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Smith v. Shady

February 8, 2006

BENJAMIN SMITH, PLAINTIFF
v.
OFFICER SHADY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Jones

Magistrate Judge Blewitt

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

The plaintiff, Benjamin Smith ("Plaintiff" or "Smith"), a prisoner proceeding prose, initiated this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action by filing a complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on December 27, 2005, naming fourteen Defendants employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC").

The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt for preliminary review. On January 11, 2006, Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued a report recommending that this case proceed only with respect to Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment claim against Defendants Shady and Chaplain. (See Rec. Doc. 8). The Magistrate Judge recommended that the remaining twelve Defendants be dismissed and that the case be remanded to him for further proceedings against the remaining two Defendants.

Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation were due by January 30, 2006 and were filed by Plaintiff on January 29, 2006.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, we will adopt the report and recommendation in part and reject it in part.

STANDARD OF REVIEW:

When objections are filed to a report of a magistrate judge, we make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge to which there are objections. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667 (1980); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.3. Furthermore, district judges have wide discretion as to how they treat recommendations of a magistrate judge. See id. Indeed, in providing for a de novo review determination rather than a de novo hearing, Congress intended to permit whatever reliance a district judge, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations. See id., see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984).

DISCUSSION:

Plaintiff has filed objections to the report and recommendation which will be the subject of the narrative that follows.

We initially note that to state a claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, Plaintiff must show that the Defendants acted under color of state law, that a federally secured right was implicated, and that the Defendants deprived Plaintiff or caused the deprivation of that right. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981). "Liability may not be imposed under § 1983 on the principle of respondeat superior." Hetzel v. Swartz, 909 F. Supp. 261, 264 (M.D. Pa. 1995). The Third Circuit has explained that liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 may only be based upon a defendant's personal involvement in conduct amounting to a constitutional violation. See Shabazz v. Nagy, 76 Fed. Appx. 417, 419 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988).

First, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that as a result of the harassment and assaults by Defendants Shady and Chaplain, Plaintiff does not state that he suffered any physical injury or mental symptoms. (Rep. & Rec. at 5). In that regard, Plaintiff argues that his allegations in the complaint concerning the fact that Officer Shady grabbed his penis demonstrate that "the Plaintiff has alleged physical and psychological injury and the pleading should not be held to a standard of drafting expected of counsel." (Rec. Doc. 12 at 3).

Plaintiff's complaint brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 requests compensatory and punitive damages. Section 1997e(e) of Title 42 of the United States Code states that "no Federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison, or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury." Such injury may be "less-than-significant-but-[must be]-more-than-de-minimis." Mitchell v. Horn, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8139, *3-5 (E.D. Pa. 2005)(quoting Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 536 (3d Cir. 2003)). After a careful review of the record, we are in agreement with the Magistrate Judge that Plaintiff's allegations in the complaint concerning Officer Shady grabbing his penis and holding it in her hand do not constitute a physical injury or mental symptoms. Any injury that may have resulted from such action(s) is de minimis and accordingly insufficient to comprise a physical injury under 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e). See Allah v. Al-Hafeez, 226 F.3d 247, 250-51 (3d Cir. 2000).

Second, Plaintiff objects to the Magistrate Judge's finding that Plaintiff has not sufficiently alleged that he suffered adverse actions by Defendants Dougherty and Walker as a result of his grievance since Plaintiff had no right to cable television in the prison. (Rep. & Rec. at 7-9). Plaintiff asserts that the Magistrate Judge's finding places an unnecessary burden upon him to demonstrate that an adverse action occurred. Plaintiff contends that he has stated a retaliation claim against Defendants Dougherty and Walker.

We initially note that in Rauser v. Horn, 241 F.3d 330 (3d Cir. 2001), the Third Circuit Court of Appeals instructed that as a threshold matter, a prisoner-plaintiff in a retaliation case must prove that the conduct which led to the alleged retaliation was constitutionally protected. Second, a prisoner litigating a retaliation claim must show that he suffered some "adverse action" at the hands of the prison officials. Id. at 333. Finally, once these two threshold criteria are met, a ...


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