Phila. prison system commissioner, warden dismissed from prisoner abuse suit

By Jon Campisi | Mar 7, 2014

A judge has dismissed two defendants from a federal civil rights case

A judge has dismissed two defendants from a federal civil rights case

brought by a prison inmate who alleges he was subjected to excessive force while in the receiving area of the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Philadelphia during the spring of 2011.

U.S. District Judge Michael Baylson, sitting in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, dismissed with prejudice defendants John Delaney and Louis Giorla from the suit initiated by former prison inmate Jermaine Moore.

The plaintiff claims he sustained various physical injuries, including damage to his eyesight, during an incident with corrections officers on April 14, 2011, in which he says he was choked, knocked down, dragged and kicked in the face and head.

The civil action further alleges that the officers filed false charges against the plaintiff of simple assault, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

The record shows that Moore was subsequently acquitted of the aggravated assault charge while the simple assault and reckless endangerment charges were nolle prosequi in early 2012.

The complaint alleged that Delaney, the warden of Curran-Fromhold, and Giorla, the city’s prison commissioner, caused the violation of Moore’s civil rights because they jointly implemented policies and customs that exhibited deliberate indifference to the prisoner’s constitutional rights.

Specifically, the two were accused of condoning the use of excessive force by prison guards, failing to train correctional officers in using only justified, reasonable and necessary force, and condoning false arrest and malicious prosecution of inmates to cover up assaults committed by guards.

Delaney and Giorla both subsequently sought to dismiss themselves from the litigation for failure to state a claim.

Specifically, they argued that claims against public officials for conduct in their official capacities is redundant because they equal the claims against the city.

The two also contended that there is no supervisory liability under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act.

“They argue that the complaint is devoid of factual allegations the correctional officers acted under their personal direction or knowledge and acquiescence, and therefore the Complaint fails to assert a claim for individual liability,” the judicial memorandum notes.

The remaining defendants in the case, the City of Philadelphia and eight of its correctional officers, did not move to dismiss the complaint against them.

In his March 5 memorandum and order, Baylson wrote that case law makes clear that dismissal in this instance is appropriate.

“Since Plaintiff’s redundant claims against the moving Defendants unnecessarily clutter the docket, this Court shall exercise its discretion to dismiss the official-capacity claims against moving Defendants,” Baylson wrote.

The judge also determined that the two could not be sued in their individual capacity because the complaint fails to allege that the supervisors had knowledge of their subordinates’ conduct.

“Since the complaint does not plead any facts from which this Court could infer actual knowledge or indifference to the risks or any facts about the policy deficiencies, the complaint fails to state a claim against moving Defendants in their individual capacity,” Baylson wrote.

Moore did not request leave to amend his complaint if the court ruled in favor of the defense’s motion to dismiss.

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