United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge United States District
Charles Picarella (“Picarella”), an inmate
formerly housed at the Northumberland County Prison, Sunbury,
Pennsylvania, commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Doc. 1). The matter is proceeding via
a second amended complaint. (Doc. 35). The remaining
defendant is sergeant Krista Brouse. Before the court is
defendant's motion (Doc. 84) for summary judgment
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. For the
reasons set forth below, the court will grant the motion.
Allegations of the Second Amended Complaint
was housed at the Northumberland County Prison from
approximately June 23, 2014 through December 10, 2014. (Doc.
35 ¶ 19). From November 3, 2014 through December 10,
2014, he was assigned to cell thirty-nine in the left wing of
the prison. (Id. at ¶ 20).
his incarceration, Picarella alleges that he “create[d]
pen and ink drawings as a creative outlet, form of
expression, and form of speech.” (Id. at
¶ 21). Picarella displayed the drawings in his cell, on
his cell door, and on the walls adjacent to his cell.
(Id. at ¶ 22). He asserts that the drawings did
not obstruct the view into his cell. (Id. at ¶
23). Picarella further states that he gave drawings to fellow
inmates and prison staff, and “trade[d]” the
drawings with fellow inmates and prison staff for various
commodities. (Id. at ¶¶ 24-25).
November 16, 2014, while Picarella was sleeping, defendant
Brouse allegedly confiscated ten of his drawings.
(Id. at ¶¶ 26-27). Later that afternoon,
Picarella asserts that fellow inmates informed him that
defendant Brouse removed the drawings. (Id. at
¶ 30). Picarella claims that he was not provided any
official notice of the intended seizure of his drawings.
(Id. at ¶¶ 28-29). Picarella further
alleges that he did not receive any compensation for the
taking of his property. (Id. at ¶ 31).
November 22, 2014, Picarella filed a grievance regarding the
confiscation of his artwork. (Id. at ¶ 32; Doc.
35, at 9). After Picarella filed the grievance, defendant
Brouse informed him that she did not approve of the drawings,
and she would confiscate any new drawings and place him in
the restricted housing unit if he created new drawings. (Doc.
35 ¶ 33). On November 29, 2014, a lieutenant denied the
grievance because the drawings depicted naked women and were
considered pornography. (Doc. 35 ¶¶ 34-36; Doc. 35,
at 9). On December 2, 2014, Picarella appealed the denial of
his grievance. (Doc. 35 ¶ 38; Doc. 35, at 11). Picarella
claims that he did not receive a response to his grievance
appeal. (Doc. 35 ¶¶ 39-40).
summary adjudication, the court may dispose of those claims
that do not present a “genuine dispute as to any
material fact” and for which a jury trial would be an
empty and unnecessary formality. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). The
burden of proof tasks the non-moving party to come forth with
“affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the
pleadings, ” in support of its right to relief.
Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315
(M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett,
477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). The court is to view the
evidence “in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party and draw all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor.” Thomas v. Cumberland County, 749 F.3d
217, 222 (3d Cir. 2014). This evidence must be adequate, as a
matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the
non-moving party on the claims. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita
Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574,
587-89 (1986). Only if this threshold is met may the cause of
action proceed. See Pappas, 331 F.Supp.2d at 315.
First Amendment Claim
asserts that the confiscation of artwork violated his First
Amendment right to freedom of speech and expression. The
First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States,
made applicable to the states by the Fourteenth Amendment,
Cantwell v. Connecticut, 310 U.S. 296, 303, 60 S.Ct.
900, 84 L.Ed. 1213 (1940), offers protection for a wide
variety of expressive activities. See U.S. Const.
amend I. These rights are lessened, but not extinguished in
the prison context, where legitimate penological interests
must be considered in assessing the constitutionality of
official conduct. See Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78,
purposes of this memorandum, the court will assume that
Picarella's right to possess artwork is entitled to
Constitutional protection. Once a protectable First Amendment
interest has been demonstrated, an inmate may show that a
prison regulation or practice violates his Constitutional
rights by demonstrating that it violated the
“reasonableness test” set forth in
Turner, 482 U.S. at 89, and O'Lone v.
Shabazz, 482 U.S. 342, 349 (1987). This test examines
the following four factors: (1) whether the regulation or
practice in question furthers a legitimate governmental
interest unrelated to the suppression of expression; (2)
whether there are alternative means of exercising First
Amendment rights that remain open to prison inmates; (3)
whether the right can be exercised only at the cost of less
liberty and safety for guards and other prisoners, and the
effect on prison resources in general; and (4) whether an
alternative exists which would fully accommodate the
prisoners' rights at de minimis cost to valid
penological interests. Thornburgh v. Abbott, 490
U.S. 401, 415-18; Turner, 482 U.S. at 89-91.
“The objective is to determine whether the regulation
is reasonable given the prison administrators'
penological concerns and the inmate's interest in
engaging in the constitutionally protected activity.”
DeHart v. Horn, 227 F.3d 47, 59 (3d Cir. 2000).
However, prison administrators need not choose the least
restrictive means possible in trying to further penological
interests, Thornburgh, 490 U.S. at 411, and it is
the burden of the plaintiff to disprove the validity of a
prison regulation or practice. Williams v. Morton,
343 F.3d 212, 217 (2003) (citing Overton v.
Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003)).
respect to the first Turner factor, defendant
asserts that the confiscation of Picarella's artwork was
rationally related to legitimate security interests at the
Northumberland County Prison. (Doc. 85, at 8-10). It is
important to note that prison officials are “accorded
wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of
policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to