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Jordan v. Bertolini

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 10, 2017

DAVID V. JORDAN, Plaintiff,
UNIT MANAGER BERTOLINI, et al, Defendants.


          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge


         It is respectfully recommended that the motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Bertolini, Friedline, Marino, Anderson, and Baummer [ECF No. 28] be denied.

         II. REPORT

         A. Relevant Procedural History

         On December 28, 2015, Plaintiff David Jordan, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Forest (“SCI-Forest”), initiated this civil rights action by filing a pro se complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants to this action are: Unit Manager Bertolini, Lieutenant Baummer, and Correctional Officers Friedline, Marino, and Anderson. Plaintiff alleges Defendants retaliated against him after Plaintiff exercised his First Amendment rights to file lawsuits and grievances.

         On March 22, 2016 and April 13, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 15; ECF No. 19], and both times, Plaintiff responded with a proposed Amended Complaint, which were deemed filed. ECF No. 18; ECF No. 27.

         Presently, in response to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Defendants have filed a motion to dismiss arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff fails to state a claim of retaliation. ECF No. 28. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an “Answer to the Defendant's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, [ECF No. 37] as well as a “Brief in opposition to Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, ” [ECF No. 38] which this Court finds as Plaintiff's collective opposition brief. Defendants have filed a reply brief. ECF No. 40. This motion is fully briefed and is ripe for disposition by this Court.

         B. Standards of Review

         1. Pro Se Litigants

         Pro se pleadings, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). 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 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”); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956 F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Dep't of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990)(same). Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court may consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.

         2. Motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

         A Court need not accept inferences drawn by a plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). See also McTernan v. City of York, Pennsylvania, 577 F.3d 521, 531 (3d Cir. 2009) (“The tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions.”). A plaintiff's factual allegations “must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure ยง 1216, pp. ...

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