Murray v. Keen et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) - Re Defendants' 21 MOTION to Dismiss the Complaint. Signed by Honorable Matthew W. Brann on 3/11/14. (km)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SHAWN CHRISTIAN MURRAY,
DANIEL S. KEEN, ET AL.,
CIVIL NO. 4:CV-13-258
March 11, 2014
Shawn Christian Murray initiated this pro se civil rights action regarding
events which allegedly transpired during his prior confinement as a pre-trial
detainee at the Franklin County Prison, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.1 Named as
Defendants are the following Franklin County officials: Commissioners David
Keller, Robert Thomas, and Robert Ziobrowski; Sheriff Dane Anthony; President
Judge Douglas Herman; Controller Carol Diller; and District Attorney Matthew
Fogal. Plaintiff is also proceeding against seven (7) employees of the Franklin
Plaintiff is presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Camp Hill,
Pennsylvania (SCI-Camp Hill). See Doc. 26.
County Prison: Warden Daniel Keen; Deputy Wardens Russell Rouzer and
Michelle Weller; Deputy of Inmate Records Carol Lemaster; Business Director
Tammy Heckman; Intake Nurse Jane Doe2; and Director of Treatment Jessica
Plaintiff states that he entered the Franklin County Prison as a pre-trial
detainee on August 27, 2012. See Doc. 1, ¶ 22. Upon his arrival, Murray was
processed by Intake Nurse Jane Doe who purportedly treated him in a hostile
manner. Due to her personal dislike of Plaintiff, Nurse Doe allegedly engaged in
retaliation by improperly assigning him to administrative segregation as having
mental health issues. Murray remained in administrative segregation for a period
of eleven (11) days.
The Complaint next contends throughout the course of Murray’s
confinement in the Franklin County Prison, he suffered sleep deprivation, eyesight
John/Jane Doe defendants may only be allowed "to stand in for the
alleged real parties until discovery permits the intended defendants to be installed."
Johnson v. City of Erie, 834 F. Supp. 873, 878 (W.D. Pa. 1993) (citations omitted).
Absent compelling reasons, a district court may dismiss such defendants if a plaintiff,
after being granted a reasonable period of discovery, fails to identify them. Scheetz v.
Morning Call, Inc., 130 F.R.D. 34, 37 (E.D. Pa. 1990) ("Fictitious parties must
eventually be dismissed, if discovery yields no identities.").
Based on this Court's review of the record, although this action was filed over a
year ago, Plaintiff has not yet provided this Court with the identity of Defendant
Nurse Jane Doe.
problems, and headaches from the continuous lighting in the cells. Plaintiff adds
that in retaliation for filing a grievance regarding the interior cell constant
illumination, the lights outside the cell are now also continuously left on at night.
See id. at ¶ 26.
Plaintiff next contends that he was granted a medical exemption to prison
policy by a Doctor Tonya which allows him to lay under the blanket on his bed
from 6:30 to 18:30.3 However, despite having medical authorization and his status
as a pre-trial detainee, prison officials have refused to allow him to stay under the
blanket thereby aggravating the tendonitis in his shoulders. According to the
Complaint, the conditions of his pre-trial confinement were also unconstitutional
because the prison has no outdoor recreation/yard and inmates are never permitted
to leave their cell block. See id. at ¶ 42.
It is further alleged that prison officials acted improperly by deducting
money from Murray’s inmate account for room and board. Plaintiff seeks
injunctive relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages
Defendants have responded to the Complaint by filing a motion to dismiss
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Doc. 21. The
unopposed motion is ripe for consideration.
Presumably, 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
See Doc. 1, Exhibits C & D.
Standard of Review
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of
complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling
on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept as true all
factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be
drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.”
Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher,
423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). A plaintiff must present facts that, if true,
demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(stating that the
complaint should include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief”); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). This requirement “calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation
that discovery will reveal evidence of” the necessary elements of the plaintiff’s
cause of action. Id. at 556. A complaint must contain “more than an unadorned,
the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S.
____ , 129 S.Ct 1937, 1949 (2009). “Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause
of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice.” Iqbal, 129
S.Ct. at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and the
complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See id. at 1950.
“Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are
true (even if doubtful in fact).” Twombly, at 555. The reviewing court must
determine whether the complaint “contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations
respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some
viable legal theory.” Id. at 562; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)(in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must
allege in his complaint “enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]” of a particular cause of
action). Additionally, pro se pleadings are to be construed liberally, Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
Finally, Plaintiff describes himself as being a pre-trial detainee. The Third
Circuit Court of Appeals has observed that claims by pre-trial detainees have
parameters that are coextensive with those of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition
against cruel and unusual punishment. Keller v. County of Bucks, 2006 WL
3779749 *3 (3d Cir. Dec. 22, 2006).
Murray’s Complaint, in part, seeks an award of injunctive relief requesting
that Franklin County Prison officials: discontinue charging for room and board;
using administrative segregation as punishment; provide adequate outdoor
recreation; and allow prisoners to be under their blankets. See Doc. 1, p. 22.
Federal courts can only resolve actual cases or controversies, U.S. Const.,
Art. III, § 2, and this limitation subsists “through all stages of federal judicial
proceedings. . . .” Id. see also Steffel v. Thompson, 415 U.S. 452, 459 (1974) (the
adjudicatory power of a federal court depends upon "the continuing existence of a
live and acute controversy)" (emphasis in original). An actual controversy must
be extant at all stages of review, not merely at the time the complaint is filed." Id.
at n.10 (citations omitted). "Past exposure to illegal conduct is insufficient to
sustain a present case or controversy . . . if unaccompanied by continuing, present
adverse effects." Rosenberg v. Meese, 622 F. Supp. 1451, 1462 (S.D.N.Y. 1985)
(citing O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 495-96 (1974)); see also Gaeta v.
Gerlinski, Civil No. 3:CV-02-465, slip op. at p. 2 (M.D. Pa. May 17, 2002)
Furthermore, an inmate's claim for injunctive relief fails to present a case or
controversy once the inmate has been transferred. Wahl v. McIver, 773 F.2d
1169, 1173 (11th Cir. 1985) (citation omitted); see also Carter v. Thompson, 808
F. Supp. 1548, 1555 (M.D. Fla. 1992).
On February 28, 2014, Plaintiff notified this Court that he had been been
transferred to SCI-Camp Hill.4 See Doc. 26. There is no indication that Murray
will be returned to the Franklin County Prison in the foreseeable future.
Accordingly, Plaintiff’s action to the extent that it seeks injunctive relief based
upon actions which occurred during his prior confinement at the Franklin County
Prison is subject to dismissal on the basis of mootness.
A plaintiff, in order to state an actionable civil rights claim, must plead two
essential elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person
acting under color of law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a
right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United
States. See Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995);
Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990).
Furthermore, federal civil rights claims brought under § 1983 cannot be
premised on a theory of respondeat superior. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Rather, each named defendant must be shown, via the
complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or
Shortly after the filing of this matter, Plaintiff notified the Court that he had
been temporarily released from prison. See Doc. 10. Murray later returned to the
Franklin County Prison in November 2013. See Doc. 23.
occurrences which underlie a claim. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976);
Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077 (3d Cir. 1976). As
explained in Rode:
A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal
involvement in the alleged wrongs. . . . [P]ersonal involvement
can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of
actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of
participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however,
must be made with appropriate particularity.
Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207.
Plaintiff names the following members of the Franklin County Prison Board
as Defendants: County Commissioners David Keller, Robert Thomas, and Robert
Ziobrowski; Sheriff Dane Anthony; President Judge Douglas Herman; Controller
Carol Diller; and District Attorney Matthew Fogal (Prison Board Defendants).
The initial argument for dismissal asserts that the Prison Board Defendants
cannot be liable under a theory of respondeat superior and that although “Plaintiff
alleges that certain individuals serve on the Prison Board, he has failed to aver any
facts establishing or tending to establish that any of these individuals were
involved in issuing any policy which to the alleged violation of his civil rights” as
contemplated under Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91
(1978). Doc. 22, p. 6. Defendants add that there are no facts asserted showing
that any Prison Board member had knowledge of, or involvement in the alleged
misconduct directed towards Murray.
