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Myers v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 22, 2018

RAYTI MYERS, Plaintiff
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Yvette Kane, District Judge

         Before the Court is pro se Plaintiff Rayti Myers' complaint filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. No. 1), motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and supplement (Doc. Nos. 2, 8), and motions for a temporary restraining order and for a preliminary injunction. (Doc. Nos. 4, 5). Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995 (“PLRA”), the Court will perform its mandatory screening of the complaint.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff is currently confined at the State Correctional Institution Rockview, Bellefonte, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Rockview”). Plaintiff alleges that he has two pair of Timberland boots that he purchased through the prison's commissary at $92.50 a pair. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) On March 26, 2018, Plaintiff alleges that he received a mandate from the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), indicating that all prisoners' Timberland boots will be confiscated by May II, 2018, and that prisoners will not receive reimbursement for this projected taking of their personal property. (Doc. Nos. 1, 4, 5.) On April 3, 2018, Plaintiff claims that the DOC issued a revised memorandum informing prisoners that they could mail their Timberland boots to someone outside prison or could donate them but no refund would be issued. (Doc. No. 1 at 2.)

         On April 4, 2018, Plaintiff filed a grievance requesting reimbursement for his Timberland boots. (Id. at 11.) On April 13, 2018, Plaintiff received a response to his grievance which indicated that he would not be reimbursed for his Timberland boots. (Id. at 2, 11.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants should not be allowed to take his property without compensation. (Id. at 1-3.) Named as Defendants are the DOC and the Timberland Boot Company. (Id. at 1, 3.) Plaintiff also seeks an injunction to prohibit Defendants from taking his boots. (Doc. Nos. 4, 5.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Screening of Plaintiff's Complaint

         Under 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 granted.”).

         In 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).

         Based 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).

         B. Civil Rights Statute, 42 U.S.C. § 1983

         In order to state a viable claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must plead (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995); Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990); Richardson v. Min Sec Cos., No. 3:cv-08-1312, 2008 WL 5412866, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 29, 2008).

         Moreover, in order for a § 1983 claim to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must sufficiently allege that the defendant was personally involved in the act or acts that the plaintiff claims violated his rights. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988); Solan v. Ranck, 326 Fed.Appx. 97, 100 (3d Cir. 2009). Therefore, supervisors cannot be liable under § 1983 on the traditional standard of respondeat superior. Santiago, 629 F.3d at 128. Instead, there are two theories of supervisory liability that are applicable to § 1983 claims: (1) “a supervisor may be personally liable under § 1983 if he or she participated in violating the plaintiff's rights, directed others to violate them, or, as the person in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in his subordinates' violations”; and (2) policymakers may also be liable under § 1983 “if it is shown that such defendants, ‘with deliberate indifference to the consequences, established and maintained a policy, practice or custom which directly caused [the] constitutional harm.'” A.M. ex rel. J.M.K. v. Luzerne Cty. Juvenile Det. Ctr., 372 F.3d 572, 586 (3d Cir. 2004).

         C. Preliminary ...


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