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Lyons v. Beard

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 10, 2013

ERIC LYONS, Plaintiff.
v.
JEFFREY BEARD, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

The plaintiff, a state inmate who is proceeding pro se, filed this particular complaint on December 9, 2013, against the former secretary of the Department of Corrections, Jeffrey Beard, and ten other corrections officials. (Doc. 1) In his complaint, Lyons alleged that: "less than 24 hours after my arrival at the Department of Corrections... in 2003 upon my criminal conviction then Secretary Jeffrey Beard ordered me locked up in solitary confinement of the Restricted Housing Unit...." (Id., ¶1.) Lyons' complaint further asserts that his prolonged and continuing incarceration on a restricted release list placement since 2003 violates his constitutional rights, and seeks damages, as well as injunctive relief from the defendants, including defendant Beard. (Id.) Although Lyons names Beard as a defendant in this action, and seeks to hold Beard personally liable for his past and current prison housing assignments, Lyons acknowledges in his complaint that Beard had retired by November 2010. (Id., ¶18.) Thus, as to defendant Beard, on the face of Lyons' complaint the factual averments made by the plaintiff all relate to matters which transpired more than three years ago.

Along with this complaint, Lyons has filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2) For the reasons set forth below, we will grant this motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) but recommend that the Court dismiss Lyons' complaint as to defendant Beard for failure to timely state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

II. Discussion

A. Screening of Pro Se In Forma Pauperis Complaints-Standard of Review

This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by persons who seek leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Specifically, we are obliged to review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) which provides, in pertinent part: "[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that- (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal-(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915 (e). This statutory text mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)]and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal ___ U.S. ___ , 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc. , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally a court need not "assume that a... plaintiff can prove facts that the... plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters , 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. According to the Supreme Court, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678. Rather, in conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must:

[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their ...

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