Ball v. Struthers

Decision Date19 July 2012
Docket NumberCivil No. 1:11-CV-1265
PartiesDAWN BALL, Plaintiff, v. C.O. STRUTHERS, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case
A. Dawn Marie Ball's Litigation History

In many ways, Dawn Ball's current circumstances inspire continuing sorrow and concern. Dawn Ball is an inmate housed in the Restricted Housing Unit at the State Correctional Institution (SCI) Muncy, who by her own account suffers from a cascading array of severe mental illnesses, and who has candidly acknowledged that she is profoundly disturbed. Ball v. Beard, No. 1:09-CV-845 (Doc. 42, pp.6-7.) Furthermore, Ball is also an inmate who has reported to the court that she engages in multiple episodes of destructive, self-defeating and senseless behavior.

Much of this institutional misconduct is marked by disturbing, excretory behavior. Indeed, a constant refrain throughout many of Ball's lawsuits is herfascination with her own bodily wastes. For example, recurring themes in Ball's lawsuits include Ball's penchant for smearing feces on herself, her clothes, her property, and her cell, as well as her destruction of her own clothing, and her use of her clothing to plug her toilet and flood her cell with water and human waste. Ball is also, by her own admission, an inmate with a propensity for sudden, explosive rages, as illustrated by the civil complaint which she has filed Ball v. Barr, No.1:11-CV-2240 (M.D.Pa.). In this complaint, Ball describes an episode in which a discussion regarding the aesthetic qualities of a piece of cornbread escalated in a matter of moments into a profanity-laced wrestling match over a food tray.

Ball is a prodigious federal court litigant, bringing numerous lawsuits based upon her perception of the events that take place around her in prison. Indeed, at present Ball currently has more than 25 lawsuits pending before this court.1 Ball isalso a prodigiously unsuccessful litigant, who has had at least three prior lawsuits dismissed either as frivolous or on the grounds that the lawsuit failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.

The history of repeated, frivolous and meritless litigation in federal court by this plaintiff began in March of 2008, when Ball filed a complaint in the case of Ball v. SCI Muncy, No. 1:08-CV-391 (M.D. Pa.). On December 10, 2008, the district court dismissed this civil action, citing Ball's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies, and stating that Ball:

does not dispute that she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with regard to the issues raised in the complaint. Plaintiff's failure to oppose the remaining Defendants' motion, which also seeks dismissal for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, renders the motion unopposed. See L.R. 7.6. It is clear that Plaintiff's claims are not properly before this Court and must be dismissed.

(Doc. 36, p.5.)

While, fairly construed, the district court's dismissal decision rested on exhaustion grounds, and did not entail an analysis of the merits of Ball's claims, the dismissalorder itself went on to state that any appeal of this dismissal would be "deemed frivolous and not in good faith." Ball v. SCI Muncy/, No. 1:08-CV-391 (M.D. Pa.) (Doc. 36, p.6.)

Nonetheless, Ball appealed this ruling. (Doc. 37.) On July 22, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of this action, noting that:

The District Court granted the Defendants' motions to dismiss, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), on the grounds of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. We agree with the District Court's decision and accordingly affirm the dismissal of Ball's claims.

Ball v. SCI Muncy, No. 1:08-CV-391 (M.D. Pa.)(Doc. 44, p. 2-3.). Thus, the court of appeals' ruling, like the district court's decision, was expressly based upon Ball's failure to exhaust her administrative remedies.

On May 5, 2009, Ball filed a second civil action in the case of Ball v. Hartman, No. 1:09-CV-844 (M.D. Pa.). This action was also dismissed by the district court, which on this occasion considered the merits of Ball's claims and explicitly concluded that Ball had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Ball v. Hartman, No. 1:09-CV-844 (M.D. Pa.) (Docs 32, 33, and 36.). Therefore, this second dismissal involved a merits analysis of Ball's claims, and a determination that Ball's complaint "fail[ed] to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." 28U.S.C. § 1915(g). Ball appealed this dismissal order, Ball v. Hartman, No. 1:09-CV-844 (M.D. Pa.) (Doc 34.), but her appeal of this case was summarily denied by the court of appeals, Ball v. Hartman, No. 1:09-CV-844 (M.D. Pa.) (Docs 48.), and, on October29, 2010, this case was closed by the appellate court with the issuance of its mandate dismissing this appeal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).2 Ball v. Hartman, No. 1:09-CV-844 (M.D. Pa.) (Doc. 48.).

