James H. Williams, Petitioner
John E. Wetzel (Secretary of Corrections) Dorina Varner (Chief Grievance Officer) Barry Smith (Facility Manager, S.C.I. Houtzdale) Susan McQuillen (I/M Employment Officer) (Houtzdale) Ginter (Unit Manager, S.C.I. Houtzdale) Pittsinger (Food Service Manager, Houtzdale) Derring (Food Service Staff Member, Houtzdale) Pa. Department of Corrections Officials, Respondents
Submitted: November 16, 2018
BEFORE: HONORABLE ROBERT SIMPSON, Judge  HONORABLE P. KEVIN
BROBSON, Judge HONORABLE ELLEN CEISLER, Judge.
KEVIN BROBSON, JUDGE.
a matter in the Court's original jurisdiction. Presently
before the Court for consideration is an application for
summary relief, filed by James H. Williams (Williams),
pro se, with respect to a petition for review
(Petition) filed by Williams. In his Petition, Williams seeks
a multitude of declaratory, injunctive, and compensatory
forms of relief against various officers and employees of the
Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and DOC,
collectively DOC Defendants,  relating to DOC's
interpretation of its administrative directive DC-ADM
and DOC's alleged use of Section 1.M.7 of DC-ADM
to circumvent the procedural requirements provided in Section
93.10 of DOC's regulations, 37 Pa. Code §
93.10. For the reasons set forth below, we grant
Williams' application for summary relief with respect to
his request for declaratory and injunctive relief.
Petition, Williams avers that DOC is removing inmates from
their job assignments using DC-ADM 816 as a means to bypass
hearing requirements provided by DOC's regulations.
Williams contends that DOC is attempting to bypass these
hearing requirements because the hearing examiner
"dismiss[ed] so many misconduct reports because staff
were not following proper procedures." (Petition at 16.)
DOC's actions, Williams avers, are in violation of the
due process rights contained in the DOC Inmate Handbook
(Inmate Handbook) and this Court's decision in Bush
v. Veach, 1 A.3d 981 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2010), wherein we held
that DOC must comply with the procedural requirements found
in 37 Pa. Code § 93.10(b) when it is attempting to
remove permanently an inmate from his job detail after the
issuance of a DC-141. In response, DOC filed a preliminary
objection in the nature of a demurrer to this action,
challenging the legal sufficiency of Williams' claims. By
opinion and order dated January 25, 2018, we overruled
DOC's preliminary objections. In our decision, we
described the facts of this action as follows:
According to the allegations in the [Petition], Williams is
an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Houtzdale
(SCI-Houtzdale), where he maintained a job assignment in the
facility's kitchen. On December 30, 2016, a DOC officer
performed a routine pat search on Williams prior to Williams
leaving work. The officer discovered approximately two and
one-half pounds of sugar concealed in Williams' boots.
DOC did not issue Williams a misconduct report (DC-141) for
On January 1, 2017, Williams filed an inmate grievance with
DOC, alleging that DOC removed Williams from his job
assignment without first affording him due process.
Specifically, Williams alleged that in order for DOC to
remove Williams from his job assignment, DOC must first
afford Williams a hearing pursuant to DOC policy DC-ADM 801
and 37 Pa. Code § 93.10, [ ]
relating to inmate discipline.
On January 4, 2017, prior to DOC responding to Williams'
grievance, a DOC Unit Manager conducted a Support Team
hearing at Williams' cell door. During this hearing, the
Unit Manager informed Williams that Williams' work
supervisor sent an email to the Unit Management Team
regarding Williams' transgression, and that, as a result,
the Unit Management Team removed Williams from his job
On January 17, 2017, DOC denied Williams' grievance. The
denial provided that the procedures set forth in 37 Pa. Code
§ 93.10(b) did not apply, because Williams' removal
was not the result of the issuance of a DC-141. Instead, DOC
asserted that Section 1.M.7 of DC-ADM 816[
] controlled Williams' removal. Moreover,
Section 1.B.6 of DC-ADM 816 provides that inmates do not have
a right to be assigned or continue any specific work
assignment. On that basis, DOC denied Williams'
Williams appealed this decision to the facility manager,
arguing that because he "committed a misconduct,"
DOC must follow the procedural requirements found in 37 Pa.
Code § 93.10(b). DOC denied this appeal, stating that
DOC's first response "appropriately addressed"
Williams submitted a final appeal to DOC's Chief
Grievance Officer, again arguing that DOC did not comply with
proper procedure in removing Williams from his work position.
