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Mincy v. Klem

February 9, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Plaintiff Hilton Karriem Mincy ("plaintiff"), a state inmate formerly housed at the State Correctional Institution at Mahanoy ("SCI-Mahanoy"), commenced this civil rights action on January 10, 2008, naming as defendants various Pennsylvania Department of Corrections employees assigned to SCI-Mahanoy. (Doc. 1.) Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed on behalf of defendants Cynthia Straub ("Straub"), George Clements ("Clements") and Kenneth Mumma ("Mumma"). (Doc. 9.) For the reasons set forth below, defendants' motion will be granted.

I. Allegations of the Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that "[o]n December 29, 2005 and or December 30, 2005, [he] testified at deposition proceedings in relation to civil suits he had pending in the United States District Court, Middle [D]istrict of Pennsylvania." (Doc. 1, at 8, ¶ 1.) A few days later, on January 3, 2006, he was ordered to move from Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") HD Pod, cell #5 to RHU HA Pod, cell # 2. (Id. at ¶¶ 3, 4.) When plaintiff arrived at the new cell, the other inmate assigned to the cell was placed in handcuffs and removed so that he could move in. After plaintiff' was moved in, the other inmate was allowed to return. Immediately upon being uncuffed, the other inmate allegedly "threw a punch at the plaintiff" in the presence of the officer who was supervising the move. The officer exited the cell and walked away. (Doc. 1, at, 8-9, ¶ 4.) Plaintiff attempted to defend himself by holding the other inmate's arms down. At this point several officers returned to the cell and were "laughing at the whole ordeal." (Id. at 9, ¶ 5.) Plaintiff describes the incident as follows:

The plaintiff was able to break away from the other inmate, and put his hands in the air and tried to walk towards the door, when he, the plaintiff, was struck again. The officers just stood at the door laughing and saying: "stop", bu the incident continued, which left the plaintiff with no choice to defend himself. In the process of the scuffle, the plaintiff's jumpsuit fell, which cased [sic] him to fall, in which the other inmate got on top of him and began to punch at his face, the officers still did not intervene, and stood at the door laughing and saying "break-it-up". The plaitniff [sic] was able to get the other inmate off of him, then and only then did the officer's [sic] move to break-up the altercation. (Doc. 1, at 9, ¶ 5.) Plaintiff was given misconduct #A79302 for fighting, and following a January 6, 2006 hearing, was found guilty. (Doc. 1, at 10, ¶ 8.) He appealed to the Program Review Committee ("PRC"), which consisted of defendants Straub, Clements and Mumma. (Doc. 1, at 11, ¶ 13.) The PRC upheld the hearing examiner's finding of guilt. Plaintiff alleges that the denial of his appeal was "done intentionally and in accordance with S.C.I. Mahanoy and Pennsylvania Department of Corrections policies, practices and or customs to aide and abet other the [sic] staff that were initially involved in the misconduct and hearing process. It is their way of saying the officers and staff are never wrong, thus making the misconduct processes virtually impossible for inmates to vindicate their claims based on actual facts. Thus making the whole process intentionally rote and deprive of any real and substansive [sic] meaning." (Id.)

He sues each of the defendants in their official and individual capacity for violations of his First, Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Doc. 1, at pp. 5-6, ¶¶ G, H, I.)

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir.2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts 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).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to "give the defendant notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Sershen v. Cholish, No. 3:07-CV-1011, 2007 WL 3146357, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 26, 2007) (quoting Erickson v. Pardus, --- U.S. ---, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200 (2007)). The plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a) (stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, ---, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1965 (2007) (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"); Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007). Thus, courts should not dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim if it contains "enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at ---, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). Under this liberal pleading standard, courts should generally grant plaintiffs leave to amend their claims before dismissing a complaint that is merely deficient. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).

III. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. . . .


A. Fifth ...

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