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Case Name Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes PC-PA-0042
Docket / Court 3:15-cv-00967-RDM ( M.D. Pa. )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On May 18, 2015, a prisoner at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institute filed this complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The complaint arose out of the plaintiff’s hospitalization for Hepatitis C. The plaintiff sued the Pennsylvania Department of ... read more >
On May 18, 2015, a prisoner at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institute filed this complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The complaint arose out of the plaintiff’s hospitalization for Hepatitis C. The plaintiff sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) and the Bureau of Health Care Services of the DOC. The initial complaint claimed violations of First, Fifth, and Fourteenth amendment rights. The plaintiff claimed that, while hospitalized, the plaintiff’s attorneys were barred from visiting him and all communication between plaintiff and his attorney was prohibited. Represented by a local public interest firm called the Abolitionist Law Center, the plaintiff requested monetary damages and motioned for an immediate preliminary injunction ordering the defendants to allow the attorneys access to the plaintiff. Judge Robert D. Mariani was assigned to the case.

The plaintiff is a high-profile Black Panther activist from Philadelphia. In 1982, he was convicted of murdering a Philadelphia police officer in a high-profile case. However, the plaintiff did not allege specific discrimination here.

On May 26, 2015, the plaintiff withdrew his motion for preliminary injunction, notifying the court that the defendants allowed the attorneys access to the plaintiff. On November 24, plaintiff filed a supplemental and amended complaint that added the medical facility as defendants and alleged new claims. That complaint was filed under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged that defendants violated the plaintiff’s Eighth Amendment rights. The complaint also alleged that the DOC was negligently liable for medical malpractice. Specifically, the complaint alleged that plaintiff was denied treatment after he was diagnosed with Hepatitis C and a severe skin condition. The plaintiff alleged that during his hospitalization he was denied available antiviral drugs.

On August 24, 2015, plaintiff filed another motion for a preliminary injunction. In the motion, the plaintiff requested that the court order the defendants immediately administer the antiviral drugs and grant the plaintiff a right to in-person consultation with a doctor of his choice. The motion also requested that the court grant a permanent injunction permitting the plaintiff attorney-client and family visits once he received inpatient medical treatment. On September 18, 2015 Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick recommended that plaintiffs motion for preliminary injunction be denied for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and because the plaintiff had failed to show irreparable injury. 2015 WL 12116641. Essentially, the judge found that although Hepatitis C is a serious medical need, given the number of inmates who file and want the court to intervene in their treatment, the plaintiff's condition had not progressed to the point where any court intervention was warranted.

On December 7, 2015, the DOC medical staff (medical defendants) filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim, and on January 4, 2016, the DOC also filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint.

Both parties began briefing the both the motions to dismiss and the preliminary injunction. After several requests for extensions, Judge Mariani ordered both parties to submit briefs on the motions by March 11, 2016. On April 4, 2016, defendants filed a motion to strike a portion of the complaint on the grounds that it was immaterial. Judge Mariani denied that motion on June 3, 2016, finding that nothing was irrelevant or immaterial in the cited paragraphs of the amended complaint.

On June 21, 2016, DOC defendants filed a motion for summary judgment. At the same time, the court denied the medical defendants’ motion to dismiss. Defendants had argued that the plaintiff failed to exhaust all of his administrative remedies through the prison before filing the suit, specifically claiming that he had not filed a grievance specific to his Hepatitis C treatment. The court disagreed, finding that the plaintiff had filed the appropriate grievances through the prison.

On August 5, 2016, the court granted in part and denied in part the DOC defendants motion to dismiss. Judge Mariani dismissed plaintiff’s request for monetary damage from the prison superintendent on the grounds that plaintiff could not recover against him in his official capacity. The state negligence claims were also dismissed -- defendant was entitled to sovereign immunity because he was not a health care employee under Pennsylvania State Law. That same day, the court granted the medical facility’s motion to dismiss.

