United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER 
Cynthia Reed Eddy United States Magistrate Judge.
pending is Defendants' Partial Motion to Dismiss
Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, with brief in
support. (ECF Nos. 28 and 29). Plaintiff has filed a response
and brief in opposition. (ECF Nos. 31 and 32). For the
reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and
denied in part.
events giving rise to this lawsuit occurred while Plaintiff
was a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Beaver County
Jail; specifically during the time Plaintiff was housed in
the RHU section of the Beaver County Jail from May - August,
Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff details a series of
alleged ongoing acts of misconduct by the defendant
correctional officers, which conduct seems to have commenced
after Plaintiff filed grievances against C/O Hunter and C/O
Simpson, neither of whom are named defendants in this
lawsuit. According to the Second Amended Complaint, after
filing these two grievances, the defendant correctional
officers began almost daily harassing and threatening
Plaintiff with bodily harm, which culminated in an incident
on July 10, 2016, when Plaintiff was assaulted by a number of
the defendants, including being punched in the back of the
head, and tasered approximately six or seven times. Plaintiff
also alleges, inter alia, that the correctional
officers tampered with his breakfast tray, searched his cell
daily for about 25 days in a row, subjected him to strip
searches (which he alleges were done for the sole purpose of
humiliating and degrading him), misappropriated his property,
denied his requests for medical attention, inappropriately
placed him in a “medical restraint chair” for two
hours, and did not permit him to attend his disciplinary
hearing in which he was found guilty in absentia.
his time in the RHU, Plaintiff filed 12 grievances and 20
requests slips concerning the violations of his rights. He
alleges that he sent requests slips to both the Warden and
Deputy Warden to inform them “of what [he] was
experiencing, ” but that the only request which the
Deputy Warden responded to pertained to Plaintiff's food
pleadings, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be
held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 420-21 (1972). If the court can reasonably read
pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could
prevail, it should do so despite failure to proper legal
authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and
sentence construction, or the litigant's unfamiliarity
with pleadings requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454
U.S. 364 (1982). Because Plaintiff is a pro se
litigant, this Court may consider facts and make inferences
where it is appropriate.
brings his claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations
of his First, Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth rights.
The claims will be discussed seriatim.
difficult to discern from the Second Amended Complaint what
conduct by the Defendants is being alleged to have violated
Plaintiff's First Amendment rights. However, the Second
Amended Complaint seems to indicate that the correctional
officers' actions were, at least in part, retaliatory
based on Plaintiff's filing of two grievances.
See Second Amended Complaint, at 11 (“Upon
arrival I did file 2 grievances. One on C/O Hunter and one on
C/O Simpson. I then began to be harassed by C/O Laskas and
C/O Rosenstill.”) For this reason, Defendants'
request to dismiss Plaintiff's First Amendment claims
will be denied. Defendants will have the ability to flush out
in discovery the details of Plaintiff's First Amendment
also argue that Plaintiff's claims under the Fourth
Amendment should be dismiss. At this early stage of the
litigation, the Court disagrees with Defendants and finds
that the claims should proceed. The United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that the Fourth
Amendment applies to strip searches in the prison setting.
Parkell v. Danberg, 833 F.3d 313, 325 (3d Cir. 2016)
(holding that the Fourth Amendment “grants inmates a
limited right of bodily privacy, subject to reason intrusions
necessitated by the prison setting”). An excessive
force claim arising from a strip search may also implicate
the Eighth Amendment. See Jordan v. Cicci, 428 F.
App'x 195, 199-200 (3d Cir. 2011). To recover under
either amendment, the prisoner must establish that the strip
search was unreasonable. Payton v. Vaughn, 798
F.Supp. 258, 261-62 (E.D. Pa. 1992). The test for
ascertaining the reasonableness of a search “requires a
balancing of the need for the particular search against the
invasion of personal rights that the search entails.”
Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 559 (1979). In
applying this balancing test, the Court “must consider
the scope of the particular intrusion, the manner in which it
is conducted, the justification for initiating it, and the
place in which it is conducted.” Id. See
also Florence v. Bd. of Chosen Freeholders of Cty.
of Burlington, 621 F.3d 296, 309-11 (3d Cir. 2010),
aff'd, -- U.S., 132 S.Ct. 1510, 1516-17 (2012).
Plaintiff's claims about the impropriety of the searches
of his cell, the Supreme Court has held that prisoners do not
have a legitimate expectation of privacy in their prison
cells, and therefore, the Fourth Amendment's protections
are unavailable to prisoners, Hudson v. Palmer, 468
U.S. 517, 539 (1984). However, the Court in Hudson
emphasized that a prisoner may nonetheless have other
remedies, including the Eighth Amendment's protection
against “cruel and unusual punishments, ” if a
prison guard in searching the prisoner's cell amounts to
“calculated harassment unrelated to prison
needs.” Id. (prison officials cannot
“ride roughshod over inmates' property rights with
motion to dismiss these claims will be denied because these
claims cannot be resolved on the pleadings, but rather must
await a summary judgment motion. Both claims focus on factual
matters relating to the Defendants' actions and intent.
The Court is bound by the well-pleaded facts of the Second
Amended Complaint at this stage of the proceedings.
Therefore, the procedural posture of this case, which comes
before the Court on a motion to dismiss, simply does not
permit definitive judgments on the legal and factual inquiry
which lies at the heart of Plaintiff's claims regarding
the searches of his body and cell.
in his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff mentions the Fifth
Amendment. The Fifth Amendment provides in full that:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise
infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a
Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of
War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject to the
same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor
shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness
against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law; nor shall private
property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
the provisions of the Fifth Amendment appears to be
implicated by Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint,
except for the due process provision. However, the Fifth
Amendment's due process clause only protects against
federal government action. All the defendants in this matter
are alleged to be employees of Beaver County / Beaver County
Jail. As such, the defendants are not federal actors and the
Fifth Amendment ...