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Riley v. CO3 Kuzar

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 31, 2017

NATHANIEL RILEY, Plaintiff
v.
CO3 KUZAR, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Mr. Riley's Complaint (ECF No. 1) is before the Court for preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). The Complaint will be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. However, Mr. Riley will be granted the opportunity to file an amended complaint.

         II. Standard of Review

         When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without the prepayment of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to screen the complaint. Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding in forma pauperis or not, the court must screen the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 11915(e)(2)(B)(i) - (iii); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2).

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in fact or law. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832-33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seivehing, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). 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. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). The court may also rely on exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007).

         Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a), a complaint need only "include a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." "[T]he factual allegations of a complaint 'must be enough to raise a right to Relief above the speculative level' and the complaining party must offer 'more than labels and conclusions' or 'formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action." W. Run Student Hous. Assocs., LLC. v. Huntingdon Nat'l Bank, 712 F.3d 165, 169 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). Legal conclusions are "not entitled to the assumption of truth." Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)).

         Finally, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys and are to be liberally construed. See Erickson v. Partus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Philips, 515 F.3d at 245-46 (citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004)). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

         III. Allegations in the Complaint

         Nathaniel Riley is a state inmate currently housed at SCI-Coal Township. The allegations of his Complaint relate to his confinement at SCI-Camp Hill's Special Management Unit (SMU). (ECF No. 1, Compl.) Named as Defendants are the following Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) staff, employed at SCI-Camp Hill: CO Kuzar; Corrections Officer (CO) John Doe; Unit Manager (UM) Jennifer Digby; CO Alianiello; CO A.S. Huber; and Superintendent Laurel Harry. All Defendants are sued in their individual and official capacities.

         A. SMU Strip Search Policy

         At all times relevant to this Complaint, Mr. Riley, an orthodox "Sunniyy Muslim", was housed in SCI-Camp Hill's SMU, a level 5 housing unit. Mr. Riley was subject to a strip search prior to using the shower, mini-law library, and an exercise unit. He was strip searched again upon his return from any of these areas/activities. The strip searches were conducted pursuant to DOC policy 6.5.1, the Administration of Security Level 5 Housing Units.

         Defendants Kuzar and Digby, supervisors in the SMU, directed the enforcement of the strip search policy and threatened denial of access to showers, the mini-law library and exercise for those who were non-compliant to the strip search policy. Strip searches were conducted in open shower areas and cells. Strip searches were conducted without any particularized justification for the search. Mr. Riley asserts strip searches were conducted "as part of the punishment, to discourage inmates from utilizing the shower, mini-law library, and exercise". (Id., p. 2.)

         During a strip search Mr. Riley was required to remove his jumpsuit, undergarments, and socks. He was required to spread his buttocks, lift his penis and scrotum, and remain in this manner until staff completed their visual search. Mr. Riley argues that "Islaam prohibits men from uncovering one's unlawful nakedness in front of those who are prohibited to look at it, other than their wives." (Id., p. 3.) Mr. Ritey filed grievance 605300 on December 30, 2015 challenging the SMU strip search policy claiming it unreasonable and that it placed a "substantial burden on his I religious practices". (Id., ...


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