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Hutchinson v. Sgt. Kosakowski

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 14, 2014

SGT. KOSAKOWSKI, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

The pro se plaintiff, Jason Hutchinson, a state inmate at SCI-Retreat, in Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, filed this civil-rights action under 28 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his due process rights were violated in connection with a false and fabricated misconduct report. Hutchinson names the following as defendants: SCI-Retreat; Sgt. Kowaskoski; Deputy Brittan; and Superintendent Theresa Delbalso. Hutchinson has also filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis.

The Complaint is before the court for preliminary screening. The court will grant Hutchinson's motion to proceed in forma pauperis but will dismiss the Complaint as Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief may be granted against the named defendants. However, Hutchinson will be granted leave to file an amended complaint.

II. Standard of Review

When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to screen the complaint. Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding in forma pauperis or not, the court must screen the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2).

A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003)(citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832-33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). The court may also rely on exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007).

Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a complaint need only "include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." "[T]he factual allegations of a complaint must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level' and the complaining party must offer more than labels and conclusions' or formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.'" W. Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC. v. Huntington Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013)(quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Legal conclusions are "not entitled to the assumption of truth." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

Finally, we note that pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys and are to be liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Philips, 515 F.3d at 245-46 (citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004)). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. Background

Plaintiff alleges as follows. On January 9, 2014, defendant Sgt. Kowaskoski issued him a fabricated and false misconduct. (Doc. 1, ECF p. 2). Plaintiff was accused of violating three institutional rules, which he does not specify. Upon his receipt of the misconduct report, Hutchinson was removed from general population and placed in the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU). ( Id. )

At some point, Plaintiff received a misconduct hearing, conducted by an unidentified hearing examiner. He claims he was denied his due process rights because "he was not given the opportunity to be heard (In (sic) a Fair (sic) manner) by the Hearing Examiner, " and was not allowed to present witnesses at the hearing. ( Id., ECF p. 3). Hutchinson does not specify the outcome of the misconduct hearing, or what sanctions, if any, were imposed. After his receipt of the misconduct, the institution withdrew its recommendation for his parole. ( Id. ) Plaintiff also claims that "he has had on going Intimidation, Threats, harassment and infractions by the Department of Corrections." ( Id. ) The false misconduct is the prime example of that treatment. ( Id. )

As relief, Plaintiff seeks the expungement of his misconduct report, his "parole privilege" reinstated, and ...

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