CONSTITUTIONAL LAW

§1983 • Excessive Force • Correctional Facility • Official Capacity • Supervisory Liability

Moore v. City of Philadelphia, PICS Case No. 14-0390 (E.D. Pa. March 5, 2014) Baylson, J. (10 pages).

Moore alleged that correctional officers used excessive force on him while in the receiving areas of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility and he filed a §1983 suit against the city of Philadelphia, the prison warden, the commissioner of the prison system and eight corrections officers in their official capacities and as individuals. The prison warden and the commissioner moved to dismiss the claims. Granted.

Moore alleged that the correctional officers choked him, knocked him down, and dragged him, kicking him in the face and head which resulted in injuries to his eyes; damage to his eyesight; headaches; pain in his neck, shoulder and back and psychological and emotional injuries. He further alleged that the officers filed charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and reckless endangerment against him. He was acquitted of the aggravated assault charge and the simple assault and reckless endangerment charges were nolle prosequi. He alleged that the warden and commissioner developed policies and practices exhibiting deliberate indifference to Moore’s constitutional rights, condoned the use of excessive force in the prison, failed to train correctional officers in using only reasonable and necessary force and condoned false arrest and malicious prosecution of inmates to cover up assaults committed by corrections officers.

The warden and commissioner contended that Moore failed to state a claim against them under Monell. They argued that the claims against them as public officials were redundant because they were the equivalent to claims against the city and they have no supervisory liability under §1983. Since Moore brought Monell claims against the warden and the commissioner in their official capacity as well as against the city, the claims against the warden and commissioner were redundant and unnecessarily cluttered the docket. Accordingly, the court exercised its discretion to dismiss the official capacity claims against the warden and the commissioner.

The Third Circuit requires an official to have actual knowledge of and to have condoned the excessive force used by subordinates to be liable under §1983. Moore’s complaint did not allege any facts regarding the warden’s or commissioners knowledge of the correctional officers’ conduct nor did it allege what policy or practice that the defendants failed to employ nor that they were aware that any policy created an unreasonable risk of constitutional deprivation. Thus, the complaint failed to state a claim against the warden and commissioner in their individual capacity.

The claims against the warden and commissioner in their official capacity were dismissed as redundant to Moore’s claims against the city and the complaint against them in their individual capacity failed to allege facts showing they had knowledge of the alleged constitutional deprivations and alleged no facts regarding deficiencies in the challenged policies and practices. The claims against the correctional officers and the city could proceed.