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Rochester v. Warden of SCI Benner

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2018

FAHEEM ROCHESTER, Plaintiff
v.
WARDEN OF SCI BENNER, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Background

         Pro se Plaintiff, Faheem Rochester (“Plaintiff”), an inmate currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania (“SCI-Graterford”), initiated this civil action by filing a complaint on July 12, 2017, naming as Defendants the Warden of SCI-Benner, Lieutenant Jusits[1], Correctional Officer Lieutenant Luciano, and Doctor Preston. (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that while held in a psychiatric observation cell at SCI-Benner, he was handcuffed to his bed by Defendants Jusits and Luciano because he had a lighter in his rectum. (Id. at 2.) Plaintiff alleges that he was told by both Defendants that in order to have the handcuffs removed, he had to have a bowel movement so they could retrieve the lighter. (Id.) However, Defendant Luciano then came to his cell and informed Plaintiff that Doctor Preston was going to come and physically remove the lighter from his rectum. (Id.) Plaintiff provides that he did not consent to Dr. Preston removing the lighter physically, but rather, would give Defendants the lighter once he had a bowel movement. (Id. at 2, 3.) Plaintiff alleges that against his will and despite him telling Defendants to stop, Defendant Luciano as well as nine other unidentified correctional officers held him down on his bed while Dr. Preston physically went into his rectum to retrieve the lighter. (Id. at 3.) Plaintiff alleges that he was bleeding as a result of the incident and was refused medical treatment. (Id.)

         Plaintiff has alleged a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment as well as an Eighth Amendment deliberate indifference claim against Defendants. The Court performed an initial screening of the complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), and on September 5, 2017, dismissed the complaint in part for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. (Doc. Nos. 10, 11.) Specifically, the Court dismissed the Warden of SCI-Benner from this action as well as all claims against Defendants in their official capacities.[2] (Id.) The Court deferred service of the complaint for thirty (30) days, in which it afforded Plaintiff time to file an amended complaint. (Id.) Upon the expiration of those thirty (30) days, and not having received an amended complaint, the Court directed service of the complaint on the remaining Defendants. (Doc. Nos. 14, 26.)

         On January 10, 2018, the Commonwealth Defendants Tammy Jusits and C.O. Luciano filed an answer to Plaintiff's complaint. (Doc. No. 41.) Defendant Dr. Preston filed a motion to dismiss on January 26, 2018, asserting that Plaintiff failed to properly exhaust his administrative remedies against Dr. Preston prior to filing the instant action. (Doc. Nos. 43, 44.) Pursuant to Paladino v. Newsome, 885 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. Mar. 16, 2018), and the Court observing that Defendant Preston raised the issue of whether Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies, the Court issued a Paladino Order, informing the parties that it would consider the exhaustion issue in the context of summary judgment, and by doing so, would consider matters outside the pleadings in its role as factfinder. (Doc. No. 49.) The Court afforded the parties additional time in which to file supplemental materials specifically addressing the exhaustion issue. (Id.)

         In accordance with this Court's May 1, 2018 Paladino Order, Dr. Preston filed his supplemental documents and exhibits (Doc. No. 51), along with a statement of facts (Doc. No. 52), on May 18, 2018. Plaintiff filed a supplemental brief in opposition on July 9, 2018 (Doc. No. 56); however, he has not filed a statement of material facts specifically responding to the numbered paragraphs in Dr. Preston's statement in contravention of this Court's May 1, 2018 Order and Local Rule 56.1.

         II. Standard of Review

         Defendant Dr. Preston initially filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. No. 43) However, Dr. Preston raises the issue of whether Plaintiff has exhausted his administrative remedies. (Id.) Consequently, the Court issued a Paladino Order informing the parties that it would consider the exhaustion issue in the context of summary judgment. (Doc. No. 49.)

         A. Motion to Dismiss

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where 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)).

         Accordingly, to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “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) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “a court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). A court may also consider “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) (quoting 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357 (3d Ed. 2004)).

         In the context of pro se prisoner litigation specifically, the 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” and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond a doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         B. Motion for ...


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