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Brooks v. Austin

June 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rufe, J.


This case arises out of alleged events at Chester County Prison in which Plaintiff James Brooks claims his rights were violated by Defendant Correction Officers ("C.O.") Austin and Weaver. Presently before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, Defendants' Motion is granted in part, denied in part.


Plaintiff describes two incidents that allegedly took place while he was detained pretrial at Chester County Prison: the first occurred on Q Block on November 7, 2009 at 7:10 p.m., and the second occurred on T Block on November 26, 2009 at 9:30 p.m. Plaintiff asserts that on November 7, 2009, there was a dispute involving C.O. Weaver and a group of inmates, including Plaintiff, regarding the use of the inmate television.*fn2 When "the Block" became angry, C.O. Weaver asked Plaintiff and other inmates to "lock up". Plaintiff claims that at that point he asked for a supervisor, which request was denied by C.O. Weaver.*fn3

Plaintiff next asserts that, as a result of the events on Q Block, he was handcuffed and told to face the wall on J Block .*fn4 He refused, after which C.O. Austin "slammed [Plaintiff] against the wall head first and put his elbow in [Plaintiff's] neck pushing [his] face against the wall."*fn5

Plaintiff adds that another unidentified officer was "on my neck too."*fn6 Other corrections officers were present, as well as supervisor Sergeant Hamilton.*fn7 Plaintiff claims that his cellmate, Thessalonius Smith, witnessed the incident in its entirety.*fn8

As a result of the encounter with C.O. Austin, Plaintiff states that he sustained knee and shoulder injuries.*fn9 He further claims that "[the prison medical staff] refused medical help and when I put a sick call in they (the medical staff) did give me some medication for the pain and put me on the list for a [sic] xray."*fn10 When Plaintiff told Lieutenant Forbs about the encounter with C.O. Weaver, he received forty-five (45) days in the Restrictive Housing Unit ("RHU").*fn11 Plaintiff also asserts that he gave Lieutenant Forbs a grievance request form, but heard nothing further.*fn12 Plaintiff names Sergeant Pettiford as another officer who ignored his claims.*fn13

It is unclear whether the second incident referenced in the Complaint was the encounter with C.O. Austin or another event that allegedly occurred during cell searches on November 26, 2009. Plaintiff avers that Sergeant Pettiford "put clothes and a towel of [Plaintiff's] in the toilet."*fn14

On December 9, 2009, Plaintiff brought the instant pro se action, requesting that the Court grant him monetary relief for "racial profiling" ("the quads with white people on it have no problems"), "negligence", and "unnecessary force" and his resulting injuries.*fn15 Defendants thereafter filed the instant Motion to Dismiss. As Plaintiff himself does not refer to any law upon which his claims might arise,*fn16 Defendants' Motion assumes that the Complaint contains 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims arising out of alleged violations of Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process rights and Eighth Amendment protections.*fn17


A complaint can be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if the plaintiff has not presented "'enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence' of [a] necessary element."*fn18 A court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine, whether under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief."*fn19 In particular when determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, a court must construe it liberally in the plaintiff's favor.*fn20 However, a plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" need not be accepted as true by the court.*fn21 At this stage, the court does not determine whether the non-moving party will prevail, but whether it will be permitted to offer evidence in support of the claims in the complaint.*fn22

The pleading standard, described in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) as "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"*fn23 has been addressed twice by the Supreme Court of the United States in recent years, first in Bell Atlantic v. Twombly*fn24 and then in Ashcroft v. Iqbal.*fn25 The Twombly Court articulated a "plausibility" standard that a plaintiff must meet by its factual allegations to survive a motion to dismiss. The Court described it as a level higher than suspicion or speculation.*fn26 The Iqbal Court, applying the Twombly standard in a discrimination case, offered further explanation and support, stating "where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not 'show[n]' - 'that the pleader is entitled to relief.'"*fn27 Even after the decisions in Twombly and Iqbal, however, a court must construe a pro se complaint liberally in the plaintiff's favor.*fn28


In order to establish a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States, and must show that the deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.*fn29 A defendant can be liable for a civil rights violation under § 1983 only if he or she "subjects, or causes to be subjected," the plaintiff to the deprivation of rights alleged.*fn30 "A fundamental ...

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