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Matthew Jackson v. Quovello Johnson

July 27, 2012


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


Presently before the Court is Defendant QuoVello Johnson's Motion to Dismiss. (Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 3.) For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion will be granted.


Plaintiff Matthew Jackson is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania ("Graterford"). Graterford is a prison operated by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Defendant QuoVello Johnson is a Corrections Food Services Instructor ("CFSI") at Graterford. Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed the instant Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. (Compl., ECF No. 1 Ex. A.) Defendant removed the matter to this Court. (Notice of Removal, ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff's Complaint alleges that Defendant violated his right to due process and his right to the protections of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Compl. ¶ 16.) He seeks relief in the form of "a money judgment of $50,000 delivered via cashiers check against the defendant Ms. Q. Johnson, together with any and all other extra-ordinary relieve this honorable court/judge deems appropriate under the circumstances."*fn1

A liberal reading of Plaintiff's pro se Amended Complaint reveals that this case arises out of an incident that occurred on August 7, 2009, in the kitchen at Graterford, where both Plaintiff and Defendant worked. According to the initial misconduct report filed with the prison, Plaintiff "threatened [Defendant] or [her] family with bodily harm," used "abusive, obscene, or inappropriate language," and "refus[ed] to obey an order" to pick up paper that was strewn on the ground. (Misconduct Report 1-2, ECF No. 2.) Defendant denied these allegations, and claimed that a witness-fellow inmate "F. Flowers"-and surveillance tape footage would corroborate his version of events. (Id. at 7.) At a hearing regarding the alleged misconduct, Plaintiff's witness was not permitted to testify. (Id.) The hearing examiner viewed the surveillance video, and found Plaintiff guilty of several violations of Graterford's internal disciplinary code. (Id. at 9.) The hearing examiner removed Plaintiff from his job in the kitchen and directed that he serve a sixty-day term in the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). (Misconduct Report 9.)*fn2 The hearing examiner's decision was upheld by a review committee. (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff appealed the hearing examiner's ruling to Graterford's administration. (Id. at 7.) The appeal was ultimately denied. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. E at 14, ECF No. 4.)

Plaintiff claims that on August 20, 2009, he was sent to the RHU, and that some of his property was missing after the move. (Pl.'s Resp. Ex. D at 11, ECF No. 4.) Plaintiff alleges that he is missing a portable fan purchased from the prison commissary and a dictionary volume purchased outside the prison. (Id.) Plaintiff further notes that he is "a diabetic and insulin dependent." (Compl. ¶ 15.) He claims that his placement in the RHU "aggravated his . . . condition, causing lose (sic) of weight and the like[]." (Id. at ¶ 18.)

Plaintiff claims that Defendant "knowingly [and] callously submitted a false disciplinary action against him." (Id. at ¶ 14.) He argues that Defendant lied, subjected Plaintiff to "official oppression," and "denied/impeded plaintiff in the exercise and enjoyment of constitutional rights to be free from cruel and unusual punishment." (Id. at ¶ 16.) He claims that Defendant acted, or purported to act, "in an official capacity." (Id.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant "knew or should have known" that her allegations would have a direct effect on Plaintiff's diabetic condition. (Id. at ¶ 15.)

Defendant moves to dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), alleging failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Def.'s Mot.) Plaintiff has filed a Response which included an "amended complaint." (Pl.'s Resp., ECF No. 4.)*fn3

Defendant has replied to Plaintiff's Response. (Def.'s Reply, ECF No. 5.)


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides that a complaint may be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). "To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). In Iqbal, the Supreme Court set forth a two-part analysis that district courts must conduct when reviewing a complaint challenged under Rule 12(b)(6). See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (describing Iqbal'stwo-step inquiry). The district court must first separate "the factual and legal elements of a claim," accepting all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true but rejecting legal conclusions. Id. at 210 (citing Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949); see also Iqbal, 129 S. 1949-50 ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice [to state a claim]."). Under this analysis, well-pleaded factual allegations are to be given a presumption of veracity. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950. The district court must then "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950). A complaint that merely alleges entitlement to relief, without alleging facts that show entitlement, must be dismissed. Id. By contrast, a complaint that demonstrates entitlement to relief through well-pleaded facts will survive a motion to dismiss. See id. Given the nature of the two-part analysis, "'[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will . . . be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.'" See McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950).


A. Sovereign Immunity

Plaintiff's pleadings seek relief from a single Defendant in her official capacity*fn4 as an employee of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 16(f).)*fn5 The doctrine of sovereign immunity bars all claims for monetary damages against state officials. The Eleventh Amendment "has been interpreted to bar suits for monetary damages by private parties in federal court against a state or against state agencies." Melo v. Hafer, 912 F.2d 628, 635-36 (3d Cir. 1990). A suit against a state official in her ...

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