United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
William J. Nealon, United States District Judge.
Johnson, an inmate confined in the State Correctional
Institution, located in Dallas, Pennsylvania,
("SCI-Dallas"), filed the above-captioned civil
rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). On
September 2, 2016, Defendant's initial motion to dismiss
was partially granted, and Plaintiffs complaint was permitted
to proceed only on his First Amendment free exercise claim.
(Doc. 31). Plaintiff was given leave to amend his First
Amendment retaliation, Eighth Amendment harassment, and
Fourteenth Amendment discrimination claims. (Docs. 28 and
29). On September 30, 2016, Plaintiff filed an amended
complaint. (Doc. 32).
before the Court is Defendant's motion to dismiss
Plaintiffs amended complaint with an accompanying brief in
support, both of which were filed on October 18, 2016. (Docs.
33 and 34). The motion remains unopposed and is ripe for
disposition. For the reasons that follow,
Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted in part and
denied in part.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) 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.'" Altland v. Wetzel. 2015 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 124787, at *2 (M.D. Pa. 2015) (Conner, J.)
(alterations in original) (quoting Kanter v.
Barella. 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)).
"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.'" Mi (quoting Oshiver v. Levin. Fishbein.
Sedran & Berman. 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir.
1994)); citing In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec.
Litig.. 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997)).
notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide
'the defendant notice of what the ... claim is and the
grounds upon which it rests.'" Id. (quoting
Phillips v. Cntv. of Allegheny. 515 F.3d 224, 232
(3d Cir. 2008)). "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." Id. (citing
Santiago v. Warminster Twp.. 629 F.3d 121, 130-31
(3d Cir. 2010)). At the first step, "the court must
'[t]ake note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
state a claim.'" Santiago. 629 F.3d at
130-31 (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 675
(2009)). At the second step, "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." Altland. 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS
124787, at *2-3 (citing Santiago. 629 F.3d at
130-31; Fowler v. UPMC Shadyshide. 578 F.3d 203,
210-11 (3d Cir. 2009)). Then, "[o]nce the well-pleaded
factual allegations have been isolated, the court must
determine whether they are sufficient to show a
'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at
*3 (quoting Iqbal. 556 U.S. at 679; citing Bell
Atl. Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)
(requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to
"raise a right to relief above the speculative
level"). A complaint must be dismissed under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if it fails to allege
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Twombly. 550 U.S. at
570. The non- moving party must aver "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 663.
even 'if a complaint is subject to Rule 12(b)(6)
dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment
unless such an amendment would be inequitable or
futile."' Payne v. Duncan. 2016 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 10969, at *3 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 29, 2016) (Mariani, J.)
(quoting Phillips. 515 F.3d at 245). The United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated
even when plaintiff does not seek leave to amend his
complaint after a defendant moves to dismiss it, unless the
district court finds that amendment would be inequitable or
futile, the court must inform the plaintiff that he or she
has leave to amend the complaint within a set period of time.
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 245.
addition, given that he was granted in forma
pauperis status to pursue this suit, see (Doc. 7), the
screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) apply. The
court's obligation to dismiss a complaint under the
Prisoner Litigation Reform Act's ("PLRA")
screening provisions for complaints that fail to state a
claim is not excused even after a defendant has filed a
motion to dismiss. £ge, e.g.. Lopez v.
Smith. 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 n.6 (9th Cir. 2000). Hence,
if there is a ground for dismissal which was not relied upon
by a defendant in a motion to dismiss, the court may
nonetheless gua sponte rest its dismissal upon such
ground pursuant to the screening provisions of the PLRA. See
Ii; Dare v. U.S.. 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 45040 (W.D.
Pa. 2007), affd. 264 F.App'x 183 (3d Cir. 2008).
"[t]he obligation to liberally construe a pro se
litigant's pleadings is well-established." Higgs
v. Attv. Gen, of the U.S.. 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
2011) (citing Estelle v. Gamble. 429 U.S. 97, 106
(1976); Haines v. Kerner. 404 U.S. 519, 520-21
(1972); Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of N.J.. 588
F.3d 180, 184 n.l (3d Cir. 2009)). Therefore, the allegations
advanced by Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, will be liberally