Ball then filed yet another lawsuit in the case of Ball v. Butts, No. 1:11-CV-1068, (M.D.Pa.) on June 3, 2011. Ball v. Butts, No. 1:11-CV-1068 (M.D.Pa.)(Doc. 1.) On June 15, 2011, upon a screening review of this complaint, the district court dismissed this action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Ball v. Butts, No. 1:11-CV-1068 (M.D.Pa.)(Doc. 8.). Ball appealed this dismissal. Ball v. Butts, No. 1:11-CV-1068 (M.D.Pa.)(Doc. 10.). On September 21, 2011, the court of appeals entered an opinion and order dismissing Ball's appeal as frivolous pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). That appellate court opinion and order spokeunambiguously regarding the frivolous nature of this particular lawsuit filed by Ball, stating in clear and precise terms that:

Because we too have granted Ball leave to proceed IFP, we must screen this appeal to determine whether it is frivolous. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(I). An appeal is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). This appeal lacks any such basis. As the District Court adequately explained, immunity extends even to judicial acts that are "done maliciously," and Ball has alleged nothing suggesting that Judge Butts acted in the "clear absence of all jurisdiction." Gallas v. Supreme Court of Pa., 211 F.3d 760, 769 (3d Cir.2000) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). To the extent that Ball's request for injunctive relief might not have been subject to dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii), it was subject to dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) because such relief is not available against "a judicial officer for an act ... taken in such officer's judicial capacity" under these circumstances. 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Finally, we are satisfied that any amendment of Ball's complaint would be futile. SeeGrayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 111 (3d Cir.2002). Thus, we will dismiss this appeal.

Ball v. Butts, No. 11-2862, 2011 WL 4375782, 1 (3d Cir. Sept 21, 2011).

In addition to these dismissals, Ball currently has at least ten other cases3 pending before this court where there have been reports and recommendations issued, or adopted, calling for dismissal of claims.

B. Ball's Current Lawsuit
1. Factual Background

It is against the backdrop of this history of unsuccessful, unexhausted and meritless filings that Ball instituted the current lawsuit. Ball's present lawsuit relates to the conditions of her confinement at SCI-Muncy during a one week period in June and July of 2011. (Doc. 1.) According to Ball's complaint, on four days-June 26, 2011 through June 29, 2011-she did not receive personal hygiene supplies. Ball also asserts that she did not receive breakfast on one occasion, on June 28, 2011, and was denied lunch on another date, June 29, 2011. (Id.) Furthermore, Ball alleges that medical staff were deliberately indifferent to her needs on June 29, 2011, when she experienced a single incident in which she vomited what she thought was blood. (Id.)

Like all inmates, Ball has a legal obligation to exhaust available administrative remedies before proceeding to federal court. In this case, Ball alleged in her complaint that she had not exhausted her administrative grievances because she had been placed on grievance restrictions at the time of these events. (Id.)

With respect to these allegations, the undisputed facts can be simply stated:4

A. Exhaustion of Grievances

The plaintiff, Dawn Ball is an inmate currently serving a sentence for forgery. (Doc. 89, ¶1.) With respect to the matters set forth in this lawsuit, Ball has filed no administrative grievances regarding any of the allegations in her complaint. (Id., ¶2.) Ball was, however, fully familiar with Department of Corrections grievance procedures in July 2011, which required inmates to grieve dispute with prison officials, having filed numerous grievances in the past.

Specifically, pursuant to 37 Pa. C.S. § 93.9, the Department of Corrections maintains a grievance system, which is conducted in accordance with Administrative Directive DC-ADM 804, entitled "Inmate Grievance System." DC-ADM 804 establishes procedures for review of inmate grievances and consists of a three-step process. See Booth v. Churner, 206 F.3d 289, 293, n. 2 (3d Cir. 2000). This three-step process requires an inmate to file an initial grievance (Step One), an appeal to theSuperintendent (Step Two), and a final appeal (Step Three) to the Secretary's Office of Inmate Grievances and Appeals ("SOIGA"). To file an initial grievance, an inmate must submit to the Facility Grievance Coordinator a completed grievance form. Id. The inmate must specifically state any claims he or she wishes to make concerning violations of Department directives, regulations, court orders, or other law and state the relief sought. The grievance must be submitted within fifteen working days after the event in question. If the grievance is...

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