775 F.3d 598 (3rd Cir. 2015), 13-1412, Pearson v. Sec'y Dep't of Corrections

Docket Nº:13-1412
Citation:775 F.3d 598
Opinion Judge:SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:ANTONIO PEARSON, Appellant v. SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; SUPERINTENDENT GERALD ROZUM; DEPT. SUPT. SYLVIA GIBSON; DEPT. SUPT. STEVEN GATES; MAJOR DANIEL GEHLMANN; D-UNIT MANAGER MANDY-JO BISER; D-UNIT MANAGER MR. PUTMAN; UNIT MANAGER HUNTER; E-UNIT MANAGER EDWARD MULLIGAN; ALLEN JOSEPH, INMATE PROGRAM MANAGER; CAPT. THOMAS PAPUGA; SECURITY
Attorney:Jessica C. Collins, Esq. [ARGUED], Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, Washington, D.C., Attorney for Appellant. Kemal A. Mericili, Esq. [ARGUED], Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, PA, Attorneys for Appellees.
Judge Panel:Before: MCKEE, Chief Judge, RENDELL, SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:January 07, 2015
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
SUMMARY

Pearson is serving a life-term and alleged, in a 2009 suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, a two-year campaign of harassment against him in retaliation for the filing of a 2006 civil lawsuit and grievances in 2006-2007. Pearson claimed that he was subjected to cell searches and relocations, denied a meal, and denied a job in retaliation for the filings. The district court dismissed on the basis that... (see full summary)

 
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Page 598

775 F.3d 598 (3rd Cir. 2015)

ANTONIO PEARSON, Appellant

v.

SECRETARY DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS; SUPERINTENDENT GERALD ROZUM; DEPT. SUPT. SYLVIA GIBSON; DEPT. SUPT. STEVEN GATES; MAJOR DANIEL GEHLMANN; D-UNIT MANAGER MANDY-JO BISER; D-UNIT MANAGER MR. PUTMAN; UNIT MANAGER HUNTER; E-UNIT MANAGER EDWARD MULLIGAN; ALLEN JOSEPH, INMATE PROGRAM MANAGER; CAPT. THOMAS PAPUGA; SECURITY CAPTAIN LEO GLASS; CFSM-II PAUL FISHER; CFSM-I DONALD LEPLEY; CFSS JOE REAMS; CFSI DON KOT; CAPT. GRIFFIN; CAPT. PESERVA, (6-2 Shift); LT. REGESTER; SGT. CLIPPINGER; SGT. FRANK KARL; SGT. MOORE, Warden; SGT. RITENOUR; CO I TROY; CO I PRITTS; CO I MCKENZIE; CO I KRUMEL; CO I ACKERMAN; CO I LONG; CO I KIMMEL; CO I FOUST; CO I GAYDIS; SHARON M. BURKS; CINDY G. WATSON; KRISTEN P. REISINGER; DORINA VARNER; MICHAEL P. WOLANIN; EDWARD J. CWIK, CORRECTIONS EMPLOYMENT PERSONEL; C.O. I. SINGER

No. 13-1412

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 7, 2015

Argued: November 20, 2014.

On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. No. 3-09-cv-00054). District Judge: Honorable Kim R. Gibson.

Jessica C. Collins, Esq. [ARGUED], Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel, Washington, D.C., Attorney for Appellant.

Kemal A. Mericili, Esq. [ARGUED], Office of Attorney General of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, PA, Attorneys for Appellees.

Before: MCKEE, Chief Judge, RENDELL, SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 599

SLOVITER, Circuit Judge.

This appeal requires us to decide whether Pennsylvania's statute of limitations is tolled while a prisoner exhausts administrative remedies prior to filing a civil rights lawsuit as required by 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(a) of the Prison Litigation Reform Act (" PLRA" ), or in the alternative, whether federal equitable tolling principles are applicable. Additionally, we must determine if the District Court erred when it dismissed, for failure to state a claim, the portion of Antonio Pearson's 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim that it deemed timely.1

Page 600

I.

Pearson is serving a life-term in the Pennsylvania prison system. According to Pearson, " Department of Corrections employees engaged in a two-year campaign of harassment against him in retaliation for the filing of a civil lawsuit and at least seven grievances." Appellant's Br. at 3-4. Pearson's allegations are discussed below.

Beginning in 2006, Pearson filed a civil lawsuit against a number of prison officials in the Somerset County Court of Common Pleas. Thereafter, Pearson filed his first grievance alleging that corrections officers had performed a cell search to confiscate and read his legal materials on November 23, 2006. In a grievance addressing a January 9, 2007 incident, Pearson claimed that a corrections officer had refused to provide him with grievance paperwork unless Pearson informed the corrections officer what his grievance was about. Pearson filed another grievance that alleged that Corrections Food Service Instructor Don Kot punched him in the arm several times while he was working in the Dietary Department on February 2, 2007. Next, Pearson filed a grievance after a corrections officer told him on February 13, 2007 that he was not permitted to cite to the Department of Corrections' Code of Ethics in his grievances. Additionally, Pearson filed a grievance addressing a February 26, 2007 incident, in which he claimed that he was terminated from his dietary position by Corrections Food Service Managers Paul Fisher and Joe Reams and E-Unit Manager Ed Mulligan for filing his civil lawsuit and for filing the grievance about Kot's alleged assault.

Pearson also claims that he was subjected to a series of cell searches and relocations in retaliation for filing his civil lawsuit and grievances. Pearson states that on September 24, 2007 he was denied a meal by corrections officers because he " was running his mouth," and on that date he filed a grievance claiming that he " was still being black-balled from getting a job." App. at 68. Pearson also details an argument with Sergeant Clippinger that occurred on February 29, 2008 wherein he claims that Clippinger, without provocation, yelled at him in an aggressive manner in front of several other inmates stating that Clippinger was not afraid of Pearson's grievances.

Pearson was later assigned to a " blockworker" position on August 17, 2008. Pearson alleges that on October 19, 2008 Sergeant Frank Karl learned of his appointment and took steps to remove Pearson from the position; Pearson claims that he attempted to file a grievance but corrections officers removed it from his mailbox. Pearson was removed from his job the next day on October 20, 2008 by Karl. According to Pearson's amended complaint, Unit Manager Hunter told him that he was terminated from his position because of the grievances that he had filed.

II.

Pearson filed a complaint alleging violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on February 28, 2009,2 and was later granted leave to amend his complaint.3 The defendants

Page 601

filed a motion to dismiss, and the Magistrate Judge recommended granting the motion on the basis that all of Pearson's " non-trivial" allegations that occurred prior to March 1, 2007 were time-barred under...

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