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Ball v. SCI-Muncy

January 29, 2009


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


Dawn Marie Ball filed the instant civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are the State Correctional Institution at Muncy ("SCI-Muncy"), where Ball is incarcerated, the SCI-Muncy Records Department and fifteen (15) SCI-Muncy officials and employees.*fn1 Also named as Defendants are the Northampton County Sheriffs and Judge Robert A. Freedberg, President Judge of the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. Presently pending before the Court are motions to dismiss the complaint filed by Defendant Freedberg (Doc. No. 12) and the Commonwealth Defendants (Doc. No. 18). Also pending is Plaintiff's request for default with respect to the Commonwealth Defendants (Doc. No. 26), and Plaintiff's Motion for injunctive relief (Doc. No. 27).*fn2 For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's request for default will be denied. The motion to dismiss filed by Defendant Freedberg will be granted. The motion to dismiss filed by the Corrections Defendants will be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff alleges that on January 22, 2008, the Northampton County Sheriffs came to SCI- Muncy to take her to a hearing in the Northampton County Court of Common Pleas. She states that Defendant Gair came to her cell door around 2 p.m., and asked if she was "going." (Doc. No.1, Compl., at 1.) She asked him what he was talking about, and then immediately replied in the affirmative. She states that she jumped up and stripped out. Gair saw that Plaintiff's uniform was ripped so she took it from her to get a new one. Upon Gair's return she told Plaintiff to "forget it" and "shot the wicket." (Id., at 2.) When Plaintiff asked why she was not going, Defendant stated probably because Plaintiff "took too long." (Id.)

Plaintiff thereafter asked Defendant Wolford why the Sheriffs did not take her. Wolford replied that he did not know, but that the Sheriffs would return. A fellow inmate then informed Plaintiff that the Sheriffs were still at the prison. When Plaintiff looked out of her cell door through the pod window, she saw them and motioned for them to come over. Defendant George opened the pod door and Plaintiff states she yelled to the sheriffs. George thereafter closed the door, and the Sheriffs walked away. The same fellow inmate then informed Plaintiff that the Sheriffs left the prison.

Plaintiff asked Defendant Griner why the Sheriffs left. Around 5:30 the same afternoon, Griner informed Plaintiff that the Sheriffs had received a phone call and had to leave. Griner told Plaintiff this was all the information he had.

Plaintiff made further inquiries about the incident to Defendant Baver, who told her it was "none of [her] business." (Doc. No. 1, Compl., at 2.) She also asked Defendant Eiswerth about the matter. Eiswerth informed her that when she asked the Sheriffs if they were here for Plaintiff, they said yes, but that they would return for her the following day in an older vehicle because they had heard Plaintiff urinated outside of her door. Eiswerth confirmed to the Sheriffs that this had occurred. Eiswerth later told Plaintiff that it was a staff member, and not the Sheriffs, who told her they would return for Plaintiff the following day. Based on the foregoing, Plaintiff claims that Eiswerth obstructed her efforts to go with the Sheriffs on January 22, 2008. When Plaintiff later asked Defendant Wolford if the sheriffs were coming back for her the next day, he stated that he did not know.

Plaintiff wrote to Defendants Torma, Shepler and Chamberlain about the matter, but they stated they did not know what happened. Plaintiff also spoke and wrote to Defendants Shaffer, Blessing and Pinard, who also informed her they did not know anything about the matter. When Plaintiff made a written inquiry to the SCI-Muncy Records Department, Defendant Skiro wrote back stating she knew nothing. Defendant Bitler responded to Plaintiff by stating she had not been cleared to go and giving Plaintiff other excuses. According to Plaintiff, Defendant Nichols also gave excuses when asked about the incident.

Plaintiff states she further wrote to the "county court clerk twice, the judge once, [her] lawyer twice and the sheriffs' office twice" sometime at the end of February, when she was allowed a pen. (Id., at 3.) Plaintiff never received a response until March 17, 2008, when her attorney informed her that the appeal was heard without her on January 25, 2008, and was dismissed. Counsel informed Plaintiff that the Sheriffs testified under oath that Plaintiff refused to go with them and that she ". . . screamed protests and threatened the well being of the Sheriffs and ripped [her] uniform." (Id., at 3.) Plaintiff claims that this never happened, and that she was all prepared to go with the Sheriffs that day.

Finally, Plaintiff contends that in the letter her attorney wrote her on January 28, 2008, which she never received until March 17, 2008, he asked her to contact him if she wanted to appeal the decision regarding the denial of her appeal. According to Plaintiff, she was not allowed pens or envelopes until the end of February, and the appeal had to be in by February 25, 2008. She claims she did not know this because she never received the letter advising her of this deadline. Plaintiff then references another civil action she filed with this Court, Ball v. SCIMuncy, et al., No. 1:08-cv-0391, she states she filed to pursue the mail interference claims. In the instant action, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for the violation of her rights under the First Amendment when Defendants obstructed her access to the courts.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. In reviewing a motion to dismiss, the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)(quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n. 7 (3d Cir. 2002). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the face of 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. 1997); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Although the moving party bears the burden of showing that no claim has been stated, Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2007), the plaintiff has an obligation to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964 (2007) (internal citations omitted). Furthermore, "once a claim has been stated adequately, it may be supported by showing any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Twombly, Id. at 1960. When evaluating a motion to dismiss, a court need not "credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions.'" Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, ...

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