The plaintiff was granted time to file an amended complaint, which he filed on August 16, 2016. The following week, Judge Mariani denied the plaintiffs motion for a preliminary injunction. In his opinion he concluded the plaintiff had been denied proper medical treatment, but that the named defendants were not the appropriate defendants. The named defendants were not members of the Hepatitis C Treatment Review Committee and therefore the court cannot properly issue an injunction against them. Though reaching the same result, Judge Mariani denied to adopt Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick's report and recommendations from 2015 because Judge Mariani found that the court had significant new evidence from the evidentiary hearing that raised new issues.

On January 10, 2017, Judge Mariani dismissed the defendants’ summary judgment motion as moot, and on January 17, 2017 the plaintiff filed a third amended complaint. On May 4, 2017, Judge Mariana granted a motion to consolidate this case with another, Abu-Jamal v. Wetzel because of the common questions concerning Pennsylvania medical care.

On June 26, 2017, Judge Mariani referred the case to the Court’s Prison Litigation Settlement Committee to facilitate discussions. On August 23, 2017, the plaintiffs filed their fourth amended complaint, which the defendants moved to dismiss. The court-appointed mediator reported on October 27, 2017 that a settlement had not yet been reached.

This case is ongoing.

Jamie Kessler - 02/07/2017
Bryce Freeman - 11/02/2017

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Access to lawyers or judicial system
Medical/Mental Health
Medical care, general
Medication, administration of
Skin Infections
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 1983
State law
Defendant(s) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Prisoner in Pennsylvania suffering from medical health issues.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filing Year 2015
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Civil Rights Injunctions Over Time: A Case Study of Jail and Prison Court Orders
N.Y.U. Law Review
Date: May 2006
By: Margo Schlanger (Washington University Faculty)
Citation: 81 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 550 (2006)
[ Detail ] [ PDF ] [ External Link ]

  Judicial Policy Making and the Modern State: How the Courts Reformed America's Prisons
Date: Jan. 1, 1998
By: Malcolm M. Feeley & Edward Rubin (UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law & Vanderbilt School of Law Faculty Faculty)
Citation: (1998)
[ Detail ]

3:15-cv-00967-RDM (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/30/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PC-PA-0042-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Report and Recommendation [ECF# 39]
PC-PA-0042-0009.pdf | Detail
Date: 09/18/2015
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion [ECF# 157] (2016 WL 3456935) (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 06/22/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion (2016 WL 4204544) (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/05/2016
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 172] (2016 WL 4204539) (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/05/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 173] (2016 WL 4184054) (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-0006.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/05/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 178]
PC-PA-0042-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/16/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 191] (2016 WL 4574646) (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-0007.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/31/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Fourth Amended Complaint [ECF# 245]
PC-PA-0042-0008.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/23/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Mariani, Robert David (M.D. Pa.)
PC-PA-0042-0003 | PC-PA-0042-0004 | PC-PA-0042-0005 | PC-PA-0042-0006 | PC-PA-0042-0007 | PC-PA-0042-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boyle, Robert (New York)
PC-PA-0042-0001 | PC-PA-0042-0002 | PC-PA-0042-0008 | PC-PA-0042-9000
Grote, Bret D. (Pennsylvania)
PC-PA-0042-0001 | PC-PA-0042-0002 | PC-PA-0042-0008 | PC-PA-0042-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Brier, Daniel T. (Pennsylvania)
Conaboy, Suzanne (Pennsylvania)
Dempsey, John B. (Pennsylvania)
Foreman, Samuel H. (Pennsylvania)
Goodrich, Caitlin J. (Pennsylvania)
Katz, Noah Evan (Pennsylvania)
Macus, Maria G (Pennsylvania)
Mazeski, Vincent R. (Pennsylvania)
Neal, Laura J. (Pennsylvania)
Other Lawyers Holmes, Timothy A. (Pennsylvania)
Joel, Kenneth Lawson (Indiana)

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