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Albert v. Karnes

March 19, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Presently before the Court is a motion to dismiss the civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 of Plaintiff Derrick T. Albert ("Albert"), filed on behalf of prison officials from the Lebanon County Correctional Facility ("CCF-Lebanon") in Lebanon, Pennsylvania (collectively, "Defendants").*fn1 (Doc. No. 12.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Statement of Facts

The allegations in Albert's complaint relate to events occurring between October and December 2006. Initially, Albert claims that Defendants committed several unspecified constitutional violations in connection with alleged incidents at CCF-Lebanon, and which led to a disciplinary hearing at the institution. Albert also claims that Defendants have denied him the constitutional right of access to the courts by not providing him with an adequate law library and requested legal materials.

In response, Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants argue that Albert has failed to set forth any constitutional violations, and thus his complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.

A. Incidents Leading to Disciplinary Hearing

Albert claims that on October 25, 2006, Defendant Hoch made statements to another inmate which caused Albert to be subsequently labeled a "snitch." (Doc. No. 1 at 2.) He also claims that his life was threatened as a result of Defendant Hoch's statements. (Id.) On October 27, 2006, he filed a written complaint about Defendant Hoch's statements to Defendants Karnes and Hauck. (Id.) Because the complaint involved allegations that Albert was a "snitch," and there existed potential for other inmates to discover these allegations, on October 29, 2006, Albert was relocated to CCF-Lebanon's Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") and placed in administrative segregation.

Albert next claims that on October 29, 2006, Defendant Hoch approached him in the RHU. Albert's recollection of their exchange is as follows:

He asked me, "Why did I put his own job in jeopardy." I told him, "He put his own job in jeopardy when he started talking to inmates about me." He said, "You are going to believe what an inmates [saids] I says [sic] over an officer?" I said, "Yes." He made a very disturbing comment. He stated, "Well they will believe me before they believe you." I asked him what he meant. He said, "You'll see." (Doc. No. 1 at 4.) Defendant Hoch filed a misconduct report addressing this exchange. He, however, provided another version of the exchange:

Inmate Derek Albert stated, "Other inmates are telling me that you are dropping my name as a snitch." I informed him, "I am here to do my job, and my job only.

At no point did I say anything to any inmate about him." At this point, inmate Derek Albert stated, "You know what, I don't care about that f***ing badge anymore, if you are in here when my cell is open, you are getting your f***ing a** kicked. I'm tired of this f***ing bullshit." Inmate Derek Albert was informed he will receive a major misconduct for threatening an officer. He then stated, "I don't give a f*** what you f***ing do. We'll see what happens a**hole." (Id. at 13.) Based on this language cited in Defendant Hoch's report, Albert was charged with threatening an officer and gross disrespect towards an officer. (Id.)

After the report was filed, Albert was informed that he would be provided a disciplinary hearing before CCF-Lebanon's Disciplinary Board to address his statements made to Defendant Hoch. Prior to the hearing, on October 31, 2006, Albert submitted a written request to Defendant Karnes, seeking appointment of counsel for his disciplinary hearing and suspension of Defendant Hoch pending the investigation into the incidents of October 25 and 29, 2006. (Id. at 7.) Defendant Karnes responded on November 1, 2006, denying both requests. (Id. at 7-8.) The disciplinary hearing was held on November 2, 2006. (Id. at 6.) Albert was read his Miranda warnings prior to the hearing, and claims that he invoked his right to an attorney and exercised his right to remain silent. (Id.) Albert asserts that it was his intention to call three witnesses, but the Disciplinary Board would only allow testimony from one witness. (Id.) In the decision of the Disciplinary Board, however, the Board indicates that "Although [Albert] wanted to call everyone in the RHU out as a witness the board felt that it would be redundant to here [sic] the same story over and over." (Id. at 12.) After hearing the testimony of Albert's witness, who claimed that the "misconduct is wrong and that nothing like what was written happened at all," (id.), the Board found Albert guilty of misconduct, and ordered that he be placed in disciplinary confinement for a period of sixty (60) days. (Id.)

Albert appealed the Board's decision to the Warden, Defendant Karnes. (Id. at 11.) Defendant Karnes denied Albert's appeal based on his failure to produce evidence at the disciplinary hearing which would refute the allegations concerning Defendant Hoch. (Id.) In his complaint, however, Albert states that he believes Defendant Karnes denied the appeal because Albert invoked his right to remain silent at the hearing. (Id. at 6.)

B. Right of Access to the Courts

Albert also claims that Defendants have denied him the right of access to the courts. In support, he states that in October and November 2006, he submitted inmate requests to Defendant Hauck, requesting West's Pennsylvania Digest 49A (Prisons) and Purdon's Title 61, Prison Law. (Id. at 5-6.) He claims that Defendant Hauck refused to provide him with these books. (Id. at 6.) Later in the complaint, Albert makes a general allegation that CCF-Lebanon's law library is outdated, and does not have "Federal 2d books." (Id.)

II. Standard of Review - Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for dismissal of a claim that fails to assert a basis upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). In the context of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom. Langford v. City of Atlantic City, 235 F.3d 845, 847 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts alleged in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (stating that, although a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not generally consider matters extraneous to the pleadings, a "document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint" may be considered "without converting the motion [to dismiss] into one for summary judgment") (quoting Shaw v. Digital Equip. Corp., 82 F.3d 1194, 1224 (1st Cir. 1996)).

The court will not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond a doubt that "no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002) (quoting Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984)). "The complaint will be deemed to have alleged sufficient facts if it adequately put the defendants on notice of the essential elements of the plaintiff's cause of action." Langford, 235 F.3d at 847. The court must grant leave to amend before dismissing a complaint that is merely deficient. See Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).

III. Discussion

In order to state a viable § 1983 action, a plaintiff must make a showing that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law and that said conduct deprived him of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or by a statute of the United States. See Cohen v. City of Philadelphia, 736 F.2d 81, 83 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1019 (1984). A prerequisite for a viable civil rights claim is that a defendant has personal involvement with the deprivation of a plaintiff's constitutional ...

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