A municipal body or other local governmental unit, not part of a state for
Eleventh Amendment purposes, may be a "person" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. Monell, 436 U.S. at 690-91(“Congress did intend municipalities and other
local government units to be included among those persons to whom § 1983
applies.”) “Local governing bodies, like every other § 1983 'person,' by the very
terms of the statute, may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to
governmental 'custom' even though such a custom has not received formal
approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels.” Id. See also Board
of County Comm'rs of Bryan County, OK v. Brown, 520 U.S. 398, 403-07 (1997);
Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 196-97 (3d Cir. 1990); Illiano v. Clay Township,
892 F. Supp. 117, 121 (E.D. Pa. 1995).
However, it has been repeatedly held that a local government unit may not
be subjected to § 1983 liability on a theory of respondeat superior. Bryan County,
520 U.S. at 403; City of Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 392 (1989); Pembaur v.
Cincinnati, 475 U.S. 469, 478-79 (1986); Monell, 436 U.S. at 691; Beck v. City of
Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d 966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996); Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895
F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990). Rather, "... a plaintiff seeking to impose liability
on a municipality under § 1983 [is required] to identify a municipal 'policy' or
'custom' that caused the plaintiff's injury." Bryan County, 520 U.S. at 403; Beck,
89 F.3d at 971. In Bryan County, the United States Supreme Court elaborated on
the showing required for municipal liability under § 1983, stating:
. . . [I]t is not enough for a § 1983 plaintiff merely to
identify conduct properly attributable to the municipality.
The plaintiff must also demonstrate that through its
deliberate conduct, the municipality was the 'moving
force' behind the injury alleged. That is, a plaintiff must
show that the municipal action was taken with the
requisite degree of culpability and must demonstrate a
direct causal link between the municipal action and the
deprivation of federal rights.
Id. at 404; see Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1213 (3d Cir. 1996).
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that
liability under § 1983 exists "only when 'execution of a government's policy or
custom, whether made by its lawmakers or by those whose edicts or acts may fairly
be said to represent official policy, inflicts the injury.'" Andrews, 895 F.2d at 1480
(citing Monell, 436 U.S. at 694). Custom can be established by proof of
knowledge and acquiescence. Fletcher v. O’Donnell, 867 F. 2d 791, 793-4 (3d Cir.
With respect to the Prison Board Defendants, there are no facts alleged that
they engaged in deliberate conduct which led to the alleged inadequate conditions
of Murray’s confinement i.e., (recreation, illumination, and administrative
segregation claims). In regards to those contentions, this is simply not a case
where liability is being asserted based upon official knowledge and adoption of
the violation by the Prison Board Defendants. Accordingly, the Prison Board
Defendants are entitled to entry of dismissal on the basis of lack of personal
involvement with respect to those claims.
In light of the liberal standards applied to pro se submissions, an application
of the Iqbal and Twombly criteria to Defendants’ arguments and the allegations set
forth in the Complaint, it is apparent to this Court that Plaintiff, at least at this
juncture of the proceedings, has sufficiently alleged personal involvement by the
Prison Board Defendants with respect to his allegation that the prison had a fiscal
policy in place which permitted the removal of monies from his inmate account to
pay room and board assessments. In fact, Defendants’ supporting brief indicates
that such a room and board fee policy was authorized by the Prison Board. See
Doc. 22, p. 17.
Pursuant to the above discussion, the unopposed request for dismissal in
favor of the Prison Board Defendants on the basis of lack of personal involvement
will be granted with exception of the room and board fee policy related claim.
Also named as Defendants are the following seven (7) employees of the
Franklin County Prison: Warden Keen; Deputy Wardens Rouzer and Weller;
Deputy of Inmate Records Lemaster; Business Director Heckman; Intake Nurse
Jane Doe; and Director of Treatment Sterner (Prison Defendants). With exception
of Nurse Jane Doe, the Prison Defendants seek entry of dismissal on the grounds
that the claims against them are improperly based upon a theory of respondeat
superior. See Doc. 22, p. 6.
As previously discussed, a plaintiff is required under Rode to show, via the
allegations in the complaint, that each defendant was personally involved in the
actions which underlie a claim. Inmates also do not enjoy a constitutional right to
a prison grievance system. See Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners Labor Union,
433 U.S. 119, 137-138 (1977); Speight v. Sims, No. 08-2038, 2008 WL 2600723
at *1 (3d. Cir. Jun 30, 2008)(citing Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir.
