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Rivers v. S.C.I. Huntingdon

United States District Court, Third Circuit

April 3, 2013

FREDERICK RIVERS, Plaintiff,
v.
S.C.I. HUNTINGDON, et al., Defendants

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN E. SCHWAB, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction.

This case comes before the court for a statutorily mandated screening review. The plaintiff, Frederick Rivers, claims that the defendants violated the Eighth Amendment by not providing heat in his cell. Having reviewed the amended complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, we conclude that the claims against four of the defendants are barred by the Eleventh Amendment and that the amended complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted against the other two defendants. Thus, we recommend that the complaint be dismissed.

II. Factual Background and Procedural History.

Rivers, a state prisoner proceeding pro se, commenced this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 case by filing a complaint and an application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Rivers named the State Correctional Institution at Huntingdon (SCI-Huntingdon) as the defendant. After screening the original complaint, Judge Caldwell granted Rivers' application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismissed the complaint because SCI-Huntingdon has Eleventh Amendment immunity, and granted Rivers leave to file an amended complaint naming individual prison officials or employees responsible for the lack of heat in his cell.

On March 19, 2013, Rivers filed an amended complaint naming six defendants. Two of those defendants are prison officials at the SCI-Huntingdon: Tabb Bickell, the Superintendent, and Mr. Bilger, the Safety Manager. Rivers again names SCI-Huntingdon as a defendant, and he also names as defendants the following three departments of SCI-Huntingdon: the maintenance department, the plumbing department, and the powerhouse department.

Rivers alleges that, on October 26, 2012, he was placed in a cell with no heat. According to Rivers, Pennsylvania law provides that the heat in state correctional institutions is to be turned on by October 15. Rivers alleges that he complained to corrections officers and staff, and he sent request slips about the lack of heat to Lieutenants Powell and Henery.[1] Lieutenant Powell told Rivers that he would call the maintenance department, and someone from the maintenance department came to the cell to fix the heat. Nevertheless, the heat never came on. Rivers alleges that he then filed a grievance against the maintenance, plumbing, and powerhouse departments complaining about the lack of heat.

Rivers claims that placing him in a cell with no heat is a violation of the Eighth Amendment as well as state law. He seeks monetary damages.

III. Discussion.

A. Screening of Pro Se Complaints-Standard of Review.

This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by plaintiffs given leave to proceed in forma pauperis in cases that seek redress against government officials. Specifically, we are obliged to review the amended 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 ...

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