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Powell v. Kirchner

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 27, 2013

HOWARD O. POWELL, Plaintiff,


CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER, Chief District Judge.

Plaintiff Howard O. Powell ("plaintiff"), an inmate housed at the State Correctional Institution at Dallas ("SCI-Dallas"), Pennsylvania, at all times material, commenced this civil rights action with the filing of a complaint (Doc. 1) on April 22, 2013, naming Sgt. K. Kirchner ("Kirchner") and Librarian P. Haraden ("Haraden") as defendants. Before the court is a motion (Doc. 11) to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed on behalf of the defendants. For the reasons that follow, the court deems the motion unopposed and, upon review of plaintiff's allegations, will dismiss plaintiff's complaint.

I. Procedural Background

On July 22, 2013, defendants filed a motion (Doc. 11) and supporting brief (Doc. 12) seeking dismissal of plaintiff's pro se complaint (Doc. 1). Opposition papers were due to the court on or before August 8, 2013, but plaintiff filed to file a brief responding to the defendant's motion. On September 9, 2013, the court issued an order (Doc. 15) notifying plaintiff that, while he had failed to timely file opposition papers, he would be afforded until September 22, 2013, to opposed the motion. (Id.). Plaintiff was expressly admonished that failure to comply with the deadline would result in the motion being deemed unopposed. ( Id. (citing LOCAL RULE OF COURT 7.6 ("Any party opposing any motion shall file a brief in opposition... [or] shall be deemed not to oppose such motion.")). The court-imposed deadline has expired, and plaintiff has failed to oppose defendants' motion. Consequently, the motion is deemed unopposed.

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Kanter v. Barella , 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher , 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman , 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig. , 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp. , 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id .; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well-pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). 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." Iqbal , 556 U.S. at 678.

III. Allegations of the Complaint

Plaintiff alleges that he had a "long term, loving relationship" with Kirchner while she was employed as a corrections officer at SCI-Dallas. (Doc. 1 at 2). When Kirchner was promoted to sergeant, plaintiff wrote her a letter informing her of ways she could correspond with him because "it's going to be hard... to see each other to talk since your [sic] not a (C.O.1) no more...." (Id.). In response, Kirchner issued plaintiff misconduct # A892351 charging him with sexual harassment and obscene or abusive language. (Id.; see also Doc. 14 at 1). Plaintiff alleges that, by issuing the misconduct, Kirchner "used official retaliation to lie and cover-up [their] real relationship to deprive [him] of [his] liberty, due process and right to petition the government." (Doc. 1 at 2). Plaintiff was sanctioned with disciplinary custody and loss of custody level status. (Id.).

With respect to Haraden, the librarian at SCI-Dallas, plaintiff alleges that she intentionally deprived him of access to the courts by failing to copy and return to him his "after-discovered" evidence. ( Id. at 3). Plaintiff contends that Haraden's conduct deprived him of his exculpatory witness and of his rights in the context of the appeal of his disciplinary hearing. (Id.)

IV. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

Id.; see also Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe , 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder , 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by ...

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