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Aaron Sloan v. John Murray

September 5, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Caputo)


I. Introduction

Presently before the Court is the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. (Doc. 15). In his Complaint, pro se prisoner Plaintiff, Aaron Sloan, alleges that SCI-Camp Hill Department of Corrections (DOC) employees confiscated and destroyed his legal materials preventing him from filing one or more conditions of confinement actions related to his previous incarceration at SCI-Forest, in Marienville, Pennsylvania. Presently pending is Defendants' motion to dismiss. The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for consideration.

For the reasons that follow, Defendants motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Standard of Review

In considering a motion to dismiss, "[w]e '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.'" Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoted case omitted). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must allege sufficient facts, if accepted as true, state "a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when a plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. The court is " 'not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.' " Id. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1950 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965); see also PA Prison Soc. v. Cortes, 622 F.3d 215, 233 (3d Cir. 2010).

In resolving a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a district court's "inquiry 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 inquiry are sufficiently alleged." Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). If a party opposing a motion to dismiss does not "nudge [his] claims across the line from conceivable to plausible, [the] complaint must be dismissed." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974.

In considering a motion to dismiss, the court generally relies on the complaint, attached exhibits and matters of public record. See Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263 (3d Cir. 2007). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the [attached] documents." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). Moreover, "documents whose contents are alleged in the complaint and whose authenticity no party questions, but which are not physically attached to the pleading, may be considered." Pryor v. Nat'l Collegiate Athletic Ass'n, 288 F.3d 548, 560 (3d Cir. 2002).

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). However, under no circumstance is a court required to accept bald assertions, unwarranted inferences, or sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations. See In re Rockefeller Ctr. Props., Inc. Sec. Litig., 311 F.3d 198, 215 (3d Cir. 2002); Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 n. 8 (3d Cir. 1997). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See DelRio-Mocci v. Connonlly Prop., Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 251 (3d Cir. 2012). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. Background

Plaintiff, Aaron Sloan, a state prisoner presently housed at SCI-Fayette, in Labelle, Pennsylvania, initiated this action on May 19, 2011, while housed at SCI-Camp Hill. Named as Defendants are the following SCI-Camp Hill employees: former Superintendent, John Murray; former Deputy Superintendent Richard Southers; former Grievance Coordinator, Ian Taggart; Lt. Kathy Flowers; Sgt. Joshua Flinn; former Unit Manager, Rodney Carberry; Assistant Chief Grievance Officer, Tracy Williams; and Executive Deputy Secretary of the Department of Corrections (DOC), Shirley Moore Smeal. (Doc. 1, Compl. at p. 2.) None of the named defendants is employed at SCI-Forest, in Marienville, Pennsylvania.

Mr. Sloan has been incarcerated since August 2005 and professes to be an "outspoken state prisoner". (Id. at ¶ 1.) He asserts that the following events occurred while housed at SCI-Forest: (1) on July 15, 2008, he was placed in an unsanitary cell "for a substantial time;" (2) again, between September 3 - 10, 2008, he was placed in a cell without proper water or sanitation, and denied adequate meals for retaliatory reasons; (3) from September 28, 2008, through January 2, 2009, he was repeatedly denied food, water and sanitation for seven (7) to eight (8) day stints; and that, (4) in November of 2008, his personal radio was confiscated and later destroyed. (Id. at ¶¶ 1-4.)

Mr. Sloan intended to file civil rights actions regarding these events in either the Forest County Court of Common Pleas and/or the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 5.) However, on September 18, 2010, "[a]fter doing almost two (2) years of research & note taking, and acquiring the necessary declarations and other evidence to substantiate the claims plaintiff intended to make in those complaints," Lt. Flowers, Sgt. Flinn and two unidentified corrections officers "intentionally destroyed" his legal materials. (Id.) This event occurred at SCI-Camp Hill.

Mr. Sloan alleges that Lt. Flowers, Sgt. Flinn and the other officers, "with the approval of" Defendants John Murray and Richard Southers destroyed his legal property. (Id. at ¶ 7.) Plaintiff contacted the following individuals at SCI-Camp Hill seeking to have his property returned: J. Bailey (non-defendant), Superintendent Murray, Grievance Coordinator Taggart and Assistant Chief Grievance Officer Williams. (Id. at ¶ 8.) He also alleges Defendants Murray, Southers, Taggart, Williams and Carberry "intentionally falsified & manipulated facts" to "cover up" the alleged wrongdoings of their subordinate officers. (Id. at ¶ 8.) These events occurred between October 8, 2010 and March 21, 2011. (Id.) Mr. Sloan also asserts that Defendants Murray, Southers, Carberry, Taggart, Williams and Smeal are "responsible" for failing to adequately train and monitor, and thus condoning, the acts of their subordinates. (Id. at ¶ 9.) ...

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