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Monroe v. DiGuglielmo

United States District Court, Third Circuit

July 31, 2013

EDWARD L. MONROE
v.
DAVID DIGUGLIELMO, et al.

MEMORANDUM

THOMAS N. O’NEILL, JR., J.

Now before me is a motion by defendants David DiGuglielmo, Thomas Dohman, Lt. Karanzan, Corrections Officer McGregory, Corrections Officer Bright and Corrections Officer Hayes to Dismiss the first amended complaint of plaintiff Edward L. Monroe pursuant to rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, I will grant in part and deny in part defendants’ motions.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Edward Monroe is serving a term of life without parole for first degree murder and was previously an inmate at the State Correctional Institute at Graterford, where the alleged incidents in this case occurred. Dkt. No. 19 at ¶ 4. Plaintiff alleges that in late April or early May 2008, plaintiff received two handwritten letters, one from Denise Gaines, a witness at his murder trial, and one from an unknown second party. Id. at ¶ 15. Ms. Gaines died on January 25, 2009 before plaintiff could locate or contact her. Id. at ¶ 42.

Gaines’ letter stated that she had lied in her trial testimony against plaintiff due to pressure from the Police Department and District Attorney’s office. Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff alleges that Gaines’ letter “explained that representatives of the Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office had convinced her to lie by threatening her with criminal charges, warning that they would take away her children, and promising her a sentence reduction in an unrelated criminal matter.” Id. The letter from the unknown sender reported that the author had assisted Gaines with the drafting of her letter and also that the author wished to make amends for previous wrongdoing. Id. at ¶ 17. Plaintiff alleges he then began to explore how the letters could be used to appeal his conviction. Id. at ¶ 18. He claims he made copies of the materials and gave them to two other inmates at SCI Graterford, Anthony Dickerson and Gregory Stover, for safekeeping at some point prior to June 21, 2008. Id. at ¶ 19.

In or around June 2008, plaintiff was involved in drafting a pamphlet that encouraged the other inmates at SCI Graterford to assert their civil rights and avoid becoming overly friendly with corrections officers. Id. at ¶ 20. This pamphlet included blank spaces for the identification of inmates believed to be unduly cooperative with corrections officers. Id.

On June 21, 2008, defendant McGregory entered plaintiff’s cell to conduct a search and discovered copies of the pamphlet. Id. at ¶¶ 21-22. At the time plaintiff had his letters and legal materials out in his cell. Id. at ¶ 21. McGregory then took plaintiff to defendant Karanzan’s office for an interview concerning the pamphlet. Id. at ¶ 22. During the search and escort to Karanzan’s office, plaintiff requested that he be allowed to secure his letters and legal materials. Id. at ¶ 23. McGregory denied plaintiff’s request, but a security lock was placed on plaintiff’s cell and McGregory said that plaintiff’s cell was secure. Id. at ¶¶ 22-23.

During plaintiff’s interview, McGregory left Karanzan’s office after receiving a whispered instruction from Karanzan and returned some time later with plaintiff’s typewriter from his cell. Id. at ¶¶ 24, 26. Plaintiff alleges that while in plaintiff’s cell, McGregory seized or destroyed his letters and related legal materials. Id. at ¶ 25. After the interview, plaintiff was placed in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) where Karanzan denied plaintiff’s requests to either secure his legal materials and letters or have them delivered to his new location. Id. at ¶¶ 26-28.

Following plaintiff’s transfer to the RHU, on or around June 22, 2008, inmate Matthew Smith observed two corrections officers (John Does 1 and 2) removing plaintiff’s belongings, including his legal materials from his former cell. Id. at ¶ 30. Plaintiff contends he later learned from Smith that John Does 1 and 2 did not place his legal materials and letters in storage along with the other materials taken from plaintiff’s cell. Id. Plaintiff then sent a written request to SCI Graterford’s Property Room on July 3, 2008, to have his legal materials and letters delivered to his new location. Id. at ¶ 31. On or around July 10, 2008, plaintiff received a box of legal materials which did not include the letters or related legal materials. Id. at ¶ 32. Plaintiff then requested and received permission to access the Property Room on July 31, 2008, and discovered that his letters and related legal materials were not present in the storage room. Id. at ¶¶ 33-34.

