Because we dismissed Mr. Talbert at least three times and his claims against Lieutenant Muhollan did not constitute imminent danger, we lacked a basis to allow Mr. Talbert to proceed in forma pauperis with these new claims under our April 5, 2019 Order.[22] Further, Mr. Talbert complained of Lieutenant Muhollan's conduct between January 2019 and February 2019, but he filed his original lawsuit against Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark in April 2018 complaining of conduct occurring between November 2017 and February 2018.[23] These new claims attempted to end run our April 5, 2019 Order in No. 19-1340 requiring Mr. Talbert pay the fees or demonstrate imminent harm if he wished to proceed.[24] If we sustained Mr. Talbert's claims against Lieutenant Muhollan it would "undermine [] our earlier dismissal of the same claims under the Prison Litigation Reform Act."[25]

         The jury finds in favor of Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark

         Mr. Talbert tried hjs case to jury verdict on September 5, 2019.[26] The jury unanimously found in favor of Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark and against Mr. Talbert with respect to his claims concerning his pretrial detention from October 2017 through March 2018.[27]

         Mr. Talbert then moved for a new trial and renewed his motion for a judgment as a matter of law.[28] We today deny his post-trial Motions.

         Mr. Talbert served Officer Ford after our September trial.

         Before Mr. Talbert's September 2019 trial against Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark, we stayed his as-yet unserved claims against Officer Ford "to be resolved after service upon [her], evaluations of her defenses and in accord with a scheduling Order setting deadlines and trial addressing those claims."[29]

         The United States Marshal returned Mr. Talbert's original Summons for the amended Complaint to Officer Ford as unexecuted because she "could not be located without additional identifying information."[30] We ordered Mr. Talbert to show cause as to why we should not dismiss Officer Ford for his failure to prosecute.[31] He complied with our Order and stated he filed another "285 form" with the United States Marshal with Officer Ford's correct name and identifying information.[32] We then ordered the Clerk of Court to amend the docket with Officer Ford's correct name and identifying information and issue summons to Officer Ford, and for the United States Marshal to reattempt service of summons and Mr. Talbert's amended complaint on Officer Ford.[33]

         The United States Marshal successfully served Officer Ford with the amended Complaint on September 12, 2019 following the jury verdict in this case.[34] Officer Ford now moves to strike allegations against her in the amended Complaint as violative of the Prison Litigation Reform Act under our April 5, 2019 Order.

         Mr. Talbert moves to add claims in this case against Commissioner Carney, Wardens May, Clark and Delaney, Lieutenant Murray, and Officer Ford challenging the 2017 conduct adjudicated by the jury and a February 2019 assault by another inmate.

         Mr. Talbert now requests we allow him to amend his amended Complaint "to conform to the evidence before and after the judgment was entered ..., "[35] He identifies five reasons why we should permit his amendments: "(1) leave shall be freely given [under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15] when justice so requires[;] (2) newly discovered evidence and acts of Defendants were established before, during, and after the filing of the original pleadings[;] (3) fraud, perjury, and misrepresentation have been recognized before the Court[;] (4) the names of new Defendants are made part of newly discovered evidence which caused [Mr. Talbert's] rights to be violated[; and] (5) amendment is appropriate in order for [Mr. Talbert] to adequately mike a pleading to conform with all evidence made subject of the original pleadings."[36]

         He wishes to supplement claims against Commissioner Carney and Warden May and Clark related to his administrative segregation tried to the jury in early September. Mr. Talbert's proposed amendments with respect to Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark are indistinguishable from Mr. Talbert's amended Complaint. He again complains of his transfer from Curran-Fromhold to the Detention Center in 2017 and his placement in administrative segregation for an indeterminate period of time.[37] He alleges Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark did so as "a punishment for an exercise of [Mr. Talbert's] right to seek redress."[38]

         Mr. Talbert then asserts Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark "committed fraud and misrepresented facts to the Court and to the jury in regard to their knowledge of [Mr. Talbert's] settled lawsuits filed against them."[39] Mr. Talbert now attempts to again amend his complaint to include claims concerning Commissioner Carney and Wardens May and Clark's conduct at trial.

         Mr. Talbert also attempts to bring new, unrelated claims against current Curran-Fromhold Warden Delaney and Curran-Fromhold Lieutenant Murray for conduct in February 2019 and March 2019.[40] Mr. Talbert alleges when he began a new period of pretrial detention in late February 2019, Lieutenant Murray served as his general population unit Lieutenant.[41] He spoke to Lieutenant Murray "[o]n numerous occasions between February 20th, and February 27th, 2019 . .. concerning [Officer] Fords [sic] interminable disrespect towards [Mr. Talbert] ... ."[42]

         Mr. Talbert alleges Commissioner Carney forwarded a "routing slip" for one of Mr. Talbert's grievance forms to Warden Delaney on March 22, 2019.[43] Three days later, Lieutenant Murray "knowingly, intentionally, and maliciously attempted to cover up" evidence related to Mr. Knox's assaulting Mr. Talbert.[44] Warden Delaney and Lieutenant Murray then forwarded evidence of his assault to the Philadelphia Police Department which "place[d] [Mr. Talbert] at serious risk of danger by other inmates by being labeled a snitch."[45]

         Mr. Talbert's new complaints against Warden Delaney and Lieutenant Murray relate to conduct occurring between February and March 2019. They do not relate to Mr. Talbert's underlying claims concerning his placement in administrative segregation resolved by the jury.

         Mr. Talbert proposes no substantive amendments to his claims in his amended Complaint against Officer Ford. His claims relate to conduct between February and March 2019 and do not implicate his underlying complaints about his administrative segregation in 2017 and early 2018 resolved by the jury.[46]

         II. ...


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