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Banks v. Tucker

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 8, 2018

MARVIN BANKS, Plaintiff,
v.
C.O. 1 S. TUCKER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          C. DARNELL JONES, II, J.

         Plaintiff Marvin Banks, a State inmate currently incarcerated at SCI Benner Township, has filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against CO. 1 S. Tucker, Hearing Examiner Ryan Szelewski, and Major Clark challenging discipline he received after spitting in CO. Tucker's face. He has also filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Banks leave to proceed in forma pauperis and will dismiss his Complaint.

         I. FACTS

         On November 5, 2017, Banks got into an argument with CO. 1 S. Tucker "about a procedural duty in which [he] was trying to understand [Tucker's] reasoning which is hard for [him] due to [his] severe mental illness." (Compl. at 3.)[1] Tucker became "irate and disrespectful, " and Banks claims that she falsely accused him of assaulting her by spitting on her. (Id.) Banks claims that Tucker "defam[ed his] character." (Id.)

         Banks had a disciplinary hearing before Hearing Examiner Ryan Szelewski on November 8, 2017. (Id. at 2-3.) According to Banks, Szelewski violated his due process rights by "not check[ing] any evidence or call[ing] to interview any of [his] witnesses." (Id. at 3.) Szelewski found Banks guilty of the charge and sanctioned him to 90 days in disciplinary custody. (Id. at 2, 4.) Banks appealed to the Program Review Committee, which denied his appeal. (Id. at 9-10.)

         Banks also claims that Major Clark was deliberately indifferent because she viewed video of the incident after his hearing and "still did nothing to help [him]." (Id. at 3.) According to Banks, the video "shows that nothing happened." (Id.) Banks claims that he "tr[ied] to correspond with [Major Clark] via letters she purposely refused to write [him] back." (Id.)

         Banks now brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that the Defendants violated his due process rights and demonstrated deliberate indifference by falsely charging him with assaulting an officer and finding him guilty of that assault. As relief, he asks that the Court "remove Defendants from their duties" and that he be awarded $5, 000 for every day that he spent in the Restricted Housing Unit, as well as $10, 000 from each Defendant for "mental anguish." (Id. at 19.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court will grant Banks leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is not capable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[2] Accordingly, Banks's Complaint is subject to 28 U.S.C. § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(ii), which requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if it fails to state a claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § l9l5(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). "[M]ere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. As Banks is proceeding pro se, the Court construes her allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         "To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). As discussed below, Banks's Complaint does not establish a plausible constitutional violation.

         A. Eighth Amendment Claims

         Conditions of confinement violate the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment if they satisfy two criteria. First, the conditions "must be, objectively, sufficiently serious" such that a "prison official's act or omission ... result[s] in the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 834 (1994) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). Second, the official responsible for the challenged conditions must exhibit a "sufficiently culpable state of mind, " which "[i]n prison-conditions cases ... is one of deliberate indifference to inmate health or safety." Id. Here, because the punishment in question did not deprive Banks of basic necessities and does not represent "'a dramatic departure from accepted standards for conditions of confinement, '" Banks has not stated a basis for an Eighth Amendment claim. See Griffin v. Vaughn, 112 F.3d 703, 709 (3d Cir. 1997) (holding that the restrictive conditions in administrative custody in the Pennsylvania state correctional institutions, in and of themselves, do not violate the Eighth Amendment); see also Bond v. Home, 553 Fed.Appx. 219, 224-25 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam) (transfer to disciplinary confinement did not violate the Eighth Amendment).

         B. Fourteenth ...


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