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Carrington Keys v. Jacqueline Carroll

July 13, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is Defendant District Attorney Jacqueline M. Carroll's Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 133.) Because the allegations of the Amended Complaint fail to state a viable claim against District Attorney Carroll, she will be dismissed from this matter.


Plaintiff Carrington Keys is currently incarcerated at State Correctional Institution ("SCI") Camp Hill. Previously, while incarcerated at SCI Dallas, Keys lodged criminal complaints with the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office that he asserts were not investigated. In particular, Keys alleges that he submitted information to District Attorney Jacqueline M. Carroll alleging involvement of the Correctional Defendants in the suicide of a fellow inmate, but that instead of investigating and/or prosecuting the Correctional Defendants, Defendant Carroll forwarded Plaintiff's complaint to prison officials who then retaliated against Plaintiff by assaulting him, harassing him, and depriving him of mail.

Keys filed his initial Complaint in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas against various prison officials pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging, inter alia, assault, mail tampering, retaliation, and failure to prosecute. The Defendants removed the action to federal court. (Doc. 1). Defendants to this lawsuit include: Jeffrey A. Beard, Secretary of the Department of Corrections; Michael Klopotoski, the Regional Deputy Secretary for the Department of Corrections; SCI Dallas Superintendent Jerome Walsh; SCI Dallas Deputy Superintendent Vincent Mooney; Joseph Zakkarauskas, Robert McCoy, Lawrence Pudlosky, Elmore Angelope and Nancy Fedor, all employees at SCI Dallas ("Correctional Defendants"); and Jacqueline Musto Carroll, the former District Attorney for Luzerne County.

As a result the District Attorney's Office returning Plaintiff's complaint back to the prison officials, Plaintiff claims he was subjected to verbal and physical harassment from Corrections Officers ("CO") Pudlosky and McCoy who manufactured false misconduct reports to conceal their abuse. Plaintiff's claim against Defendant Carroll is that she had an unconstitutional policy of returning prisoner criminal complaints to their respective institutions in order to endanger the inmates who authored them and to make them disappear. Plaintiff argues that this indifference to his federal rights amounted to a state-created danger, and that Defendant Carroll had constructive knowledge of the culture of lawlessness her actions were promoting within the prisons. Plaintiff further alleges that Defendants Beard, Klopotoski, Walsh, Mooney, and Zakkarauskas were deliberately indifferent in training their Officers as to constitutional policies, and that they affirmatively established policies and practices that encouraged interference with prisoners' right to petition for redress of grievances.

On March 28, 2011, I granted Defendant DA Carroll's Motion to Dismiss the claims made specifically against her. Keys v. Carroll, 3:10-CV-1570, 2011 WL 1152135 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 28, 2011). In pertinent part, I determined that Plaintiff Keys failed to allege necessary facts under the state-created danger doctrine suggesting that sending a complaint back to prison officials to be investigated more thoroughly contained the requisite conscience-shocking degree of culpability. Id. at *6. However, I gave Keys twenty-one days to amend this Complaint. After two extensions of this period, Keys declined to amend but instead filed a motion to supplement the complaint on May 24, 2011, bringing new claims against DA Carroll based on new facts. He filed an additional motion to supplement on August 4, 2011 seeking to include additional allegations not related to DA Carroll regarding destruction of legal materials. On November 23, 2011, I denied both motions to supplement, but allowed Keys one final opportunity to submit an amended complaint against DA Carroll on the substantive due process claim. (Doc. 119.) Keys then filed an Amended Complaint on December 6, 2011. (Doc. 125.)

In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges Defendants' actions were in violation of his rights: (1) to be secure in his person and property under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments; (2) to petition for redress of grievances under the First Amendment; (3) to be free of cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment; (4) of equal protection under the First and Fourteenth Amendments; and (5) of substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. Keys also claims assault and battery under state law and that Defendant Carroll's actions amounted to a state-created danger under the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Plaintiff seeks a permanent inunction and monetary damages as against all Defendants.

On December 21, 2011, DA Carroll filed her motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 133.) This motion is now ripe for the Court's review.


I. Legal Standard

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

"A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Detailed factual allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. However, mere conclusory statements will not do; "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). Instead, a complaint must "show" this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. Id.

As such, the inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is "normally broken into three parts: (1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the ...

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