United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
before the Court is pro se Plaintiff's Complaint
filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1) and
motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2.)
For the following reasons, the Court will construe
Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis
as a motion to proceed without full prepayment of the filing
fee and will grant the motion. In addition, pursuant to this
Court's screening obligations, the Court will dismiss the
claims set forth against Defendants Peters, Eveland,
Carpentier, Sciochitana, Baumbach, Luscavage, and Varner
pursuant to the Court's authority under 28 U.S.C. §
16, 2017, Plaintiff Richard Sears, an inmate at the State
Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania
(“SCI-Albion”), filed a pro se civil
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming as
defendants the following individuals: Correctional Officer
Donte McCoy, Lieutenants A. Peters, J. Eveland and Brian
Carpentier, Captain Sciochitana, Deputy Superintendent
Facility Manager E. Baumbach, Deputy Superintendent for
Centralized Services Anthony Luscavage, Superintendent
Vincent Mooney, and Chief Grievance Officer Dorina Varner.
(Doc. No. 1.) The allegations set forth in the Complaint stem
from alleged incidents that occurred while Plaintiff was
confined at the State Correction Institute at Coal Township
(“SCI-Coal Township”). (Id.)
alleges that after Plaintiff filed grievances against McCoy,
McCoy verbally abused and harassed him by calling him a
“rat” in front of other inmates and made a number
of sexually explicit comments to him. (Id.)
Plaintiff also alleges that McCoy retaliated against him for
filing grievances by throwing out Plaintiff's commissary
purchase slips, placing a “dark brown foreign
object” in his meal, and stealing and destroying a
photograph of Plaintiff's father. (Id.)
Plaintiff also alleges that Peters, Eveland, Mooney, Varner,
Scicchitano, and Carpentier had an “opportunity to do
something meaningful and positive for Mr. Sears and curb or
deter any future forms of such behavior by defendant McCoy[,
]” but they “did nothing, causing Mr. Sears to be
further subjected to such behavior [by McCoy].”
(Id.) These Defendants appear to be named in the
Complaint on the basis of respondeat superior. Finally,
Plaintiff does not make any allegations against Defendants
Baumbach or Luscavage.
addition to his complaint, Plaintiff has filed a motion to
proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. No. 2). For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for leave to
proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. In
addition, pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2), the Court will dismiss Defendants Peters,
Eveland, Mooney, Varner, Scicchitano, and Carpentier, grant
Plaintiff leave to amend his complaint as to Defendants
Baumbach and Luscavage, and allow the First Amendment
retaliation claim brought against Defendant McCoy to proceed
STANDARD OF REVIEW
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, prior to service of process, courts
must screen civil complaints in which prisoners seek redress
from governmental entities, officers, or employees. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A(a); James v. Pa. Dep't of Corr.,
230 F.App'x 195, 197 (3d Cir. 2007). If a complaint fails
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a court
must dismiss the complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1);
Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D.
have a similar obligation with respect to actions brought
in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2) (“[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any
time if the court determines that . . . the action or appeal
. . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted .
. . .”). In performing this mandatory screening
function, a district court applies the standard governing
motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure. Mitchell, 696 F.Supp.2d at 471.
When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the
court accepts as true all factual allegations in the
complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn
from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009); In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618
F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). To avoid dismissal, all civil
complaints must set out “sufficient factual
matter” to show that their claims are facially
plausible. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678; Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The
plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility
that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct:
“[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' -
‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has
identified the following steps that a district court must
take when reviewing a 12(b)(6) motion: (1) identify the
elements that a plaintiff must plead to state a claim, (2)
identify any conclusory allegations contained in the
complaint that are “not entitled” to the
assumption of truth, and (3) determine whether any
“well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in
the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629
F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal citations and
quotation marks omitted). The Third Circuit has specified
that in ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for
failure to state a claim, “a court must consider only
the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if
the complainant's claims are based upon these
documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223,
230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v.
White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
context of pro se prisoner litigation, the court
must be mindful that a document filed pro se is
“to be liberally construed.” Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A pro se
complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be
held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers” and can be dismissed for failure to
state a claim only if it appears beyond a doubt that the
plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim
which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner,
404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).
order to state a viable claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a
plaintiff must plead: (1) that the conduct complained of was
committed by a person acting under color of state law; and
(2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right,
privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of
the United States. Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47
F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995); Shaw by Strain v.
Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990).
Moreover, in addressing whether a viable claim has been
stated against a defendant, the court must assess whether the
plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that the defendant was
personally involved in the act which the plaintiff claims
violated his rights. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Liability may not be imposed
pursuant to § 1983 under the traditional standards of
respondeat superior. Capone v. Marinelli,
868 F.2d 102, 106 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Hampton v.
Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d
Cir. 1976)). Instead, “supervisory personnel are only
liable for the § 1983 violations of their subordinates
if they knew of, participated in or acquiesced in such
conduct.” Capone, 868 F.2d at 106 n.7.
context, supervisory liability exists in only two instances:
(1) when the supervisor “knew of, participated in or
acquiesced in” the harmful conduct; and (2) when a
supervisor established and maintained a policy, custom, or
practice which directly caused the constitutional harm.
Id.; Santiago, 629 F.3d at 129; A.M. ex
rel. J.M.K. v. Luzerne Cnty. Juvenile Ctr., 372 F.3d
572, 586 (3d Cir. 2004). With respect to the ...