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Cessna v. Lewis

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 23, 2015

ROBIN M. LEWIS, et al., Defendants.


JAMES M. MUNLEY, District Judge.

John Wayne Cessna ("Cessna"), an inmate formerly incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Waymart ("SCI-Waymart"), filed this civil rights action on February 27, 2014 (Doc. 1), naming twenty-four individuals employed in various capacities with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Presently ripe for disposition is defendants' motion (Doc. 18) to dismiss Cessna's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted.

I. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). 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)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, "the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id .; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well-pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Iqbal, 556U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). A claim "has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

II. Allegations of the Complaint

A. Misconduct B462330

On January 28, 2012, defendants Correctional Officers Shiffer and Wertman searched Cessna's cell, which contained "blank forms, " a "yellow piece of paper" and an extra box. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 28, 30, 32). Cessna was questioned by defendant Sergeant Heller on that same day and explained that he was "re-doing the block count sheet for the D-2 officer, Rosie Hernandez Co1." (Id. at ¶¶ 31, 34, 35). On January 30, 2012, plaintiff approached defendant Unit Manager White, who provided him with documentation indicating that the extra box was for educational purposes. (Id. at ¶¶ 36, 37). He was summoned to the security office and, at that time, he gave defendant Wertman the document indicating that he had permission to possess the extra box; he was not questioned about the blank forms or the yellow piece of paper. (Id. at¶¶ 38, 39, 41). Later that day, he was escorted to the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU") and served with Misconduct Report 462330. (Id. at ¶¶ 42, 43; Doc. 2, p. 1). While awaiting his hearing, he purportedly spent "almost a full month in the RHU depriving him of his phone privileges, commissary, yard and religious practices which are affored to all general population inmates." (Id. at ¶ 254).

He alleges that Wertman and Shiffer lied on the misconduct report in that they reported that he could not provide documentation for the extra box. (Id. at ¶ 44). At the hearing, Wertman presented an email from White stating that Cessna had permission to possess the extra box. (Id. at ¶ 49). Defendant hearing examiner Plaska dismissed all charges with prejudice. (Id. at ¶ 50).

Upon his release from the RHU, Wertman and Shiffer allegedly instructed him to "let everything go and not file any grievances if he knew what was good for him." (Id. at ¶ 56). He alleges in Count II that "the failure of the defendants [White, Wertman, and Shiffer] to accurately provide and depict the facts for misconduct B462330... constituted violations of his First Amendment right to Free Speech and Expression and his Fourteenth Amendment right to Due Process." (Id. at ¶ 253).

Cessna alleges that, after his release from the RHU he was transferred to D-1 Housing Unit. He was allegedly informed by defendant Berkoski, the main block officer, that he was "on this block, D-1, as punishment, because the HEX did not do her job correctly" with respect to the disposition of Misconduct B462330. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 60, 69, 80). He alleges that, despite the fact that he was not on disciplinary restrictions at the time, defendant Berkoski treated him differently than other inmates with respect to confinement to his cell, housing tracking sheets, yard, and prison mail. (Id. at ¶¶ 66-68). Berkoski allegedly invaded Cessna's personal space, used obscene language, and placed him in a threatening situation with other inmates. (Id. at ¶¶ 71-72). Cessna alleges that he was treated in this manner because Berkoski believed "he was gay, considered him a sex offender, and a trouble maker'." (Id. at ¶ 70).

On February 29, 2012, Cessna sought a separation from Berkoski through members of his Unit Management Team, including defendant White, but was told that "nothing could be done and that he should file a grievance." (Id. at ¶¶ 73-76). Later that day he was told by Driver that "he should stay away from him and his desk if he knew what was good for him, and follow the same instructions that Berkoski had issued." (Id. at ¶ 80). That evening, Cessna approached defendant Security Captain Dobbs and Corrections Officer Bell and requested that he receive a separation from Berkoski, Driver and White. (Id. at ¶¶ 81-83). Dobbs instructed Cessna to contact defendant Lieutenant Smith. (Id. at ¶ 84). Cessna forwarded a DC-135A Inmate Request to defendant Smith. (Id. at ¶ 85).

On March 5, 2012, Berkoski allegedly threatened Cessna and instructed him to "stop contacting people about the abuse and mistreatment that was taking place on D-1 because no one has done anything in the past to stop it and no one is going to stop it now'." (Id. at ¶ 87, 88). Berkoski purportedly stated "he can do anything he wants because he goes fishing with all the Captains and Lieutenants" and "they will always take his side." (Id. at ¶ 89).

Cessna relayed to Berkoski that he suffered from a serious medical condition and was not supposed to be under undue stress. (Id. at ¶ 93). Specifically, Cessna was diagnosed with HIV in 2006. (Id. at ¶ 96). In 2009, he was "reclassified with an AIDS diagnosis and required immediate medical treatments and medication." (Id. at ¶ 97). Berkoski indicated that he was aware of Cessna's condition. (Id.) Cessna believes that Berkoski obtained his medical information illegally. (Id. at ¶ 95). Berkoski told him "to expect the worst retaliation he could if he tried anything else and that he was not allowed to move from his bed or he would be sorry." (Id. at ¶ 98). Cessna alleges that the constant state of fear that resulted from Berkoski's threats had an adverse impact on his medical condition. (Id. at ¶¶ 100-01).

He alleges in Count III and Count V that Berkoski's conduct violated the First Amendment in that it wasretaliatory in nature and, and Berkoski's treatment of him violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Id. at ¶¶ 255, 259). He also avers in Count X that defendants Berkoski, Driver, White, Smith and Dobbs were deliberately indifferent to his serious medical needs when they failed to ensure him a "normal and safe environment which is afforded to all inmates, despite their knowledge of the Plaintiff's medical condition." (Id. at ¶ 271). In Count X, he also alleges that defendants Berkoski and Martin divulged confidential medical information and that defendants Stender, Evans, and Quinn failed, in their roles as supervisors, to keep Berkoski and Martin "under control." (Id. at ¶ 270).

2. Misconduct B274040

Cessna alleges that Smith's failure to take action to resolve the issues he raised in the DC-135 that he filed against Berkoski on March 13, 2012, prompted him to file criminal complaints against Berkoski, Driver and White with Clerk of Courts in Wayne County, Pennsylvania on March 12, 2013. (Id. at ¶¶ 105-06, 115). On March 16, 2012, Berkoski charged Cessna with "not sitting-up/sleeping for the 2130 count and disobeying a direct order" in misconduct B274040. (Id. at ¶ 108). On March 22, 2012, Cessna appeared before defendant Plaska, who found him guilty and sanctioned him with fifteen days cell restriction. (Id. at ¶ 142). Cessna alleges that during his hearing, Plaska denied him witnesses and requests for assistance. (Id. at ¶¶ 141, 145-46). Dobbs and Smith allegedly made the decision to move plaintiff to a different housing unit after this incident. (Id. at ¶¶ 118, 119).

On March 30, 2012, the Pennsylvania State Police notified Cessna that the Security Office at SCI-Waymart and the Office of Professional Responsibility ("OPR") would be conducting an investigation into the criminal complaint allegations. (Id. at ¶ 120). He received letters from the Department of Justice on March 30, 2012, and from the Pennsylvania State Attorney General's Office on April 4, 2012, concerning "the ongoing situation at SCI-Waymart." (Id. at ¶ 123). Defendant Lieutenant Smith conducted the investigation ...

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