United States District Court, Western District of Pennsylvania
DWAYNE L. RIECO, Plaintiff,
CAROL SCIRE, Grievance Coordinator; and MR. CAPPOZZA, Facility Manager, Defendants.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Cynthia Reed Eddy, United States Magistrate Judge.
For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants (ECF No. 68) be granted and this case be dismissed with prejudice.
A. Relevant and Material Facts
The following allegations are summarized from the Complaint, and must be taken as true in deciding this Motion to Dismiss. See Newman v. Beard, 617 F.3d 775, 779 (3d Cir. 2010).
Distilled to its essence, the Complaint alleges that Defendants have violated the policy of the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) with regard to the grievance process. Specifically, it is alleged that Defendant Scire, the Grievance Coordinator, has not responded to Plaintiff’s grievances with a grievance tracking number or a rejection form. As to Defendant Cappozza, the Facility Manager, the Complaint states that he has “delayed exhaustion to remedies to the state grievance system by not responding to grievance appeals or granting a timely response.” Complaint, at ¶ 16 (ECF No. 32.) Plaintiff claims that Defendants’ actions have violated his First Amendment right and his due process rights. Complaint, at ¶V-C(2). He seeks compensatory damages in the amount of $1, 750, 000.00 and punitive damages in the amount of $150, 000.00.
Defendants have filed the instant Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 68), along with a Brief in support thereof (ECF No. 69), claiming that the Complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a claim as Defendants’ alleged “failures to adhere to the policies and procedures established by the DOC fail to rise to the level of a Constitution violation.” Defs’ Br. at 3 (ECF No. 3). Plaintiff responds that his “claim is not that the Defendants denied him the grievance procedures but that they obstructed the grievance system.” Pl’s Br. at 8 (ECF No. 75). The matter is ripe for disposition.
B. Standard of Review for Motion to Dismiss
1.Pro Se Litigants
Pro se pleadings, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520–521 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or the litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir.1969) (petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read “with a measure of tolerance”).
In a section 1983 action, the court must liberally construe the pro se litigant's pleadings and “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 Veteran 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). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir.1996) (discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990) (same). Notwithstanding this liberality, pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim. See, e.g., Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002).
Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court may consider facts and make ...