United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
October 3, 2005.
WALLACE RICE, Plaintiff,
SMITH, Warden, United States Penitentiary-Lewisburg, Defendant.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: YVETTE KANE, District Judge
MEMORANDUM and ORDER
Plaintiff, Wallace Rice, an inmate at the United States
Penitentiary in Lewisburg ("Lewisburg"), Pennsylvania, commenced
this pro se action with a Bivens*fn1 civil rights
complaint (Doc. No. 1). Named as Defendant is Lewisburg Warden
"Mr. Smith". Plaintiff is challenging the conditions of his
confinement at Lewisburg, and he claims that he is "being
`double-bunked' in a cell originally designed to house one
inmate. . . ." (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) For relief, he asks the Court
to: "(1) Issue an injunction declaring the prison cells in
`A-Block' unconstitutionally unfit and too small in size for two
inmates; (2) Issue an injunction declaring that all cells in
`A-Block' house a single inmate because the design and structure
is for one person; (3) Declare unconstitutional the practice of
double celling inmates in `A-Block' as barbaric, cruel and
unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment; and (4)
Issue an injunction declaring that inmates over the age of
sixty[-]five (65) with medical problems should be housed in a
single cell." (Doc. No. 1 at 3.)
Presently pending is Defendant's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's
complaint. (Doc. No. 13.) Defendant filed a brief in support of
the motion, Plaintiff filed a document (Doc. No. 15), which the
Court construes as a brief in opposition, and the motion is now
ripe for disposition. For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's motion will be denied. II. Discussion
A. Motion to Dismiss Standard
In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, the Court must
accept the Plaintiff's allegations as true. White v. Napoleon,
897 F.2d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 1990). In Nami v. Fauver,
82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996), the United States Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit added that when considering a motion to dismiss,
based on a Rule 12(b)(6) argument, a court should "not inquire
whether the plaintiffs will ultimately prevail, only whether they
are entitled to offer evidence to support their claims."
Moreover, a motion to dismiss may only be granted if there is no
reasonable reading of the facts that would entitle Plaintiff to
relief. Lum v. Bank of America, 361 F.3d 217, 223 (3d Cir.
2004). The Court should consider the allegations in the
complaint, the exhibits attached thereto, matters of public
record, and "undisputedly authentic" documents. See Angstadt
v. Midd-West School Dist., 377 F.3d 338, 342 (3d Cir. 2004). A
complaint that does not establish entitlement to relief under any
reasonable interpretation is properly dismissed without leave to
amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d
Cir. 2002). However, the Court is mindful that pro se
complaints are to be liberally construed. Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
B. Governmental Immunity
Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), based upon a contention that he
is entitled to sovereign immunity. Claims against the United
States and its agencies that seek monetary damages for
constitutional violations must be dismissed for lack of subject
matter jurisdiction. FDIC v. Meyer, 510 U.S. 471, 486 (1994).
Absent a waiver, sovereign immunity shields the Federal
Government and its agencies from suit. U.S. v. Navajo Nation,
537 U.S. 488, 502 (2003). Pursuant to the Administrative
Procedures Act, 5 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., the United States has
waived immunity in suits that seek only injunctive relief.
5 U.S.C. § 702. This waiver does not apply "where such action `is
committed to agency discretion by law.'" New Jersey v. United
States, 91 F.3d 463, 470 (3d Cir. 1996) (quoting § 701(a)(2)). However, since
Plaintiff asserts that his conditions of imprisonment violate the
Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual
punishment, this Court has jurisdiction to hear Plaintiff's
claims; the Bureau of Prisons does not have the discretion to
decide whether or not to abide by constitutional protections.
Moreover, sovereign immunity would only shield Defendant in his
official capacity as an agent of the Federal Government.
Plaintiff has clarified that his suit is filed "against Warden,
Joseph V. Smith, in his individual capacity" as well as his
official capacity as Warden of Lewisburg. (Doc. 15 at 3.)
Accordingly, viewing the record in a light most favorable to
Plaintiff, the Complaint is not barred by sovereign immunity and
Defendant's motion to dismiss will be denied.
AND NOW, this 30th day of September, 2005, in accordance with
the foregoing memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT Defendant's
motion to dismiss (Doc. 13) Plaintiff's complaint is DENIED.
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