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Hutchinson v. Kosakowski

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 15, 2015

SGT. KOSAKOWSKI, et al., Defendants


William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

I. Introduction

On March 31, 2014, Jason Hutchinson, an inmate housed at the Retreat State Correctional Institution (SCI-Retreat), Hunlock Creek, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se civil-rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. On April 14, 2014, the court screened the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, dismissed it for failure to state a claim against the named defendants, and granted Hutchinson leave to file an amended complaint. See Doc. 11.

Hutchinson filed an Amended Complaint on April 25, 2014. (Doc. 12). Presently before the court is defendants’ motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint. (Doc. 20). For the reasons that follow, defendants’ motion to dismiss will be granted and the case dismissed without leave to amend.

II. Standard of Review

“The test in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether, under any ‘plausible’ reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff would be entitled to relief.” Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, L.L.C., 716 F.3d 764 (3d Cir. 2013)(citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Under Rule 12(b)(6), we 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.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)(quoting Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain “a short and plain statement of the claim, ” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964, a complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). “[L]abels and conclusions” are not enough, and a court is “‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.’” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 2944, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986)).

“Pro se complaints are ‘liberally construed’ and ‘held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers[.]’” Jackson v. Div. of Developmental Disabilities, 2010 WL 3636748, at *2 n.3 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (nonprecedential) (quoted case omitted). Nonetheless, the complaint still “must contain allegations permitting ‘the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.’” Id. (quoted case omitted).

Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See DelRio-Mocci v. Connolly Properties Inc., 672 F.3d 241, 251 (3d Cir. 2012).

III. Background

In his Amended Complaint, Hutchinson names as defendants the following three Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees who work at SCI-Retreat: Superintendent Theresa Delbalso; Deputy Superintendent Brittan; and Sgt. Kosakowski. (Doc. 12, Am. Compl.)

He alleges as follows. On January 9, 2014, while Hutchinson was eating in the SCI-Retreat dining hall, an incident occurred in another part of the institution. When Plaintiff asked Sgt. Kosakowski “Why did everyone run out of here [?], ” he was issued a misconduct. (Id., ECF p. 2). He was charged with engaging in or encouraging unauthorized group activities; using abusive or obscene language to an employee; and failing to obey an order.

Hearing Examiner Kot, a non-defendant, presided over Hutchinson’s January 15, 2014, misconduct hearing. (Id.) Hutchinson was found guilty of all charges and issued concurrent sentences of thirty days’ disciplinary confinement for each offense.[1] (Id.) Hutchinson claims his due process rights were violated when the Hearing Examiner did not: (1) permit him to call the three inmates he was eating lunch with as witnesses; and (2) failed to review available video surveillance tapes from the dining area. (Id.) Hutchinson disputes the Hearing Examiner’s finding that the requested witnesses were “NOT NEEDED TO ESTABLISH GUILT OR INNOCENCE.” (Id., ECF p. 3).

Hutchinson also alleges that since May 2012, when he was housed on B Unit, he has been subject to staff harassment, threats and intimidation. (Id.) He claims Correctional Officers (CO) Bower, CO Jones and CO Smith, all non-defendants, told him they would put him in the “hole” so he would lose his parole. (Id.) He also claims his incoming and outgoing mail has been delayed, and even withheld, and that he has been subjected to intrusive cell searches and denied “cell agreement moves . . . all based upon “NOTHING” simply because employees wish to.” (Id.)

Hutchinson claims Superintendent Delbalso and Deputy Brittan were aware of his ongoing mistreatment, including Sgt. Kosakowski’s issuance of the false misconduct. Plaintiff asserts these defendants “had the ability to correct ...

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