2001)(“[T]he existence of a prison grievance procedure confers no liberty interest
on a prisoner”). Consequently, any attempt by a prisoner plaintiff to establish
liability against any correctional official solely based upon the substance or lack of
response to his institutional grievances does not by itself support a constitutional
due process claim. See also Alexander v. Gennarini, 144 Fed. Appx. 924, 925 (3d
Cir. 2005)(involvement in post-incident grievance process not a basis for § 1983
Based upon an application of the above, well established standards, the
unopposed request for dismissal will be granted in favor of the Prison Defendants
to the extent Plaintiff is seeking to assert liability against them based upon either
their respective supervisory positions or their handling of any administrative
grievances and complaints. There are also no factual assertions set forth in the
Complaint which could support a claim that any of the Prison Defendants had
personal involvement in Murray’s administrative custody placement which the
inmate attributes solely to Nurse John Doe. Likewise, there are no facts presented
by Murray showing involvement or acquiescence by any Prison Defendants in the
alleged retaliatory increase in lighting outside of his cell.
However, given the liberal treatment afforded to pro se filings, the Court
will accept at this stage of the proceedings that the Warden and Deputy Wardens
had knowledge of the conditions including cell lighting and recreational
opportunities which existed within the Franklin County Prison during the relevant
time period. Accordingly, the unopposed request for dismissal be granted in favor
of the Prison Defendants with exception of the cell lighting and recreation based
claims against Warden Keen and Deputy Wardens Rouzer and Weller.
Following his arrival at he Franklin County Prison as a pre-trial detainee,
Murray states that he was processed by Intake Nurse Jane Doe who allegedly
improperly assigned him to administrative segregation for eleven (11) days.
as having mental health issues. The Complaint asserts that this placement was
improper as Murray did not have any history of mental health problems, had not
been issued any type misconduct charge, and was not afford with a hearing as to
the reasons for his administrative custody designation. See Doc. 1, ¶ 22. Murray
also maintains that Nurse Doe’s decision was retaliatory, the result of her
purported personal dislike for the Plaintiff.5
Defendants contend that Plaintiff’s placement in segregation for eleven days
without an opportunity to be heard did not violate his due process rights as he was
not deprived of a protected liberty interest. See Doc. 22, p. 9.
The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the states from depriving “any person
of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” U.S. Const. amend. XIV,
§ 1. In order to determine whether a due process violation has occurred, an initial
determination must be made that a protected liberty interest exists and, if so, the
next step is to define what process is mandated to protect it. See Sandin v.
Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 484 (1995). A protected liberty interest may be created by
There are no facts alleged establishing why Nurse Doe disliked Murray.
either the Due Process Clause itself or by state law. Id. Due process requirements
apply only when the prison officials’ actions impose “an atypical and significant
hardship on the inmate in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Id. at
484. Conversely, there can be no due process violation where there is no protected
The United States Supreme Court in Sandin, shifted the focus of liberty
interest analysis from one "based on the language of a particular regulation" to "the
nature of the deprivation" experienced by the prisoner. Id. at 481. In Sandin, the
Supreme Court reasoned, inter alia, that "[d]iscipline by prison officials in response
to a wide range of misconduct" is expected as part of an inmate's sentence. Id. at
485. Courts within this circuit, applying Sandin in various actions, have found no
merit in due process claims presented regarding short term institutional
administrative custody placement. See Torres v. Fauver, 292 F.3d 141, 150-51 (3d
Cir. 2002)(placement in segregation as a disciplinary sanction did not implicate a
protected liberty interest); Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 706-08 (3d Cir.
1997)(no liberty interest in avoiding fifteen (15) month placement in
administrative custody because said confinement was not atypical).
Prisoners simply have no due process protected right not to be placed in
segregation because such placement is not an “atypical and significant hardship in
relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life.” Sandin, 515 U.S. at 484; Smith v.
Mensinger, 293 F.3d 641, 653 (3d Cir. 2002)(“confinement in administrative or
punitive segregation will rarely be sufficient, without more, to establish the kind of
‘atypical’ deprivation of prison life necessary to implicate a liberty interest.”)
Considering the rules of law set forth in Sandin and the subsequent line of
decisions by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, this Court finds that Plaintiff's
action to the extent that it alleges that he was improperly placed in administrative
custody for eleven (11) days upon his entry into the prison is meritless because the
magnitude of his relatively brief placement in segregation did not implicate a
protected liberty interest. The unopposed request for dismissal of this claim will
Conditions of Confinement
A claim by a pre-trial detainee that he was subjected to unconstitutional
conditions of confinement is reviewed under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth
Amendment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520 (1979). The applicable test is whether
the challenged conditions amount to punishment prior to an adjudication of guilt
Since there is no allegation that Plaintiff was retaliated against by Nurse Doe
for engaging in constitutionally protected activity, a viable retaliation claim has also
not been asserted said Defendant. See Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330, 333 (3d Cir.
under the Due Process Clause. “Absent a showing of express intent to punish, the
determination will normally turn on whether the conditions have an alternative
purpose and whether the conditions appear excessive in relation to that purpose.”