Specifically, Williams argued that DOC misinterpreted the
language of Section 1.M.7 of DC-ADM 816. As Section 1.M.7
provides that Unit Management Teams could remove an inmate
for reasons "other than misconduct," Williams
argued that he could not be removed under this section, as he
had committed a form of misconduct.
DOC again denied Williams' appeal, as Williams presented
"no evidence that DOC policy DC-ADM 816 was
Williams v. Wetzel, 178 A.3d at 921-22 (footnotes
omitted) (citations omitted).
now seeks summary relief before this Court on his contention
that DOC has used its interpretation of Section 1.M.7 of
DC-ADM 816 to remove inmates from job assignments without
having to adhere to the procedural requirements in Section
93.10(b) of DOC's regulations. In response to
Williams' application, DOC asks this Court to deny
Williams summary relief, arguing that, pursuant to its
interpretation of Section 1.M.7 of DC-ADM 816, DOC is
permitted to remove inmates from job assignments without
providing a hearing. Moreover, DOC contends that it is
entitled to deference from the Court as to its interpretation
of this administrative directive.
regard to applications for summary relief, Pennsylvania Rule
of Appellate Procedure 1532(b) provides: "At any time
after the filing of a petition for review in an appellate or
original jurisdiction matter the court may on application
enter judgment if the right of the applicant thereto is
clear." Applications for summary relief are
"similar to the relief envisioned by the rules of civil
procedure governing summary judgment." Brittain v.
Beard, 974 A.2d 479, 484 (Pa. 2009). Where, therefore,
"a party's right to judgment is clear and no
material issues of fact are in dispute[, ]" we may grant
an application for summary relief. Jubelirer v.
Rendell, 953 A.2d 514, 521 (Pa. 2008) (quoting
Calloway v. Pa. Bd. of Prob. & Parole, 857 A.2d
218, 220 n.3 (Pa. Cmwlth.), appeal quashed, 864 A.2d
1199 (Pa. 2004)).
administrative directives address inmate misconduct and
disciplinary procedures. When inmates violate rules set forth
by DOC, Section 1.A of DC-ADM 801 provides: "the
violation shall be reported and disposed of either
by an informal or formal process." Misconducts are
defined as "[a]ny violation of [sic] alleged violation
of [DOC] rules, regulations, or policies." Glossary of
Terms, DC-ADM 801. Section 1.B of DC-ADM 801 requires
misconducts to be reported "via a DC-141, Part 1,
Misconduct Report." Further, inmates charged with
misconduct "shall receive a copy of the
[DC-141]." Section 1.B of DC-ADM 801 (emphasis added).
DOC classifies misconduct by two categories: Class I charges
and Class II charges. Section 1, Attachment 1-A of DC-ADM
801. Only some types of misconduct may be eligible for
informal resolution-i.e., Class I charges numbers
35-46 and all Class II charges. Id. Class II charges
include "[t]aking unauthorized food from the dining room
or kitchen" and "[p]ossession of any item not
authorized for retention or receipt by the inmate not
specifically enumerated as Class I
contraband." Id. When a Shift Commander
recommends a DC-141 for informal resolution, a Unit Manager
and at least one other member of the Unit Management Team
must meet with the offending inmate for disposition of the
charges. Section 2.A.4 of DC-ADM 801. At the informal
resolution meeting, the inmate "shall be permitted to
give his/her version of the events." Id.
Inmates may lose their job assignments for work-related
misconduct as part of the informal resolution process, but
inmates may appeal the informal resolution. Section 2.B.1.g
of DC-ADM 801; Section 2.C.1, 2 of DC-ADM 801. These
provisions coincide with Section 93.10 of DOC's
regulations, which outlines the sanctions applicable when DOC
issues a DC-141. See 37 Pa. Code § 93.10.
to DOC's regulations, inmates who commit Class II
misconducts may suffer, among other sanctions, "change,
suspension[, ] or removal from job." 37 Pa. Code §
93.10(a)(2)(v). Before DOC can impose a sanction under this
regulation, however, DOC must follow the procedures set forth
in subsection (b) of the regulation. 37 Pa. Code §
93.10(b). Subsection (b) lists six different procedural
requirements applicable when imposing inmate discipline:
(1) Written notice of charges.
(2) Hearing before an impartial hearing examiner or an
informal resolution process for charges specified by [DOC] in