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Reid-Douglas v. Wetzel

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 27, 2015

JOHN WETZEL Secretary of Corrections of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; JAMES BARNACLE Director of the Office of Special Investigation and Intelligence; DAVID PITKINS Deputy Secretary of the Western Region of Pennsylvania's Department of Corrections; ERIN BROWN Chief of Background Investigations of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections; JOANNE TORMA Director of the Office of Population Management of the PA DOC; VICTOR MIRARCHI Chief of Security within DOC; DIANA WOODSIDE Director of Policy and grants for the PA DOC; SHAWN KEPHART Director of the Bureau of Treatment Services of the PA DOC; ROBIN LEWIS Deputy Chief Counsel for Hearings and Appeals of the PA DOC; LORRINDA WINFIELD Deputy Superintendent for Facilities Management At SCI Greene; CAPT TANNER Security Captain; WALLACE LEGGETT Major of Unit Management at SCI Greene; CRAIG HAYWOOD Major of Unit Management at SCI Greene; Officer LECHNER; SCI-GREENE SECURITY DEPARTMENT; LOUIS FOLINO Superintendent of SCI Greene; G. BAKER; CO T. JOHNSON; COL RAMBLER; COL. HARKLEROAD; C.O. COY, Defendants.


MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.


Plaintiffs are three prisoners who are or were incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution in Greene County, Pennsylvania ("SCI - Greene"). Defendants are all employees or officials of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"). Through this action, Plaintiffs challenge housing placement in a Security Threat Group Management Unit ("STGMU"), contending that procedures implemented to determine whether an inmate should be assigned to the unit violate procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution; violate the Ex Post Facto Clause contained in the United States Constitution; and, because placement appears to them to be based upon religious affiliation, violate the First Amendment.

For the following reasons, it is respectfully recommended that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint, (ECF No. 41), be granted.


A. Procedural History

Plaintiffs initially filed this action in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on June 18, 2014. Thereafter, upon service of the Complaint, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss (ECF No. 41) contending, inter alia, that Plaintiffs have failed to allege facts sufficient to sustain any claims set forth in the Complaint. On December 29, 2014, Plaintiffs filed a Motion for Extension of Time to File Brief in opposition to the Motion to Dismiss. (ECF No. 45). Judge John E. Jones, III, entered an Order granting Plaintiffs' Motion for an Extension of Time to respond to the Motion to Dismiss, and provided Plaintiffs until May 19, 2015 to file their response. (ECF No. 47). To date, no response has been filed to the Motion to Dismiss.[1]

On April 23, 2015, Judge Jones transferred Plaintiffs' action to this Court, noting that Plaintiffs' claims arose in this District. (ECF No. 49). Upon transfer, it was noted that Plaintiff Scott had failed to provide the transferring Court and this Court with an address of record and copies of orders entered on the docket had been refused and returned to the Court. (ECF No. 48). An Order to Show Cause was entered as to Plaintiff Scott, returnable May 21, 2015, to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for failure to provide the Court with his current address. To date, no response has been received.

B. Standard Of Review

When reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the court 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.'" Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d 118, 122 (3d Cir.2014) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). Thus, "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). Although the court must accept the allegations in the complaint as true, "[it is] not compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences, or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Morrow v. Balaski, 719 F.3d 160, 165 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007)). In addition, merely pleading facts consistent with liability is not sufficient; the plaintiff must plead facts which permit the court to make a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable. Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 570 (2007).

Generally, a district court may not consider matters outside of the Complaint when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. "If, on a motion under Rule 12(b)(6)..., matters outside the pleadings are presented to and not excluded by the court, the motion must be treated as one for summary judgment under Rule 56." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(d). An exception to this rule exists whereby courts may consider, for Rule 12(b)(6) purposes: (i) exhibits that are attached to the complaint, (ii) matters of public record, and (iii) any undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document. In re Burlington Coat Factory Securities Litigation, 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.1993).

Finally, a court must employ less stringent standards when considering pro se pleadings than when judging the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). When presented with a pro se complaint, the court should construe the complaint liberally and draw fair inferences from what is not alleged as well as from what is alleged. Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003). In a Section 1983 action, the court must "apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether the 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 ยง 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). 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); Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 2102 (10th Cir.1996).

C. Discussion

1. The class action claim must ...

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