Plaintiff filed a formal grievance related to the missing letters and legal materials (No. 239288) on August 12, 2008. Id. at ¶ 35. Plaintiff subsequently filed two appeals, a Grievance Appeal and a Final Grievance Appeal, on August 22 and October 31, 2008, respectively. Id. at ¶¶ 36-37.

After discovering that his letters and legal materials were missing plaintiff contacted inmates Dickerson and Stover to obtain the copies he had provided them for safekeeping, but was informed that they had been seized and destroyed in a search by corrections officers on July 4, 2008. Id. at ¶ 38. In his August 22, 2008 Grievance Appeal, plaintiff asserted that the “legal materials that he and . . . Dickerson and Stover were working on were either destroyed, discarded, misplaced or the like . . . .” Dkt. No. 22-1 at ECF p. 5. Plaintiff’s amended complaint alleges that defendant Dohman ordered defendants Hargrove[1], Bright and John Does 3 through 6 to enter and search Dickerson and Stover’s cell and, when they did, they took and destroyed all legal materials in the inmates’ possession. Dkt. No. 19 at ¶ 39. The corrections officers refused to cease their search and destruction of materials even after being informed that the materials in question belonged to plaintiff. Id. Plaintiff alleges that Dohman ordered the destruction of materials in retaliation for past lawsuits plaintiff filed against Dohman and other employees of SCI Graterford. Id. at ¶ 41.

On August 16, 2008, while plaintiff was in the RHU, defendant Hayes entered his cell to conduct a search and seized his personal items. Dkt. No. 19 at ¶¶ 45-46. Plaintiff asked for the items to be returned, but Hayes refused to do so and used abusive language toward plaintiff. Id. at ¶¶ 46, 48. Plaintiff requested assistance from Lt. White[2], who told Hayes that plaintiff was permitted to have the personal items and White then placed the bag of items near plaintiff’s cell. Id. at ¶ 49. Plaintiff alleges that Hayes instructed another corrections officer, John Doe 7, to dispose of the bag of items. Id. at ¶ 50. John Doe 7 left the area with the bag of items and plaintiff never obtained them after the searches were concluded. Id. Plaintiff asserts that Hayes later said that since plaintiff “likes to do lawsuits . . . . he should do a lawsuit regarding the search.” Id. at ¶ 51. Plaintiff contends that Hayes ordered John Doe 7 to take his personal items in retaliation for plaintiff’s previous lawsuits filed against her fellow corrections officers. Id. at ¶ 47.

On August 19, 2008, plaintiff filed another formal grievance (No. 240649) related to the missing items. Id. at ¶ 52. He received a response from Superintendent DiGuglielmo on March, 13, 2009 with an approval for reimbursement in the amount of $17.75. Id. at ¶ 53. In order to accept the reimbursement, Plaintiff had to release any claims he had related to the grievance, which he refused to do. Id. at ¶ 53.

Plaintiff now asserts a claim under section 1983 for a violation of his right of access to the courts under the First and Fourteenth Amendments against defendants DiGuglielmo, Dohman, Karanzan, McGregory, Bright, Hargrove and John Does 1-6. Id. at ¶¶ 54-60. Plaintiff also contends that the conduct of these defendants denied him an opportunity to pursue a non-frivolous claim for relief under Pennsylvania’s Post-Conviction Relief Act, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 9543. Id. at ¶ 57. In addition, plaintiff asserts a claim against all defendants for unlawful retaliation for his previous filings of grievances and lawsuits. Id. at ¶¶ 61-67. Plaintiff seeks a declaration that defendants have violated his right of access to the courts, an award of monetary damages to compensate him for deprivation of his constitutional rights, punitive damages sufficient to punish and deter defendants for the past and potential future conduct and any other relief that the court deems just and proper. Id. at ECF p. 11.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). Typically, “a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations,” though plaintiff’s obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief “requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).” Id. (citations omitted). The complaint must state “‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of’ the necessary element.” Wilkerson v. New Media Tech. Charter Sch. Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir. 2008), quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. The Court of Appeals has made clear that after Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009),

conclusory or ‘bare-bones’ allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss: ‘threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.’ To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out ‘sufficient factual matter’ to show that the claim is facially plausible.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. At 678. The Court also set forth a two part-analysis for reviewing motions to dismiss in light of Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint’s well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a 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.”

Id. at 210-11, quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. The Court explained, “a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff’s entitlement to relief. A complaint has to ‘show’ such an entitlement with its facts.” Id., citing Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged–but it ...


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