Inmate Rights • Post-Conviction Relief • Retaliation

Monroe v. DiGuglielmo, PICS Case No. 14-0238 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 30, 2014) O’Neill, J. (14 pages).

Where an inmate cannot allege personal involvement in the destruction of his legal materials, and where he cannot specifically allege an arguable injury as a result of the loss of legal materials, and where he cannot establish temporal proximity or a pattern of antagonism as a result of the exercise of constitutionally protected rights, said inmate cannot be entitled to a claim for post-conviction relief or retaliation. Dismissed.

Plaintiff Edward Monroe is serving a life sentence without parole for homicide; during his incarceration, plainitff alleged receiving two letters that claimed police manufactured inculpatory evidence and coerced a witness into falsely testifying against plaintiff. Plaintiff began researching his legal options pursuant to this new information; however, plaintiff alleges that defendants, who were corrections officers at plaintiff’s corrections facility, entered plaintiff’s cell and removed and/or destroyed the letters and related legal research, as well as entering the cells of other inmates to whom plaintiff had entrusted copies of the letters and his research.

Plaintiff brought the instant action claiming violation of his right to access to the courts against all plaintiff, including personal liability for defendant David DiGuglielmo, the superintendent of the facility at the time in question, as well as a claim of retaliation against defendant Thomas Dohman. Defendants brought a motion to dismiss all of plaintiff’s claims under F.R.C.P. 12(b)(6).

The instant court ruled in favor of dismissing plaintiff’s complaint against DiGuglielmo, finding that plaintiff’s contention that DiGuglielmo’s denial of plaintiff’s grievance appeal filed after the disappearance of his legal materials was insufficient to establish DiGuglielmo’s personal involvement in the deprivation of a constitutional right.

The court also dismissed plaintiff’s claim of denial of access to the courts, finding that plaintiff failed to specifically or sufficiently allege a non-frivolous or arguable underlying claim lost as a result of defendants’ actions. The court noted that plaintiff’s underlying claim was more hopeful than arguable, and failed to sufficiently establish how the allegation of manufactured inculpatory evidence and changes in a prosecution witness’s testimony would have an effect on the outcome of his case.

The court also dismissed the retaliation claim against defendant Dohman, finding that although plaintiff established the exercise of his constitutional right in bringing a prior lawsuit against Dohman, plaintiff failed to allege either a temporal connection between the lawsuiit and Dohman’s alleged involvement in the disappearance or destruction of plaintiff’s legal materials or that said alleged involvement was in retaliation, or a pattern of antagonism by Dohman coupled with a timing link. Instead, the court noted that plaintiff only made a conclusory allegation that Dohman’s alleged action was in retaliation of plaintiff’s earlier lawsuit against him.