Nelson v. Hill, 2006 WL 3741849 *1 (3d Cir Dec. 20, 2006). The Third Circuit
Court of Appeals has observed that claims by pre-trial detainees have parameters
that are coextensive with those of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against
cruel and unusual punishment. Keller v. County of Bucks, 2006 WL 3779749 *3
(3d Cir. Dec. 22, 2006).
An inmate must allege that a condition of confinement is so reprehensible as
to be deemed inhumane under contemporary standards or one that deprives an
inmate of minimal civilized measure of the necessities of life. See Wilson v.
Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991). The prohibition of cruel and unusual
punishment imposes duties on prison officials to provide prisoners with the basic
necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, medical care and
personal safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994); Helling v.
McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). Prison conditions may amount to cruel and
unusual punishment if they cause “unquestioned and serious deprivations of basic
human needs ... [that] deprive inmates of the minimal civilized measure of life’s
necessities.”Tillman v. Lebanon County Correctional Facility, 221 F.3d 410 (3d
A conditions of confinement claim against a prison official must meet two
requirements: (1) “the deprivation alleged must be, objectively, sufficiently
serious;” and (2) the “prison official must have a sufficiently culpable state of
mind.”7 Farmer, 511 U.S. at 834 (1994). In prison conditions cases, “that state of
mind is one of ‘deliberate indifference’ to inmate health or safety.” Id. In
reviewing conditions of confinement claims, courts have stressed that the duration
of the complainant’s exposure to the alleged unconstitutional conditions and the
“totality of the circumstances” are critical to a finding of cruel and inhumane
Plaintiff claims that the conditions of his pre-trial confinement were
unconstitutional because the prison has no outdoor recreation/yard. See Doc. 1, ¶
42. Murray concludes that such a deprivation of outdoor exercise is
unconstitutional. There is no allegation that Murray was denied any exercise
Under Farmer, deliberate indifference is a subjective standard in that the
prison official must actually have known or been aware of the excessive risk to inmate
safety. Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F. 3d 120, 125 (3d Cir. 2001). This
requirement of actual knowledge means that “the official must both be aware of facts
from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial risk of serious harm exists,
and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837.
opportunities whatsoever or that he suffered any accompanying physical injury.8
Defendants assert that a denial of access to outdoor recreation is not
unconstitutional provided that some form of exercise is permitted and the totality
of the conditions of confinement do not violate the Constitution. See Doc. 22, p.
15. As previously noted, this argument is unopposed.
Plaintiff was confined in the Franklin County Prison from August 27, 2012
until approximately March 25, 2013. He later returned to that facility in November
2013 and remained there until February 2014. It is well settled that temporary
denial of exercise with no medical effect is not a substantial deprivation under the
Eighth Amendment. Gattis v. Phelps, 344 Fed. Appx. 801, 805, (3d Cir. 2009).
Courts have similarly recognized that the denial of recreation for a thirteen (13)
day period does not amount to cruel and unusual punishment. Knight v.
Armontrout, 878 F.2d 1093, 1096 (8th Cir. 1989).
In Gattis, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals noted that minimal provision
of exercise and recreation can satisfy the Constitution. Gattis, 344 Fed. Appx. at
805 (limited exercise with no guarantee of outdoor recreation does not implicate
Thus precluding an award of compensatory damages. See Allah v. AlHafeez, 226 F.3d 247,250 (3d Cir. 2000), (where a plaintiff fails to allege actual
injury, 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) bars recovery of compensatory damages).
the Eighth Amendment). A denial of exercise or recreation only results in a
constitutional violation “if such denial is sufficiently serious to deprive the
prisoner of the minimal civilized measure of life necessities.” Id.
