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Darryl Powell v. Ralph Weiss

May 6, 2013

DARRYL POWELL,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
RALPH WEISS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

Presently pending before the court in the above-captioned action are the motions to dismiss filed by Defendants Ralph Weiss, John E. Wetzel, and Diane Yale (doc. 7) and Defendant Michael C. Potteiger (doc. 9). The motions have been fully briefed (docs. 10, 12, 16, 17, 21) and are thus ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, we will grant both motions in their respective entireties and dismiss this action with prejudice.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), courts "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." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings, Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). In resolving a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), a court generally should consider only the allegations in the complaint, as well as "documents that are attached or submitted with the complaint, . . . and any matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006).

A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a). Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, "in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.' " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ___, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). To survive a motion to dismiss, a civil plaintiff must allege facts that "raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . ." Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 235 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). Accordingly, to satisfy the plausibility standard, the complaint must indicate that defendant's liability is more than a "sheer possibility." Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. "Where a complaint pleads facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability, it 'stops short of the line between possibility and plausibility of entitlement to relief.' " Id. (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Under the two-pronged approach articulated in Twombly and later expounded upon and formalized in Iqbal, a district court must first identify all factual allegations that constitute nothing more than "legal conclusions" or "naked assertions." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 557. Such allegations are "not entitled to the assumption of truth" and must be disregarded for purposes of resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. at 1950. Next, the district court must identify "the 'nub' of the . . . complaint -- the well-pleaded, nonconclusory factual allegation[s]." Id. Taking these allegations as true, the district judge must then determine whether the complaint states a plausible claim for relief. See id.

However, "a complaint may not be dismissed merely because it appears unlikely that the plaintiff can prove those facts or will ultimately prevail on the merits." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57). Rule 8 "does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Id. at 234.

III. BACKGROUND

In accordance with the standard of review applicable to the instant motions, the following facts are derived from the Plaintiff's Complaint (doc. 1) and viewed in a light most favorable to the Plaintiff.

Plaintiff Darryl Powell ("Plaintiff" or "Powell") was formerly an inmate at the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("SCI Dallas"). (Doc. 1, ¶ 8). Defendant Michael C. Potteiger ("Potteiger") is Chairman of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole and Defendants Ralph Weiss, John Wetzel, and Diane Yale (collectively, "Corrections Defendants") are officials or employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. (Id. ¶¶ 3-5). In the instant dispute, Powell asserts that the Defendants are constitutionally liable to him under Section 1983 for the alleged miscalculation of his prison sentence and prerelease status.

The factual background underlying this dispute was best summarized by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania, which addressed Powell's first challenge to the miscalculation of his sentence:

Powell, formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas (SCI-Dallas), was paroled from the Department's custody on August 31, 2009. On July 1, 2002, Powell was sentenced in three separate criminal actions in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County: CP 0112-0367 (CP-367), CP 0203-0136 (CP-136), and CP 0009-0723 (CP-723). In CP-367, Powell was sentenced by the Honorable Lillian Ransom (Judge Ransom) to a term of one and one-half to three years incarceration, with two years of probation to be served consecutively. In CP-136, Powell was sentenced by Judge Ransom to a term of one and one-half to three years incarceration, with two years of probation to be served consecutively. Judge Ransom directed that CP-136 be served concurrent with CP-367. In CP-723, Powell was sentenced by the Honorable Genece Brinkley (Judge Brinkley) to a term of five to ten years incarceration. Judge Brinkley directed that CP-723 be served consecutively to CP-367 and CP-136.

Powell appealed Judge Ransom's sentences in CP-367 and CP-136 to the Superior Court. By order filed April 6, 2004, the Superior Court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded the matter to Judge Ransom for resentencing. On June 16, 2004, Judge Ransom resentenced Powell in CP-367 to a term of one and one-half to three years incarceration, to be served concurrently with "any other sentence." In CP-136, Judge Ransom resentenced Powell to a term of one and one-half to three years incarceration, to be served concurrently with CP-367. Based on Judge Ransom's June 16, 2004 resentencing orders, the Department ...


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