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Margetta v. Ferguson

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 22, 2018

STEVEN MARGETTA, Plaintiff
v.
TAMMY FERGUSON, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM [1]

          JAMES M. MUNLEY, United States District Judge

         The pro se plaintiff, Steven Margetta (“Plaintiff” or “Margetta”), a state inmate housed at the Benner Township State Correctional Institution (“SCI-Benner”), in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, filed this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action alleging that Defendants removed him from his prison job as a library worker in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights. (Doc. 9, Am. Compl.) Plaintiff names the following Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) employees assigned to SCI-Benner: Mr. Ramirez, Director of Education; Mr. Garmen, Director of Inmate Employment; Mr. Hamor, C-Block Unit Manager; and Mr. Gummo, Inmate Counselor. (Id.) Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint due to Plaintiff's failure to state a claim. (Doc. 21, Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss). For the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint will be granted with prejudice.

         I. Motion to Dismiss Standard of Review

         On a motion to dismiss, “[w]e ‘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.'” Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoted case omitted). In resolving a motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a court can consider the allegations of the complaint as well as any “documents that are attached to or submitted with the complaint, . . . any matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case.” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (brackets in original).

         Among other requirements, a sound complaint must set forth “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). This statement must “give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47, 78 S.Ct. 99, 102 -03, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957)). “Fair notice” in Rule 8(a)(2) “depends on the type of case-some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quotation omitted). “A situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8.” Id. A plaintiff must provide “more than labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action” to show entitlement to relief. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1965; accord, e.g., Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; Baraka v. McGreevey, 481 F.3d 187, 195 (3d Cir. 2007) (The court is not “compelled to accept unsupported conclusions and unwarranted inferences or a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.” (quotations and citations omitted)); Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005).

         Additionally, pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 529 (3d Cir. 2003). 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. 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).

         II. Background

         A. Procedural History

         Margetta filed his Complaint alleging his improper removal from his prison job on December 22, 2016. (Doc. 1, Compl.) The Court then screened the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 dismissing some claims and some Defendants, but granting Plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint as to his equal protection claim against the four remaining Defendants. See Margetta v. Ferguson, Civ. No. 1:CV-17-0037, 2017 WL 228018 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 19, 2017). On February 9, 2017. (Doc. 9, Am. Compl.)

         On April 27, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint due to Plaintiff's failure to state an equal protection claim. (Doc. 21, Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss). Defendants filed a brief in support of their motion. (Doc. 22, Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Br.) Margetta failed to file an opposition brief or seek an enlargement of time to do so.

         B. Facts as Alleged in the Amended Complaint

         Since August 2015 Margetta was employed as a library worker at SCI-Benner with positive progress reports. (Doc. 9, ¶ 12). On July 25, 2016, Plaintiff was summoned to a meeting with the four named Defendants. (Id., ¶ 13). Defendants reported irregularities concerning the use of the library's photocopy machine. Apparently, inmates were using without paying for copies. (Id., ¶¶ 15 - 16). Although Margetta was not specifically accused of wrongdoing or issued a misconduct, Defendants removed him from his library job. (Id., ¶ 18).

         Margetta asserts eight other inmates worked in SCI-Benner's library at the relevant period in question. “[T]hus [they] were similarly situated to Plaintiff.” (Id., ¶ 21). “At least two of the other similarly situated inmates did not have their job assignments within the library terminated by defendants.” (Id., ¶ 22). Margetta alleges that Defendants had “no rational basis for the difference in the[ir] treatment of Plaintiff and the two similarly situated inmates wh[o] did not have their job assignment within the library terminated.” (Id., ¶ 23).

         III. ...


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