Chester inmate given leave to further amend civil rights complaint against corrections officials

By Nicholas Malfitano | Mar 1, 2016

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania  

PHILADELPHIA – An area prisoner’s civil rights complaint filed against a number of correctional officials has been dismissed.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Thomas N. O’Neill Jr. ruled to dismiss Siddeeq Henry’s civil rights action against Warden John Thomas, Lt. Arthur Johnson, Lt. L. Williams and psychiatrist Dr. William Fowler, but allowed Henry leave to further amend his complaint in the future.

Henry alleges on July 23, 2013, an altercation took place with Johnson while he was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Chester. Henry charged Johnson with taking him to the ground, elbowing him in the mouth, choking him and placing the handcuffs on him “so tight that they cut his wrists and he lost feeling”, despite Henry providing no resistance.

Henry further alleged after the altercation, he was placed in both a psychiatric observation cell and later the infirmary (due to filing a grievance against Williams), while being denied access to a number of privileges, including “clothing, mail, visits, and phone calls”, plus the “law library, showers and yard”.

In his suit, Henry alleged these acts violated his constitutional rights. At the time of filing, Henry was represented by Henry E. Hockeimer Jr. and Tyler Marandola of Ballard Spahr. These counsel later withdrew their representation of Henry.

O’Neill stipulated the necessity of a government defendant having “personal involvement” in a case of this nature.

“An individual government defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongdoing; liability cannot be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat superior,” O’Neill said. “A civil rights complaint is adequate where it states the conduct, time, place, and persons responsible for the alleged wrongs.”

O’Neill stated Henry’s complaint did not included such personal allegations directed at Thomas, only Johnson for the alleged assault and Williams for the transfer from the psychiatric ward to the infirmary.

“While he believes that Thomas approved his move, there is no allegation that Thomas was aware that Henry engaged in protected activity prior to Thomas approving the move from the mental health unit to the infirmary,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill added even putting aside Thomas’s lack of awareness Henry was being denied access to the law library, showers and yard, those allegations in and of themselves do not properly establish a violation of constitutional rights. Further, O’Neill said since Henry didn’t show he lost a legal claim as a result of being denied access to the law library, it didn’t suffice as a denial of access to the courts claim.

“Henry’s amended complaint fails to set forth any facts that John Thomas had any personal involvement in the alleged violations of his constitutional rights. Accordingly, plaintiff’s amended complaint against Thomas will be dismissed with leave to amend,” O’Neill said.

The defendants are represented by Randall J. Henzes of the Office of the Attorney General, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:14-cv-01152

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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