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Mestre v. Dombrowski

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 31, 2013

ALFREDO MESTRE, Plaintiff.
v.
MR. DOMBROWSKI, et al., Defendants.

OPINION AND ORDER[1]

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

On November 6, 2012, Plaintiff Alfredo Mestre, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Forest in Marienville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Forest"), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983. Named as Defendants are two employees of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC") at SCI-Forest: Mr. Dombrowski, Unit Manager ("Dombrowski"), and Kristin Reisinger, Hearing Examiner ("Reisinger"). Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated his due process rights under the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution in connection with a misconduct hearing that was held on August 3, 2012, in connection with a misconduct he received on July 28, 2012, for taking peanut butter and jelly out of the dining hall without permission. (ECF No. 5-1, Complaint supplement, at p. 1). In particular, Plaintiff claims he did not get a fair hearing because Defendant Reisinger found him guilty of the charged misconduct without any supporting evidence, and Defendant Dombrowski interfered with the process by calling Defendant Reisinger about the matter in violation of DOC policy. (Id. at p. 3). As a result of being found guilty of the misconduct, Plaintiff was given 30 days' cell restriction and lost his prison job. (Id. at p. 2).

Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint [ECF No. 13] arguing that Plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff has filed a response to Defendants' motion [ECF No. 21], Defendants have filed a reply brief [ECF No. 22], and Plaintiff has filed a "counter reply" [ECF No. 23]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Standards of Review

1. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan , 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This 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." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.

The Third Circuit Court prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.' Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.'

Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc. , 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), citing Santiago v. Warminster Twp. , 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947, 1950); see also Great Western Mining & Min. ...


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