Based upon a liberal reading of the pro se Complaint, this is not a case where
is a prisoner is alleging denial of all recreation or exercise opportunities. Rather,
Murray contends only that he was denied outdoor exercise and recreation during
the approximately seven (7) months he was held as a pre-trial detainee.9 Since
there is no assertion that Murray was denied any exercise or recreation, this Court
agrees that under the rationale set forth in Gattis, the alleged denial of outdoor
recreation was not sufficiently serious to deprive the prisoner of the minimal
civilized measure of life necessities. See Gregorio v. Aviles, No. 11-2771, 2013
WL 1187096 *6 (D.N.J. March 20, 2013)(dismissing claim of denial of outdoor
recreation to pre-trial detainee for ten months); Miller v. Trometter, No. 4:11-cv811, 2012 WL 5933015 * 11 (M.D. Pa. Nov. 27, 2012)(Nealon, J.); Wyland v.
Brownfield, No. 08-1601, 2011 WL 5445305 * 7 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 9,
2011)(dismissing claim of denial of outdoor exercise where Plaintiff failed to
allege that he was precluded from any form of exercise or that he sustained a
It is noted that a significant portion of the period at issue consisted of cold
weather months where outdoor recreation may not have been an option.
specific injury from lack of exercise). The unopposed request for dismissal of the
lack of outdoor recreation claim will be granted.
Murray alleges that he suffered sleep deprivation, eyesight problems, and
headaches from the constant illumination from the lighting in his cell. Plaintiff
adds that in retaliation for filing a grievance regarding the interior cell lighting, the
lights outside the cell are now also continuously left on at night. See Doc. 1, ¶ 26.
Defendants seek dismissal of those claims on the basis that Murray does not aver
any facts demonstrating deliberate indifference. See Doc. 22, p. 10.
It is initially noted, that this Court has concluded that due to Plaintiff’s
failure to identify the prison official[s] who was responsible for the alleged
increase in the lighting outside his cell, a viable retaliation claim has not been
stated. See Lape v. Pennsylvania, 157 Fed. Appx. 491, 498 (3d Cir. 2005); Krouse
v. American Sterlizer Co., 126 F.3d 494, 503 (3d Cir. 1997)(only where the facts
of a particular case are “unusually suggestive” of a retaliatory motive will temporal
proximity, standing alone, support an inference of causation.
It has been recognized that “continuous exposure to low wattage night time
security lighting may be permissible based on legitimate security concerns.” Sims
v. Piazza, 2009 WL 3147800 *23 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 28, 2009)(Kosik, J.); King v.
Frank, 371 F. Supp.2d 977, 984-85 (W.D. Wisc. 2005). Similarly, in Brown v.
Martinez, 2007 WL 2225842 * 8 (M.D. Pa. July 31, 2007) it was concluded that
the presence of a 15 watt security night light in a prisoner’s cell was necessary for
night time institutional security and thus did not give rise to a constitutional
However, requiring inmates to live in constant illumination may under
certain circumstances rise to the level of a constitutional violation. Bacon v.
Minner, 229 Fed. Appx. 96, 100 (3d Cir. 2007). In Bacon, the Court of Appeals
concluded that a claim that the main lights in a segregated housing unit which
“were turned on between the hours of 8:30 am and 11:30 pm” as well as between
“4:45 am and 7:00 am” did not rise to the level of a constitutional violation
because the plaintiff did not allege that he was subject to constant illumination or
had suffered any significant medical problem due to the purportedly excessive
illumination. The Court concluded that Inmate Bacon’s claims “were not
objectively serious to warrant constitutional protection.” Id.
Unlike Bacon, the present Complaint claims that the purported excessive
lighting caused Murray to suffer lack of sleep; optical problems, and headaches.
Given that this Court is required, when considering a motion to dismiss, to accept
The wattage and type of interior cell lighting at issue herein is unclear.
as true the pro se allegations in the Complaint that constant illumination in the
Franklin County Prison caused Plaintiff to suffer multiple medical problems, the
claim that the prison lighting violated Murray’s rights under the Eighth
Amendment is sufficient to withstand scrutiny under Rule 12(b)(6). See Erler v.
Dominguez, 2011 WL 781528 * 6 (N.D. Ind. Feb. 28, 2011). This claim will be
allowed to proceed against Warden Keen and Deputy Wardens Rouzer and Weller.
Plaintiff states that prior to entering the prison he was diagnosed as suffering
from tendonitis in his shoulders. See Doc. 1, ¶ 39. Murray’s remaining allegation
is that he was granted a medical exemption by a Doctor Tonya which allowed him
to be “under my covers” on his bed from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.. See Doc. 1,
Exhibit C. However, despite having medical authorization and his status asa pretrial detainee, prison officials have refused to allow him to stay under the blanket
during the daytime hours thereby aggravating the tendonitis in his shoulders.
