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Washington v. Grace

June 24, 2010

HENRY UNSELD WASHINGTON PLAINTIFF
v.
JAMES GRACE, ET AL. DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

(Magistrate Judge Carlson)

(Judge Jones)

The plaintiff, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, commenced this action by filing a complaint on July 7, 2008 (Doc. 1) and an amended complaint June 29, 2009. (Doc. 22.) Liberally construed, the amended complaint names approximately 132 defendants, and sets forth some 320 factual averments of alleged violations of the plaintiff's rights. Many of these acts which are the subject of the plaintiff's complaint are more than 10 years old, spanning conduct that reaches as far back as 1997, and in many instances it is impossible to determine which of the more than 130 named defendants are alleged to have committed the acts set forth in the complaint. The complaint then alleges that these actions constituted Eighth Amendment violations relating to lack of medical care and use of excessive force by prison officials, due process violations, negligence and medical malpractice.

This Court was assigned responsibility to oversee this case on June 23, 2010. Having examined the plaintiff's complaint we are notifying the plaintiff that many of these allegations are subject to dismissal and are directing the plaintiff to file an amended complaint for the reasons set forth below.

This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints which seek redress against government officials. Specifically, we are obliged to review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A which provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening. - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for dismissal. - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

Under Section 1915A, the Court must assess whether a pro se complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." This statutory text mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).

With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has recently aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (12007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)]and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal --U.S.--, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, ...


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