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Aulisio v. Chiampi

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

March 4, 2015

ANN CHIAMPI, ET AL., Defendants




March 4, 2015 This pro se civil rights action was filed by Joseph G. Aulisio, regrading his confinement at the Retreat State Correctional Institution, Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania (SCI-Retreat). Service of the Complaint was previously ordered. Named as Defendants are three SCI-Retreat employees: Education Principal Ann Chiampi; Librarian Karen Stroup; and Hearing Examiner Anne Plaska.

According to the Complaint, Plaintiff had a prison employment as a law clerk in the SCI-Retreat library. On May 24, 2012, Principal Chiampi allegedly singled out the Plaintiff for harassment while the prisoner was at work. Aulisio claims that as part of the harassment, Chiampi asked him whether two closed file folders which were sitting on his desk were personal or work related. Plaintiff states that he responded numerous times that the folders were work related and that he was studying for a scheduled job related test. Chiampi purportedly responded by seizing both folders. Approximately ten (10) minutes later, Chiampi returned for the apparent purpose of returning one of the folders. However, Aulisio alleges that when he told Chiampi that the confiscation of the other folder was improper because he was engaged in constitutionally protected activity, she became angry, decided to keep both folders, and ordered the prisoner to return to his cell block. [1]

The initially confiscated folder is described as being a 74 page civil rights manuscript containing hundreds of prison litigation cases with a copy of the Bill of Rights as the first page. [2] See Doc. 1, Section IV, ¶ 8. The Complaint contends that the confiscation of the folder caused Plaintiff difficulty with respect to his ability to pursue litigation. See id . Moreover, on June 13, 2012, Plaintiff discovered that Chiampi did not follow proper procedure with respect to the confiscation. Specifically, on said date one of the folders was apparently returned to the Plaintiff and he was told that the initially confiscated folder had not been turned into "Control" as required under prison policy. Id . at ¶ 10. The Complaint assumes that the initially confiscated folder was destroyed in an effort to protect Aulisio from pursuing litigation against Chaimpi in violation of his right of access to the courts.

In addition to the confiscation of the folders, the Plaintiff was issued a purportedly retaliatory misconduct charge by Librarian Stroup. Specifically, the inmate was charged with lying to an employee and possession of contraband, i.e, having two folders of material which were not related to Plaintiff's job duties and did not belong in the library. The Complaint also raises a due process claim that Hearing Examiner Plaska who presided over the ensuing disciplinary proceedings was biased.

Aulisio next indicates that Chiampi's actions were also discriminatory and a violation of his equal protection rights as he was treated differently from his two inmate co-workers who also similarly had file folders on their desk.[3] Plaintiff further contends that the Grievance Policy of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) is unconstitutional because it is confusing in that a grievance alleging violation of civil rights cannot be filed if a misconduct was issued. See id., ¶ 1. Aulisio's final contentions is claims that the Defendants engaged in a conspiracy and violated his right of freedom of speech. See id. at ¶ ¶ 17-18.

The Complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages as well as declaratory relief. Presently pending is Defendants' motion seeking dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim. See Doc. 13. The opposed motion is ripe for consideration.


Defendants claim entitlement to entry of dismissal on the grounds that: (1) Plaintiff has no constitutional right to a grievance system; (2) a due process claim has not been state against Hearing Examiner Plaska; (3) the Complaint does not allege a viable retaliation claim; and (4) Plaintiff fails to state an equal protection claim.

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, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements do not suffice." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. Legal conclusions must be supported by factual allegations and the complaint must state a plausible claim for relief. See id. at 1950.

"Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Twombly, at 555. The reviewing court must determine whether the complaint "contain[s] either direct or inferential allegations respecting all the material elements necessary to sustain recovery under some viable legal theory." Id . at 562; see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008)(in order to survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege in his complaint "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal ...

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