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Johnson v. Mazurkiewicz

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 22, 2014

JOSEPH MAZURKIEWICZ (Warden), CANDACE GETTINS (Mail Room Supervisor), JOHN BEERS (Security), DEBORAH YOTHERS (Physician's Assistant), C.O. I KRAMER (RHU Greensburg), C.O. I BASCARINO (RHU Greensburg), Defendants.


LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.


For the following reasons, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Beers, Gettins and Mazurkiewicz be granted in part and denied without prejudice in part. It is recommended that the motion be granted in that Plaintiff's claims predating April 9, 2011 should be dismissed because they are barred by the statute of limitations and also granted in that Plaintiff's claims against the Defendants in their official capacities should be dismissed because they have Eleventh Amendment immunity. The motion should be denied without prejudice to the extent Defendants seek dismissal of Plaintiff's amended complaint for failure to exhaust his administrative remedies pursuant to the PLRA.

It is further recommended that Defendant Yothers be dismissed from this action because Plaintiff has failed to state a claim against her upon which relief may be granted. Because she has not yet been served, and because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court should sua sponte dismiss her pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

Finally, it is recommended that Plaintiff be allowed to amend his complaint with respect to the following claims: (1) the mail tampering retaliation claim against Defendants Gettins, Beers and Kramer; (2) the due process claim against Defendant Bascarino, only for the duration of the time Plaintiff spent in administrative custody; and (3) the deliberate indifference claim against Defendant Mazurkiewicz. Plaintiff's due process claim based on his initial placement in administrative custody should be sua sponte dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).


Plaintiff Solomon Johnson ("Plaintiff") is a state prisoner currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Benner in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania. He brings this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that several prison officials at the State Correctional Institution at Greensburg ("SCI-Greensburg"), his former place of confinement, retaliated against him by tampering with his mail from December 2010 through April 2013. He also alleges a violation of his due process rights, challenging his placement in protective/administrative custody on or about April 13, 2011, and continued confinement thereafter. He further claims that on November 19, 2012, he was incorrectly charged for a prescription refill relating to a pre-existing condition. Finally, he alleges that Defendant Mazurkiewicz was deliberately indifferent because he failed to properly train and supervise his employees so as to prevent the alleged constitutional violations from occurring.

A. Standard of Review

Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit summarized the standard to be applied in deciding motions to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6):

Under the "notice pleading" standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As explicated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), a claimant must state a "plausible" claim for relief, and "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Although "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a plaintiff "need only put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 213 (quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials, 710 F.3d 114, 117-18 (3d Cir.2013).

Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network , 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d Cir. 2014).

Additionally, Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, and as such, he is entitled to liberal construction of his submissions in federal court. This means that the Court must liberally construe the factual allegations of the complaint because pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erikson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation omitted); Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). In addition, the court should "apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.'" Higgins v. Beyer , 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs , 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)). See also Nami v. Fauver , 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) ("Since this is a § 1983 action, the [pro se] plaintiffs are entitled to relief if their complaint sufficiently alleges deprivation of any right secured by the Constitution.") (quoting Higgins , 293 F.3d at 688). However, pro se litigants are not free to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Pruden v. Long, Civ. A. No. 3:CV-06-2007, 2006 WL 3325439, *1 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 24, 2006).

B. Discussion

1. Statute of Limitations

Plaintiff seeks recovery against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The limitations period for civil actions brought under section 1983 is determined by state law. See Goodman v. Lukens Steel Correctional Officer , 482 U.S. 656, 662 (1987) (42 U.S.C. § 1981); Wilson v. Garcia , 471 U.S. 261, 272-76 (1985) (42 U.S.C. § 1983); Bougher v. University of Pittsburgh , 882 F.2d 74, 79 (3d Cir. 1989) (42 U.S.C. § 1985). Under Pennsylvania law, the applicable limitations period is two years. See 42 Pa. C.S. § 5524.

The date when a civil rights action accrues is a matter of federal law. Albright v. Oliver , 510 U.S. 266, 280 n.6 (1994) (J. Ginsburg, concurring). A claim accrues when the plaintiff becomes aware, or should have become aware, of both the fact of the injury and its causal connection to the Defendant. See Delaware State College v. Ricks , 449 U.S. 250, 258 (1980) (it is the wrongful act that triggers the start of the statute of limitations period); Keystone Ins. Co. v. Houghton , 863 F.2d 1125, 1127 (3d Cir. 1988) (a federal cause of action accrues when the plaintiff is aware, or ...

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