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Kirk v. Varano

United States District Court, Third Circuit

May 23, 2013

NELSON KIRK, Plaintiff
v.
SUPERINTENDENT DAVID VARANO, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

Plaintiff Clyde Green, an inmate currently confined at the State Correctional Institution in Coal Township, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Coal Township"), commenced this civil rights action by filing a complaint on June 26, 2012, pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. (Doc. 1.) Named as Defendants are several Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") officials.[1] In the complaint, Plaintiff asserts that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by transferring him to a facility which allegedly did not accommodate his religious right to a shave exemption. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensatory and injunctive relief.

Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss the complaint, filed by DOC Defendants. (Doc. 11.) For the reasons set forth below, the motion to dismiss will be granted.

I. Background

A. Facts

In the complaint, Plaintiff provides the following factual background with respect to his claims. For purposes of disposition of the instant motion to dismiss, the factual allegations asserted in the complaint will be accepted as true and viewed in a light most favorable to Plaintiff.

In the complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on February 2, 2010, the DOC entered into a contract with the Commonwealth of Virginia to house Pennsylvania DOC inmates. (Doc. 1 at 2.) As a result, Plaintiff was transferred to a facility in Virginia on February 24, 2010. ( Id. )

Plaintiff further avers that, while incarcerated in Virginia from April 14, 2010 to July 18, 2010, he filed grievances in Pennsylvania requesting a shave exemption, presumably for an exemption in his Virginia facility.[2] ( Id. ) Defendants Varano, Varner, and Dascani denied his requests. ( Id. ) Plaintiff does not assert that he filed a request for a shave exemption with Pennsylvania DOC officials prior to his transfer to Virginia, or with Virginia DOC officials upon his arrival in Virginia.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed his complaint on June 26, 2012. (Doc. 1.) By order dated July 5, 2012, the court directed service of the complaint on all Defendants named therein. (Doc. 7.) On September 4, 2012, DOC Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim (Doc. 11), and filed a brief in support on September 18, 2012 (Doc. 13). On November 2, 2012, the court directed Plaintiff to file a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss no later than November 16, 2012. (Doc. 15.) After the court granted Plaintiff an extension of time ( see Doc. 18), Plaintiff filed his opposition on November 23, 2012 (Doc. 19). Although the DOC Defendants have not filed a reply brief, the time for responding has passed, and therefore, the motion to dismiss is ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). "Fair notice" in the context of Rule 8(a)(2) "depends on the type of case - some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). "[A] situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Id. A plaintiff must provide more than "labels and conclusions" or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" to show entitlement to relief. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (recognizing that Rule 8 pleading standard "does not require detailed factual allegations, ' but it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation"); accord, e.g., Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (stating that the court is not "compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation") (quotations and citations omitted).

A defendant may attack a complaint by a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court is required to accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint, Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007), and all reasonable inferences permitted by the factual allegations, Watson v. Abington Twp., 478 F.3d 144, 150 (3d Cir. 2007), and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007). If the facts alleged are sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level" such that the plaintiff's claim is "plausible on its face, " a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 663 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570) (explaining a claim has "facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged"); see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234; Victaulic Co. v. Tieman, 499 F.3d 227, 234 (3d Cir. 2007); Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F.3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007). Further, when a complaint contains well-pleaded factual allegations, "a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Id. at 664. However, a court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id.

"To decide a motion to dismiss, courts generally consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record." Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993) (citations omitted); see also Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007). The court may 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] document[s]." Pension Benefit, 998 F.2d at 1196. Additionally, "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) (citation omitted); see also U.S. Express Lines, Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383, 388 (3d Cir. 2002) ("Although a district court may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings, a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be ...


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