292 F.3d 152 (3rd Cir. 2002), 01-1738, Carter v. McGrady

Docket Nº:01-1738
Citation:292 F.3d 152
Party Name:Carter v. McGrady
Case Date:May 29, 2002
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

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292 F.3d 152 (3rd Cir. 2002)

Richard CARTER, SCI-Mahanoy Para-Legal Assistant/ on Behalf of Himself and Prison Population


James MCGRADY, Captain, and; Mary Canino, Hearing Examiner, in Their Individual and Official Capacity (Eastern District of PA Civil # 94-cv-7163)

Richard Carter, on behalf of himself and all those similarly situated


Martin L. Dragovich, Superintendent; Edward J. Klem, Superintendent of Centralized Services; Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; SCI at Mahanoy; James McGrady, Captain (Eastern District of PA Civil # 96-cv-6496)

Richard Carter, Appellant

No. 01-1738.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

May 29, 2002.

Argued: Feb. 4, 2002.

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Joseph A. Sullivan, Edward W. Ferruggia, Kimberly M. Kaplan (Argued), Lisa M. Scidurlo, Adam C. Bonin, Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis, LLP, Philadelphia, PA, Counsel for Appellant.

D. Michael Fisher, Attorney General, Beth Anne Smith (Argued), Senior Deputy Attorney General, John G. Knorr, III, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Chief, Appellate Section, Office of Attorney General, Philadelphia, PA, Counsel for Appellees James McGrady, Martin L. Dragovich Edward J. Klem and Mary Canino.

Before: BECKER, Chief Judge, McKEE and BARRY, Circuit Judges.


BECKER, Chief Judge.

This is a prisoner's civil rights case, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, brought by Richard Carter, an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Carter, an experienced and assiduous jailhouse lawyer, claims that he was unlawfully subjected to cell searches and disciplinary proceedings in retaliation for his jailhouse lawyering, which he contends was disfavored at the State Correctional Institute at Mahanoy ("SCI-Mahanoy") where he was incarcerated at all times relevant to this lawsuit. This appeal is from the order of the District Court granting summary judgment for the defendants, James McGrady, Martin Dragovich, and Edward Klem, all officials at SCI-Mahanoy, based on the conclusion that Carter did not have a constitutionally protected right to act as a jailhouse lawyer and, thus, the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity.

When this case was before the District Court, the Supreme Court had yet to decide Shaw v. Murphy, 532 U.S. 223, 121 S.Ct. 1475, 149 L.Ed.2d 420 (2001), which held that prisoners do not have a freestanding constitutional right to assist other

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inmates in filing legal claims. Shaw had asserted such a right, and the Supreme Court has therefore foreclosed one facet of Carter's claim. This development has required Carter, who describes himself in the case caption as "SCI-Mahanoy Para-Legal Assistant/On Behalf of himself and prison population," to shift gears and to stress two other arguments. First, Carter claims that he was retaliated against for exercising his First Amendment rights. Second, invoking Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987), he claims that there are no reasons related to penological interests that would otherwise justify the conduct of the prison officials.

Carter's claim of retaliation for exercising a constitutional right is governed by Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330 (3d Cir. 2001). Under Rauser, prison officials may prevail when the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case of retaliation if they prove that "they would have made the same decision absent the protected conduct for reasons reasonably related to legitimate penological interests." Id. at 334. The record reveals that Carter was clearly guilty of egregious violations of prison policy--stealing a typewriter and unauthorized use of the mails (and other violations as well). We conclude, assuming arguendo that Carter has correctly described the attitude at SCI-Mahanoy about jailhouse lawyering and that he has made out a prima facie case of retaliation, that there is no genuine issue of material fact that the prison officials would have disciplined Carter for these violations notwithstanding his jailhouse lawyering. Accordingly, we will affirm, albeit on different grounds than those relied on by the District Court. See Narin v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 206 F.3d 323, 333 n. 8 (3d Cir. 2000). We therefore need not reach the interesting issues raised by Carter's theory that he has a protected First Amendment right to provide legal advice, and that any action taken against him for exercising such a right must be evaluated under Turner.

I. Facts and Procedural History

On February 25, 1994, Carter executed and transmitted an "outside purchase approval form" for an electric typewriter from a "family member or friend." In due course, a Smith-Corona typewriter arrived at SCI-Mahanoy from Suburban Office Equipment, a vendor located in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. On March 24, 1994, Carter signed an inmate personal property receipt and accepted delivery of the typewriter. A mailroom inspector, Liz Ryan, later informed James McGrady, SCI-Mahanoy's Security Captain, that the vendor had sent a demand letter stating that: (1) no payment had been made for the typewriter; and (2) Carter had obtained the typewriter through the unauthorized use of a credit card.

McGrady investigated the matter by contacting Wallace McLean, who worked for the vendor. McLean informed McGrady that the typewriter had been ordered over the phone using a credit card and that the customer identified the name on the card as Richard Carter. The actual owner of the card, who lived in California, subsequently verified that Carter was not authorized to use that card. McLean faxed certain documents to McGrady, including the sales receipt that indicated that the typewriter was sold to...

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