United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
ARNOLD J. HARRIS, Plaintiff
R. A. HANNON, et al., Defendants
the Court is pro se Plaintiff Arnold J. Harris'
amended complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
(Doc. No. 8), and motion to proceed in forma
pauperis (Doc. No. 2). Pursuant to the Prison Litigation
Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), the Court will grant
Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, screen the amended complaint, and dismiss the
amended complaint without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
January 31, 2018, Plaintiff, an inmate at the State
Correctional Institution at Huntingdon, Pennsylvania
(“SCI-Huntingdon”), filed the instant action
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, naming as Defendants R. A.
Hannon (“Hannon”) and S. Ellenberger
(“Ellenberger”), employees at SCI-Huntingdon.
(Doc. No. 1.) On February 12, 2018, Plaintiff filed an
amended complaint naming the same parties as Defendants.
(Doc. No. 8.)
alleges that on December 14, 2017, after a block-wide search
of inmate cells for contraband, Plaintiff was issued a
misconduct for five altered/destroyed bed sheets in a cell he
shared with another cellmate. (Id. at 4.) Plaintiff
maintains that Hannon falsified the misconduct by stating
that he “observed five (5) unmarked and altered bed
sheets and inmate Harris claimed ownership of those
sheets.” (Id.) Plaintiff pled not guilty to
the charges during his disciplinary hearing before
Ellenberger. (Id.) Ellenberger found Plaintiff
guilty of the charges and assessed Plaintiff $35.00 for the
five damaged bed sheets. (Id.)
alleges that he appealed Ellenberger's decision on
December 26, 2017 to the Prison Review Committee
(“PRC”). (Id. at 5.) On January 10,
2018, Plaintiff received the PRC's denial of his appeal.
(Id.) Plaintiff avers that he then appealed the
PRC's decision to the Facility Manager, and his appeal
was denied as meritless on January 24, 2018. (Id.)
Plaintiff alleges that he appealed the Facility Manager's
decision to the Chief Hearing Examiner on January 25, 2018.
(Id.) Plaintiff avers that he is “currently
waiting on [a] response from [the] Chief Hearing Examiner
which will probably side with the Dep[artment] of
Correction[s], as usual, and find the Plaintiff
‘guilty.'” (Id. at 6.)
asserts a First Amendment claim against Hannon for allegedly
lying in issuing him a misconduct, and an Eighth Amendment
claim against Ellenberger for denying Plaintiff due process
during his disciplinary hearing and assessing Plaintiff with
a $35.00 fee. (Id.)
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, federal district courts must
“review . . . a complaint in a civil action in which a
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer
or employee of a governmental entity.” 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a). If a complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted, the court must dismiss the complaint.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). District courts have a similar
screening obligation with respect to actions filed by
prisoners proceeding in forma pauperis and prisoners
challenging prison conditions. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) (“[T]he court shall dismiss the case
at any time if the court determines that . . . the action or
appeal . . . fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted . . . .”); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e(c)(1)
(“The Court shall on its own motion or on the motion of
a party dismiss any action brought with respect to prison
conditions under section 1983 of this title . . . by a
prisoner confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional
facility if the court is satisfied that the action . . .
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be
dismissing claims under §§ 1915(e), 1915A, and
1997e, district courts apply the standard governing motions
to dismiss brought pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. See, e.g., Smithson v.
Koons, Civ. No. 15-01757, 2017 WL 3016165, at *3 (M.D.
Pa. June 26, 2017) (“The legal standard for dismissing
a complaint for failure to state a claim under §
1915A(b)(1), § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), or § 1997e(c)(1)
is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure.”); Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696
F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (explaining that when
dismissing a complaint pursuant to § 1915A, “a
court employs the motion to dismiss standard set forth under
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)”). To avoid
dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), a civil complaint must set out
“sufficient factual matter” to show that its
claims are facially plausible. See Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009); Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The
plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility
that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct:
“[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court
to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the
complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' -
‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'”
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2)). When evaluating the plausibility of a complaint,
the court accepts as true all factual allegations and all
reasonable inferences that can be drawn from those
allegations, viewed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. See Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; In re
Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d
Cir. 2010). However, the court must not accept legal
conclusions as true, and “a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action” will not survive a
motion to dismiss. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555-56 (2007).
on this standard, the United States Court of Appeals for the
Third Circuit has identified the following steps that a
district court must take when reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6)
motion: (1) identify the elements that a plaintiff must plead
to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations
contained in the complaint that are “not
entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine
whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations”
contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster
Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010). In addition, in
the context of pro se prisoner litigation
specifically, a district court must be mindful that a
document filed pro se is “to be liberally
construed.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97,
106 (1976). A pro se complaint, “however
inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (quoting Estelle, 429 U.S. at 106) (internal
quotation marks omitted).
PLRA “mandates early judicial screening of prisoner
complaints and requires prisoners to exhaust prison grievance
procedures before filing suit.” See 42 U.S.C.
§ 1997(e)(a); Jones v. Bock, 549 U.S. 199
(2007). Section 1997(e) provides, in relevant part
“[n]o action shall be brought with respect to prison
conditions under section 1983 of the Revised Statutes of the
United States, or any other Federal law, by a prisoner
confined in any jail, prison, or other correctional facility
until such administrative remedies as are available are
exhausted. 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e).
Supreme Court has explicitly provided that all prisoners must
exhaust their administrative remedies as to any claim that
arises in the prison setting, regardless of the kind of
relief sought. See Porter v. Nussle, 534 U.S. 516,
532 (2002). Moreover, the exhaustion of available
administrative remedies is required before filing a civil
rights action under § 1983. See Perazzo v.
Fisher, Civ. No. 11-1505, 2012 WL 1964419 (M.D. Pa. May
31, 2012) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 1997(e)(a)); Jones v.
Lorady, Civ. No. 11-666, 2011 WL 2461982 (M.D. Pa. June
17, 2011) (dismissing prisoner complaint sua sponte
for failure to exhaust administrative remedies prior to
initiating federal action). “[I]t is beyond the power .
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