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Bradley v. Harris

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 12, 2017

Captain HARRIS, et al., Defendants


          William J. Nealon United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Plaintiff, an inmate confined in the State Correctional Institution, Albion, Pennsylvania, filed the above captioned civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He complains of an incident which occurred at his former place of confinement, the State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon (“SCI-Huntingdon”), Pennsylvania. The action is proceeding on Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed on November 23, 2016. (Doc. 69). Plaintiff challenges a disciplinary hearing and the placement in a dry cell, pending the investigation into the misconduct that resulted in the disciplinary charges. Id. For relief, he seeks compensatory and punitive damages for Defendants alleged violation of Plaintiff's Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. Id. The named Defendants are Department of Corrections Secretary, John Wetzel, and the following SCI-Huntingdon employees: Captain Harris, Lieutenant House, Superintendent J. A. Eckard, Major Walters, Hearing Examiner Hines and Ms. Connie Green. Id.

         Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss. (Doc. 70). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted.

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir.2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir.2008)). While 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, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a complaint must plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. “The plausibility standard is not akin to a ‘probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). “[L]abels and conclusions” are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and a court “‘is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'” Id. (quoted case omitted). Thus, “a judicial conspiracy claim must include at least a discernible factual basis to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal.” Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir.2009) (per curiam).

         In resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus “conduct a two-part analysis.” Fowler, supra, 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, we “determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “ ‘plausible claim for relief.' ” Id. at 211 (quoted case omitted).

         In addition, because Plaintiff complains about “prison conditions, ” the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1997e apply, as do the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), given that he was granted in forma pauperis status to pursue this suit. The court's obligation to dismiss a complaint under the PLRA screening provisions for complaints that fail to state a claim is not excused even after defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. See, 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 sua sponte rest its dismissal upon such ground pursuant to the screening provisions of the PLRA. See Lopez; Dare v. U.S., Civil No. 06-115E, 2007 WL 1811198, at *4 (W.D.Pa. June 21, 2007), aff'd, 264 Fed.Appx. 183 (3d Cir.2008).

         III. Allegations in Complaint

         In November 2015, Plaintiff states the he was coming out of the visiting hall to enter the room where you change clothes after your visit, when “Officer Bowser and his partner were waiting in the changing room and asked [Plaintiff] if [he] had something in [his] mouth, at which time they told [Plaintiff] to give them what [he] had in [his] mouth and [he] did.” (Doc. 69). Plaintiff “explained that Officer Kitchie had gave it to [him] prior to [him] going into the visit hall” and “had told [him] to place the item under [his] clothes, but [he] could not because there was another inmate at the gate way trying to come into the dressing room, so [he] was told to take the times with [him] and to bring them back when [he] came back in after being out on the visit.” Id. Plaintiff claims that he tried to explain that “Officer Ritchie gave them to [him] to give to another inmate and these acts were out of necessity for the safety of [his] family.” Id.

         Plaintiff was then “taken to the RHU in SCI-Huntingdon, a call was received and [Plaintiff] was given a Blue smock like apparatus to put on without any underclothes on.” Id. Plaintiff “was asked if [he] swallowed anything and [he] told them no.” Id. Plaintiff claims that he was then “cuffed to the wall” and that “the hand of the wrist that was hanging” was “hanging to such a degree that the nurse had to repeatedly come and check the blood was still circulating.” Id. Plaintiff states that he was “in that room for seventy-two plush hours in the same position” and that his “wrist was hurting [him] very bad.” Id. While in the room, Plaintiff states that “[he] was handcuffed to a wall like a slave, like a dog, [he] was forced to lay in [his] own feces wet with [his] own urine, there was no water in the room, the toilet bowl and sink securely covered and taped so that it could not be used, the officers watching [him] told [him] the water was cut off in the room, there was plexy-glass covering the bars, there was no way to flush a toilet, no way to throw anything, there was a camera in the corner of the cell suspended from the ceiling and an officer sitting there the entire time, thus there was no way to discard, throw away any alleged item [he] was to have had.” Id. He claims he was then released to an observation room in the RHU. Id.

         Plaintiff eventually received an disciplinary hearing for the charge of possession or use of a dangerous or controlled substance. Id. Plaintiff was found not guilty of this charge, but was found guilty of possession of contraband. Id. Plaintiff was sanctioned to sixty (60) days in disciplinary confinement for the misconduct. Id. He claims that Defendants, Ms. Green and Superintendent Eckard upheld the punishment provided by the hearing examiner. Id.

         Plaintiff filed the instant action in which he seeks compensatory and punitive damages for “the pain and suffering [he] endured as well as for the illegal disciplinary confinement.” Id. Plaintiff claims that his placement in the dry cell was in violation of his Eighth Amendment protection against cruel and unusual punishment and he challenges his disciplinary proceeding under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id.

         IV. ...

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