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Davis v. Wilson

March 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hay, Magistrate Judge

RE: Dkt [21]


Bryant Davis ("Plaintiff") was, at the time of initiating this Section 1983 action, and continues to be, a Pennsylvania state prisoner. He named eleven Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Employees as defendants, all of whom were somehow involved in his being charged with the disciplinary infraction of possessing so-called "jail-house wine" in his prison cell. As a consequence of his being charged with the disciplinary infraction, he was sanctioned to serve 75 days in disciplinary confinement. Plaintiff's primary complaint is that he was denied procedural due process by the imposition of the 75 days of disciplinary custody when he was denied the right to call his cell mate as a witness in the disciplinary hearing. Plaintiff contends that his cell mate did confess and at the hearing would have confessed to being the one who created and possessed the wine. Because being housed in disciplinary confinement for a mere 75 days does not implicate a state created liberty interest, Plaintiff's procedural due process claim fails as a matter of law.

Relevant Procedural and Factual History

At the time of initiating this suit, Plaintiff was and continues to be a prisoner at SCI-Fayette. Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (IFP), Dkt. [2], which was granted. Dkt. [3]. The operative complaint is Dkt. [4]. In that complaint, he named eleven Defendants all of whom were somehow involved in his being sanctioned with 75 days of disciplinary confinement. His complaint alleged a cause of action against the Defendants for a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment procedural, and possibly substantive due process rights, as well as his Equal Protection rights and Fifth and Eighth Amendment rights. Plaintiff appended to the complaint copies of the disciplinary hearing decision and the appeals and decisions of appeals.

The following allegations from the complaint are taken as true for the purposes of deciding this motion. On January 3, 2008, Plaintiff and Anwar Woods were cell mates and had been for less than two weeks. Dkt. [31] at 8. On that day, Defendants Correction Officers Zampatti and Risbin conducted a search of the cell and discovered jail house wine located in Woods' cabinet. The two Defendants asked whose wine it was and Woods is alleged to have claimed it as his. At that time, Defendants Block Sergeant Pierce, Unit Manager Walker and Lieutenant Nose were called to the cell when Woods again was alleged to have claimed ownership of the wine. Nevertheless, Plaintiff was issue a misconduct accusing him of possessing contraband, namely the wine.

On January 10, 2008, a misconduct hearing was conducted, at which Plaintiff requested as a witness, Woods. Defendant Cross, the hearing examiner, denied the request. At the hearing, Defendant Zampatti testified that Plaintiff claimed responsibility for the wine. Plaintiff now contends that this was false testimony and Plaintiff denies claiming responsibility for the wine. Defendant Kerri Cross believed the testimony of Defendant Zampatti and found Plaintiff guilty of the misconduct.

Defendants Cesarino-Martin, Howard and Yetter were the members of the Program Review Committee ("PRC"), which heard Plaintiff's appeal of the misconduct but affirmed the finding of guilt and the sanction of 75 days of disciplinary custody. Plaintiff then appealed from the PRC to Defendant Superintendent Wilson, who likewise affirmed the finding of guilt and the sanction. Finally, Plaintiff appealed to Defendant Chief Hearing Examiner Mark, who also affirmed.

The complaint alleged that the Defendants denied Plaintiff procedural and apparently, substantive due process, the equal protection of the laws and violated his Eighth Amendment rights and furthermore, that the defendants conspired to do so.

All eleven Defendants (collectively, "the Defendants"), represented by the same counsel, filed a motion to dismiss, Dkt. [21], and a brief in support thereof, Dkt. [22]. Attached to the brief were copies of the disciplinary hearing decision and Plaintiff's appeals and the Defendants' responses to Plaintiff's appeals. The Court directed Plaintiff to file a response, Dkt. [24], and after being granted an extension of time in which to do so, Plaintiff filed his response, Dkt. [31], with evidentiary materials attached.

Standard of Review

As the United States Supreme Court recently held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), a complaint may properly be dismissed pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). Under this standard, the court must, as a general rule, accept as true all factual allegations of the Complaint and all reasonable inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). Nevertheless, under the 12(b)(6) standard, a "court need not, however, accept as true allegations that contradict matters properly subject to judicial notice or by exhibit." Sprewell v. Golden State Warriors, 266 F.3d 979, 988 (9th Cir. 2001), amended by, 275 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2001). Nor must the Court accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)).

In addition to the complaint, courts may consider matters of public record and other matters of which a court may take judicial notice, court orders, and exhibits attached to the complaint when adjudicating a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1385 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994). In addition, the Court of Appeals in Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 223 (3d Cir. 2004), held that " defendant may submit an indisputably authentic [document] to the court to be considered on a motion to dismiss[.]" Furthermore, because Plaintiff is pro se, courts accord an even more liberal reading of the complaint, employing less stringent standards when considering pro se pleadings than when judging the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).

The question to be resolved is: whether, taking the factual allegations of the complaint, which are not contradicted by the exhibits and matters of which judicial notice may be had, and taking all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those uncontradicted factual allegations of the complaint, are the "factual allegations . . . enough 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, 1964-1965 (2007). Or put another way, a complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 1974.


To state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. §1983, a plaintiff must meet two threshold requirements. He must make factual allegations enough to establish that: (1) the asserted misconduct was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that as a result, he was deprived of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42 (1988); Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 535 (1981), overruled in part on other grounds by, Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-331 (1986). Because Plaintiff's complaint ...

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