United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
16, 2017, Plaintiff Michael Johnson
(“Plaintiff”), an inmate currently confined at
the State Correctional Institution at Rockview
(“SCI-Rockview”), in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania,
filed a pro se civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) In the caption of the complaint,
Plaintiff names as Defendants Mark Garman, the superintendent
of SCI-Rockview; SCI-Rockview; and SCI-Rockview officials and
maintenance employees. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges,
inter alia, that Defendants forced Plaintiff to
drink non-potable water for over three months, subjected
Plaintiff to excessively hot and pigeon-infested living
conditions, and allowed Plaintiff to be exposed to
second-hand tobacco smoke. (Id.)
has filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis
(Doc. No. 5), as well as a prisoner authorization form (Doc.
No. 6). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis will
be granted. In addition, Plaintiff's complaint will be
dismissed without prejudice and Plaintiff will be granted
leave to file an amended complaint.
district court must dismiss an in forma pauperis
prisoner's complaint if the court determines that the
complaint is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from suit. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). In addition, “[t]he court shall on its
own motion . . . dismiss any action brought with respect to
prison conditions under section 1983 of this title, or any
other Federal law, by a prisoner confined in any jail,
prison, or other correctional facility if the court is
satisfied that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1). Because
Plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis and is
complaining about prison conditions, the screening provisions
of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)
order to determine whether to dismiss a complaint for failure
to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “a
[d]istrict [c]ourt must . . . determine whether the facts
alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the
plaintiff has a ‘plausible claim for relief.' In
other words, a complaint must do more than allege the
plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to
‘show' such an entitlement with its facts.”
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d
Cir. 2009); see Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 555 (2007) (“[T]he Court is not requiring
heightened fact pleading of specifics, but only enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.”); Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677
(2009) (“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.”). To this end, a district court 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, 578 F.3d at 210 (internal quotations
omitted). However, the court is “not bound to accept as
true a legal conclusion couched as a factual
allegation.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (internal
resolving the question of whether a complaint states a claim,
a district court thus performs a “two-part
analysis.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. First, the
court separates the factual assertions from the legal
conclusions and disregards the legal conclusions.
Id. at 210-11. Second, the court “determine[s]
whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to
show that the plaintiff has a ‘plausible claim for
relief.'” Id. at 211. When performing this
exercise, courts must accord substantial deference and
liberality to pro se parties. Hughes v.
Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 10 (1980) (“It is settled law
that the allegations of such a [pro se] complaint,
‘however inartfully pleaded' are held ‘to
less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers . . . .'”); Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520 (1972).
filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order
to state a viable § 1983 claim and avoid dismissal for
failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted,
Plaintiff must plausibly plead (1) that the conduct
complained of was committed by a person acting under color of
state law and (2) that said conduct deprived Plaintiff of a
right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or
laws of the United States. Natale v. Camden Cnty. Corr.
Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 580-81 (3d Cir. 2003);
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).
the most liberal construction, Plaintiff's complaint
fails to state a claim on which relief can be granted.
Although Plaintiff does allege that Defendants were acting
under color of state law and that Defendants violated his
Eighth Amendment rights, most of his allegations are
conclusory statements of law unsupported by facts. (Doc. No.
1 ¶¶ 12-40.) Indeed, the complaint is devoid of any
well-pleaded factual averments related to any specific
Defendant; the complaint does not identify the Defendants
engaged in misconduct nor does it indicate how and when each
Defendant was involved in the alleged wrongdoing. This style
of pleading is patently inadequate, as it fails to allege
facts that give rise to a plausible claim for relief.
Hudson v. City of McKeesport, 241 F.
App'x 519 (3d Cir. 2007) (affirming dismissal of
defendant who was only named in caption of case). Without
such factual allegations, it is implausible to conclude that
Defendants may have deprived Plaintiff of any constitutional
addition, with regard to Defendant Garman, the complaint must
be dismissed because it does not allege that Garman was
personally involved in any constitutional violations, and
Garman cannot be liable under § 1983 on the traditional
standards of respondeat superior. Capone v.
Marinelli, 868 F.2d 102, 106 n.7 (3d Cir. 1989)
(“[S]upervisory personnel are only liable for the
§ 1983 violations of their subordinates if they knew of,
participated in or acquiesced in such conduct.”).
Because Plaintiff failed to allege that Garman was personally
involved in the events or occurrences that underlie his
claims, Plaintiff has failed to state a claim on which relief
can be granted with respect to Defendant Garman.
it is clear that any claim against SCI-Rockview is not
cognizable pursuant to § 1983, as “a State is not
a person within the meaning of § 1983.” Will
v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64
(1989). Furthermore, a prison is not a person within the
meaning of § 1983. Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d
991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973); Smith v. Samuels, No.
12-CV-524, 2013 WL 5176742, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 12, 2013)
(“Courts have repeatedly recognized that a prison or
correctional facility is not a person for purposes of civil
rights liability.”). Indeed, ordinarily, only actual
persons are subject to suit under § 1983. Id.
at 71. Consequently, the claims against SCI-Rockview must be
Plaintiff's complaint fails to state a cause of action
against any Defendant, it is possible that the
complaint's deficiencies may be remedied by amendment.
Accordingly, Plaintiff will be granted the opportunity to
file an amended complaint. Plaintiff is advised that the
amended complaint must be complete in all respects; it must
be a new pleading that stands by itself without reference to
the complaint already filed. The amended complaint should set
forth his claims in short, concise, and plain statements. It
should specify which actions are alleged as to which
defendants. Mere conclusory allegations that supervisory
personnel are liable for the alleged civil rights violations
of their subordinates, unless accompanied by plausible
allegations that these supervisory personnel knew of,
participated in, or acquiesced in such conduct, will not set
forth a cognizable claim. If Plaintiff fails to file an
amended complaint adhering to the standards set forth above,
this case will be closed.