United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MONTECA D. STRANGE, Plaintiff,
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS and ROBERT GILMORE, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is Defendants' to Dismiss to Dismiss the
Complaint, with a brief in support (ECF Nos. 13 and 14).
Plaintiff was ordered to file an amended complaint or a
response in opposition to the motion no later than December
21, 2016. (ECF No. 17). On December 2, 2017, Plaintiff filed
a two page, untitled document which essentially reiterates
the allegations in the complaint. (ECF No. 18). No further
response has been filed by the Plaintiff.
April 7, 2016, the Court received a complaint accompanied by
a Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis. (ECF No. 1).
The motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted
on April 26, 2016 and the Complaint was filed. (ECF Nos. 3
D. Strange (“Plaintiff”) is a Pennsylvania state
prisoner incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution
(“SCI”) at Greene at the time of the filing of
this complaint. He has since been transferred to the State
Correctional Institution at Waymart. Plaintiff asserts a
claim of “mental cruelty.” Plaintiff states that
while at SCI Greene, a “substance unknown [was] used to
cause brain damage because of information that has been
obtained about the Freemasons. Plaintiff has learned to
obtain 1, 655, 732, 800.00” (ECF No. 4). He admits in
the complaint that there is a prisoner grievance procedure at
Greene, but that he did not file a grievance “because
damage is done.” Id. He also states that he
did not complain to prison authorities about his allegation.
Id. Named as defendants are the Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections and Robert Gilmore.
Pro Se Litigants
se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than
more formal pleadings drafted by lawyers. Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). As such, a pro
se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 must be
construed liberally, Hunterson v. DiSabato, 308 F.3d
236, 243 (3d Cir. 2002), so “as to do substantial
justice.” Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 234
(3d Cir. 2004) (citations omitted). In other words, if the
court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on
which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite
failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal
theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or the
litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements.
Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United
States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555
(3d Cir.1969) (petition prepared by a prisoner may be
inartfully drawn and should be read “with a measure of
tolerance”). 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). Because Plaintiff is a pro
se litigant, this Court may consider facts and make
inferences where it is appropriate.
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the
legal sufficiency of the complaint. When reviewing a motion
to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts and
allegations, and must draw all reasonable inferences
therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. Burtch v. Milberg
Factors, Inc., 62 F.3d 212, 220 (3d Cir. 2011),
cert. denied, -- U.S. --, 131 S.Ct. 1861 (2012)
(citing In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618
F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)). However, as the Supreme Court
of the United States made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, such “[f]actual allegations must be
enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative
level.” 550 U.S. 554, 555 (2007). See also Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (holding that, while
the Complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations,
it must contain more than a “formulaic recitation of
the elements” of a constitutional claim and must state
a claim that is plausible on its face) (quoting
Twombly, and providing further guidance on the
standard set forth therein).
determine the legal sufficiency of a complaint after
Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court
of Appeals for the Third Circuit instructs that a district
court must conduct a three-step analysis when considering a
motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Santiago
v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 n.7 (3d Cir. 2010)
(noting that although Iqbal describes the process as
a “two-pronged approach, ” it views the case as
outlining three steps) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
675). First, “the court must ‘tak[e] note of the
elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'”
Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675)
(alteration in original). Second, the court “should
identify allegations that, ‘because they are no more
than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.'” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679). Third, ‘“where there are
well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise
to an entitlement for relief.'” Id.
(quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679).
United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held
that, in civil rights cases, a court must give a plaintiff
the opportunity to amend a deficient complaint - regardless
of whether the plaintiff requests to do so - when dismissing
a case for failure to state a claim, unless doing so would be
inequitable or futile. See Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote
Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir.
their Motion to Dismiss, Defendants argue that
Plaintiff's allegations are insufficient to allow a
response and that under the PLRA, 38 USC § 1915(e)(2),
the complaint should be dismissed for failure to state a
claim. They also argue that there is no allegation of
personal involvement by Superintendent Gilmore. In addition,
they point to Plaintiff's admission in the complaint that
he did not file a grievance concerning his claims and that
amendment would be futile under the circumstances. (ECF Nos.
13 and 14). In a filing that is perhaps a response to the
motion to dismiss, Plaintiff reiterates that an unknown
substance that ...