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Mutschler v. Tritt

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 17, 2015

BRENDA L. TRITT, et al., Defendants.


EDWIN M. KOSIK, District Judge.

This civil rights action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, was filed by Tony Mutschler, an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution at Frackville ("SCI-Frackville"), Pennsylvania. Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint. (Doc. 21.) 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (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, 556 U.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 in the Complaint[1]

Named as defendants in this action are the following SCI-Frackville employees: Brenda L. Tritt, Facility Manager; A. Kovalchik, Department Superintendent; Sharon Luquis, Hearing Examiner; and Correctional Officers Alsheski and Lynch. Plaintiff also names John Wetzel, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, and Robin Lewis, DOC Chief Hearing Examiner, as defendants.

Plaintiff alleges that on April 8, 2014, Defendant Luquis denied him witnesses and the opportunity to present evidence during a misconduct hearing, in violation of his due process rights. (Doc. 1, Compl. at 2.) As such, her decision finding him guilty was based on an incomplete record. He further claims that although he was suppose to be paroled in April of 2014, parole never occurred due to the misconduct. According to Plaintiff, if he was not found guilty of the misconduct, he would be out of prison.

Plaintiff also seeks to hold Defendants Kovalchik and Tritt responsible for the violation of his due process rights with respect to their rulings on his misconduct hearing appeals. As a result of these violations, he requests to be either: (1) reinstated to parole status with an immediate parole hearing, and to receive the sum of $500.00 plus the costs associated with this lawsuit; (2) placed on the waiting list for a bed at a halfway house or mental health placement in Danville State Hospital, and to receive $200 plus costs; or (3) paroled to Danville State Hospital for treatment and then released to a home plan, and to receive the amount of $250.00 plus costs. (Id. at 3.)

Plaintiff also alleges that Defendants Alsheski and Lynch deprived him of due process when they issued the false misconduct report against him that contained lies. (Doc. 9 at 2.) Plaintiff claims that he was deprived due process when he was not given access to videotapes that would have revealed Defendants' lies and demonstrated his innocence. (Id.) Plaintiff states he plans to pursue retaliation claims in a separate suit. (Id.)

Plaintiff lists Defendants Wetzel and Lewis in the caption of his amendment. Lewis is never again mentioned in the body of the Complaint. Wetzel is only mentioned to the extent that Plaintiff states he is the head of the DOC, and is legally responsible for the overall operations of each institution within the DOC. (Id. at 2.) With respect to these claims, Plaintiff seeks declaratory, injunctive, compensatory and punitive relief.

III. Discussion

Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983; Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85, 122 S.Ct. 2268, 153 L.Ed.2d 309 (2002). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by ...

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