In addition to their previously discussed meritorious lack of personal
involvement argument with respect to this claim, Defendants also contend that this
allegation fails to establish any deliberate indifference on the part of the
Defendants. See Doc. 22, p. 12. They note that an exhibit (Doc. 1, Exhibit D)
attached to the Complaint contradicts Murray’s claim that he was granted medical
authorization to be under his covers during the daytime hours. Moreover, there is
no claim by Plaintiff the conditions in his cell jeopardized his health or that his cell
was unfit for habitation.
As previously discussed by this Court, prison officials must provide
prisoners with the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, shelter,
sanitation, medical care and personal safety. See Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
832 (1994); Helling v. McKinney, 509 U.S. 25, 31 (1993). It is well settled that
prison conditions constitute cruel and unusual punishment if they result in serious
deprivations of basic human needs. See Tillman v. Lebanon County Correctional
Facility, 221 F.3d 410 (3d Cir. 2000).
In addition to showing conditions that pose a risk of serious harm, the
inmate must show that the prison official responsible for the conditions of
confinement acted with “a sufficiently culpable state of mind.” Id. at 298. A
prison official violates the Eighth Amendment when he acts with deliberate
indifference to a known objectively serious risk to a prisoner’s health or safety.
See Farmer, 511 U.S. at 837; Beers-Capitol v. Whetzel, 256 F. 3d 120, 125 (3d
Cir. 2001). This requirement of actual knowledge means that “the official must
both be aware of facts from which the inference could be drawn that a substantial
risk of serious harm exists, and he must also draw the inference.” Farmer, 511
U.S. at 837.
Exhibit D which is attached to Plaintiff’s Complaint states that there was no
authorization in Murray’s prison medical records which allowed him to be under
the covers all day and that prison policy does not allow for prisoners to be under
their covers all day long. In light of that submission, this Court agrees the
Complaint contains contradictory factual information as to whether Plaintiff was
given a medical exemption which allows him to be under the covers of his bed
throughout the daytime hours.
More importantly, this is not a case where a prisoner is alleging that he was
denied bedding and blankets. Likewise, this is not a case where a prisoner is
asserting that he had to sleep in a cold cell. Rather, Plaintiff alleges only that he
was not allowed to be under the covers during the daytime hours, a prohibition that
allegedly aggravated his pre-existing condition..
Based upon an application of the standards announced in Farmer and Wilson
to the Plaintiff’s allegation, the challenged requirement that Murray not be under a
blanket in his cell during the daytime hours was not a deprivation of such
magnitude as to set forth a viable claim under the Eighth Amendment. This is
simply not a case where Plaintiff has alleged that a prison official acted with
deliberate indifference to a known objectively serious risk to a prisoner’s health or
Room and Board
Plaintiff’s remaining allegation asserts that prison officials acted improperly
by deducting money from his inmate account for room and board. Murray adds
that such deductions are unlawful as they are not authorized by Pennsylvania state
law. Defendants, relying on Tillman, argue that said claim is meritless because
“charging inmates a flat per diem rate does not per se violate the Eighth
Amendment.” Doc. 22, p. 15.
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has recognized the collection of fees as
partial reimbursement of a prisoner’s daily cost of maintenance cannot be
classified as a fine as contemplated under the Eighth Amendment. Tillman, 221 F.
3d at 420. It has held that such fees are not punishment but rather are designed to
teach financial responsibility. See id.
Moreover, it has been held a county prison fiscal responsibility policy such
as the one challenged herein which charges inmates for room and board is
constitutionally acceptable. See Heim v. Dauphin County Prison, 2013 WL
1833777 * 6 (M.D. Pa. May 1, 2013)(Caputo, J.) (the room and board fees of the
are not unreasonable, punitive, or exceeds the average per diem cost the Dauphin
County Prison pays to house an inmate). The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has
also recognized that a pre-trial detainees may also be required to pay room and
board fees. Carson v. Mulvihill, 488 Fed. Appx. 554, 563 (3d Cir. 2012)(room
and board fees do not violate the requirement that pre-trial detainees not be subject
Pursuant to the holdings of Tillman, Heim, and Carson, since there is no
contention that the Franklin County room and board fees were excessive
Defendants’ request for dismissal of the challenge to the prison’s room and board
fee policy will also be granted. An appropriate Order will enter.
BY THE COURT:
s/Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge
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