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Margetta v. Ferguson

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 19, 2017

TAMMY FERGUSON, et al., Defendants


          William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         The pro se plaintiff, Steven Margretta, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution in Benner Township (SCI-Benner), Pennsylvania, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 civil-rights action challenging the loss of his prison job. He names as defendants the following SCI-Benner officials: Tammy Ferguson, the prison's superintendent; Nadine Ramirez, Head of the Education Department; Cheryl Garmon, Director of Inmate Employment; Richard Hamor, Unit Manager of C-Block; and Terry Gummo, inmate counsel. Also named as defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC), and John E. Wetzel, Secretary of the Department of Corrections. The individual defendants have been named in their individual and official capacities.

         As Margretta seeks to proceed in forma pauperis in this action, the Complaint is before us for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the following reasons, the Complaint will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). However, Margretta will be permitted to file an amended complaint on his equal protection claim.

         II. Standard of Review

         We are required to screen Margretta's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

         The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must “take as true all the factual allegations of the [complaint] and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, but we disregard legal conclusions and recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.” Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010)(quotation marks omitted and citation omitted).

         “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 Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). To satisfy this standard, 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. Nonetheless, a complaint has to plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 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, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court “‘is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

         A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed and “held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184 (3d Cir. 2015)(citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Yet, even a pro se plaintiff “must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir.2013) (citation omitted). A plaintiff is to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when he does not seek leave to amend, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014).

         III. Background

         In his Complaint, Margretta alleges as follows. Since August 2015, he has been employed as a library worker in SCI-Benner's institutional library. (ECF No. 1, p. 3) He has received positive progress reports from his supervisor, Ms. Wyandt, the lead librarian at the prison library, and receives 35¢ an hour in compensation for his services as a library worker.

         On July 25, 2016, Margretta was summoned to a meeting. In attendance at that meeting were Ms. Ramirez, Head of the Education Department; Ms. Garmon, Director of Inmate Employment; Mr. Hamor, Unit Manager of C-Block; and Mr. Gummo, Inmate Counsel. Ms. Wyandt was not aware of the meeting until immediately before it took place. Margretta's prison employment as a library worker was terminated at the meeting.

         Margretta claims Ramirez, Garmon, Hamor and Gummo removed him from his job in violation of the DOC's administrative directives. According to Plaintiff, DC-ADM 816, Section 1(M)(7) reads:

Removal of an inmate from a work assignment for reasons other than misconduct or medical necessity must be handled by a Unit Management Team action. The Supervisor must submit in writing information regarding the reaso[n](s) to the Unit Management Team, who will discuss the situation with the inmate and attempt to resolve the problem. The Unit ...

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