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Case Name Abu-Jamal v. Wetzel PC-PA-0046
Docket / Court 3:16·CV·02000 ( M.D. Pa. )
Additional Docket(s) 3:15-cv-00967-RDM  [ 15-967 ]  Middle District of PA (U.S.)
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Prison Conditions
Case Summary
On September 30, 2016, a prisoner at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institute filed this complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), the Bureau of Health Care Services of the DOC, and members of ... read more >
On September 30, 2016, a prisoner at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institute filed this complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. The plaintiff sued the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), the Bureau of Health Care Services of the DOC, and members of the Health Bureau Hepatitis C Treatment Committee for injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The plaintiff first sued these defendants in a separate case in 2015. For the full factual account, see Abu-Jamal v. Wetzel . Here, the plaintiff, represented by a criminal defense attorney and the Abolitionist Law Center, sought relief for violations of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. Specifically, he sought a preliminary and permanent injunction ordering the DOC to provide the plaintiff with anti-viral medication to treat his disease. Judge Robert D. Mariani was assigned to the case.

The defendants responded with a motion to dismiss on October 25, 2016. They argued that this case was “a subset” of the first case, so it should have been excluded under the first-filed rule. Second, the defendants argued the plaintiff could not prove Eighth Amendment “deliberate indifference” because other courts had already held monitoring and treatment sufficient.

The plaintiff filed a response brief on November 22, arguing that the rule against duplicative proceedings is narrow and intended to prevent litigation of the same claim in different courts. Here, the two suits arrived before the same court, involved only one common defendant, and addressed different legal issues. On the merits, the plaintiff argued the dispute was more than a “mere disagreement” on proper treatment. Rather, the defendants refused to cure the plaintiff’s hepatitis C for no reason other than the cost of treatment, and the president in other jurisdictions was distinguishable.

The parties agreed a new evidentiary hearing was unnecessary, and the court adopted the factual findings from the 2015 case. On January 3, 2017, the court granted the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction and denied the motion to dismiss, finding the first-filed rule inapplicable. The court found relief appropriate because the defendants chose, for non-medical reasons, to monitor rather than treat the plaintiff’s condition to the detriment of his health, meaning there was a reasonable likelihood of plaintiff’s success on the merits.

The defendants appealed this decision to the Third Circuit on January 12, 2017 (Appeal Docket No. 17-01156 consolidated with Appeal Docket No. 17-01125) and filed a motion to stay the preliminary injunction. On February 7, the plaintiff filed a motion to hold the defendants in contempt for failure to comply with the injunction. On March 27, the Third Circuit denied the defendant’s motion for a stay pending appeal of the injunction order. Pursuant to the defendant’s motion, the court then dismissed the appeal on April 14. 2017 WL 3160959.

Two days later, the plaintiff underwent sonogram and hepatic elastography testing that revealed his condition had deteriorated to grade 4 liver cirrhosis. As a result, on March 31, 2017, the defendants informed the court that the plaintiff would receive Hepatitis C medication. The defendants confirmed that the plaintiff would begin taking the antiviral drug Harvoni on April 6, and this would continue for twelve consecutive weeks. The court accepted this arrangement, and ordered on April 5 the defendants to file confirmation with the court once treatment began and to regularly communicate with the plaintiff’s counsel. The court held the remaining motions moot.

On May 4, 2017, the parties jointly moved to consolidate this case with the plaintiff’s first suit. The court granted this motion the same day, and the consolidated case has continued under the docket number of the first case. See Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes for an accounting of the subsequent events.

Erica Lignell - 02/16/2019

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Constitutional Clause
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Due Process
Content of Injunction
Preliminary relief granted
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
Defendant(s) Pennsylvania Department of Corrections
Plaintiff Description Prisoner in Pennsylvania suffering from medical health issues.
Class action status sought No
Class action status outcome Not sought
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Preliminary injunction / Temp. restraining order
Source of Relief Litigation
Filed 09/30/2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Case Listing PC-PA-0042 : Abu-Jamal v. Kerestes (M.D. Pa.)
Additional Resources
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Court Docket(s)
M.D. Pa.
PC-PA-0046-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
M.D. Pa.
Complaint [ECF# 1] (2016 WL 5866908)
PC-PA-0046-0001.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
M.D. Pa.
Memorandum Opinion Granting Motion for Preliminary Injunction [ECF# 23] (2017 WL 34700)
PC-PA-0046-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
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Judges Mariani, Robert David (M.D. Pa.) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0046-0002 | PC-PA-0046-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Boyle, Robert (New York) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0046-0001 | PC-PA-0046-9000
Grote, Bret D. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
PC-PA-0046-0001 | PC-PA-0046-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Foreman, Samuel H. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Goodrich, Caitlin J. (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs
Macus, Maria G (Pennsylvania) show/hide docs

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