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Hankins v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 24, 2014

ROBERT HANKINS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

Robert Hankins, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Dallas, Pennsylvania (SCI-Dallas), initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Service of the complaint was previously ordered.

By Memorandum and Order dated January 12, 2014, this Court partially granted a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (Parole Board); Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane and two Parole Board employees, Parole Supervisor Burke and Parole Agent McGinnis (Commonwealth Defendants).

Specifically, dismissal was entered in favor of Defendants Attorney General Kane, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and with respect to the damages claim against the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole. See Doc. 32. However, Plaintiff's claims that he was improperly denied parole consideration by Defendants Parole Board, Burke, and McGinnis were allowed to proceed. See id.

Also named as Defendants are the following officials at Hankins' former place of incarceration, the Rockview State Correctional Institution, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (SCI-Rockview): Superintendent Marirosa Lamas; Counselor Melissa Reed; Deputy Superintendent Jeffrey Horton; ex-Deputy Superintendent Robert Marsh; Tim Miller; Superintendent Assistant Jeffrey Rackovan and John/Jane Doe Maintenance Department employees (Corrections Defendants).

According to the Complaint, while on a April, 2004 hunger strike during his confinement in the Special Management Unit at the State Correctional Institution, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (SCI-Camp Hill), Plaintiff was visited by several members of the Parole Board. Despite allegedly knowing that Hankins was incoherent and physically unfit because of his lack of food intake, those unidentified Parole Board members nonetheless purportedly conducted a review regarding his parole eligibility.

The Complaint next contends that while incarcerated at SCI-Rockview in May 2011 the Plaintiff was told by his prison counselor (presumably Defendant Reed) that he was due to be seen by the Parole Board. See Doc. 1, p. 4, ¶ 5. However, because of his ongoing placement in the SCI-Rockview Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), "[i]t was made known to Plaintiff" that he was precluded under Parole Board policy from being afforded an interview.[1] Id. at ¶ 6. Hankins challenges that alleged Parole Board policy and its implementation by all Defendants on the grounds that Pennsylvania state inmates, including those held in the RHU, have a right to apply for parole upon the expiration of their minimum sentence and to have that application fairly considered. Hankins concludes that the Parole Board's policy precluding RHU prisoners from parole consideration upon completion of their minimum sentence and thereafter is unconstitutional. There is also a vague contention that the Corrections Defendants engaged in a conspiracy with the Commonwealth Defendants to prevent Hankins from receiving parole consideration via the aforementioned Parole Board policy. See id. at ¶ 12.

Plaintiff also claims that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement at SCI-Rockview because of poor air and water quality. Hankins generally contends that due to the improper handling and disposal of coal as a heating source, his health and safety have been placed at risk. See id. at p. 5, ¶ 15. He adds that the water that prisoners must use to was and rely on "is dark and murky at times with a distinct smell." Id. at ¶ 16. Plaintiff indicates that he is afraid to drink the water at times and it once caused him to vomit. His final allegation is that with the exception of Counselor Reed, the Corrections Defendants have been advised of the water problem. Hankins seeks punitive, nominal, and compensatory damages as well as injunctive relief.

Presently pending is a motion to dismiss filed by the Corrections Defendants. See Doc. 15. The opposed motion is ripe for consideration.[2]

Discussion

Corrections Defendants claim entitlement to entry of dismissal on the grounds that: (1) their conduct in following Parole Board policy does not constitute conspiracy or violate either the Parole Act or the Eighth Amendment; and (2) a viable Eighth Amendment claim has not been stated with respect to the alleged air and water conditions at SCI-Rockview.

Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 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)). A plaintiff must present facts that, if true, demonstrate a plausible right to relief. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a) (stating that the complaint should include "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief"); Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This requirement "calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of" the necessary elements of the plaintiff's cause of action. Id. at 556. A complaint must contain "more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___ , 129 S.Ct. 1937, ...


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