United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
H. RAMBO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
April 3, 2018, the Court received and docketed a complaint
filed pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of
Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971),
ostensibly by ten inmates currently incarcerated at the
United States Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania
(“USP-Lewisburg”). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs provide
that Plaintiff Railey “acts as the ‘agent'
and/or ‘voice' of the group of Plaintiffs.”
(Id. at 8-9.) Named as Defendants are David J.
Ebbert, the Warden at USP-Lewisburg, Officer Buebendorf,
Special Institutional Security at USP-Lewisburg, and Officer
Tharp, acting counselor for B-block at USP-Lewisburg.
(Id. at 9.) Plaintiffs allege that they are housed
in the Special Management Unit (“SMU”), and
participate in a Secured Mental Health Step Down Program
designed for inmates with disciplinary infraction issues.
(Id. at 9.)
claim that they are being discriminated against in violation
of the Equal Protection Clause because they receive enhanced
restrictions on their incoming and outgoing mail by virtue of
their placement in the SMU. (Id. at 12.) Plaintiffs
also allege a violation of their Fifth Amendment due process
rights related to these enhanced mail restrictions, as well
as violations of their First Amendment rights because they
are unable to properly utilize the administrative grievance
remedy procedure at USP-Lewisburg. (Id. at 13.)
Concurrent with the filing of the complaint, Plaintiffs also
filed a motion for a temporary restraining order
(“TRO”), and preliminary injunction (Doc. No. 2),
and motion to proceed as a “class action”
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (Doc. No. 3).
April 23, 2018, a motion to amend the complaint was filed,
requesting leave to add three additional Plaintiff's to
the complaint: Doreteo Garcia, Juan Carlos Valles, and David
Jackson. (Doc. No. 14.) On June 14, 2018, the Court issued an
Order, granting Plaintiffs' April 23, 2018 motion insofar
as it added the three aforementioned Plaintiffs to this
action. (Doc. No. 28.) The Court dismissed without prejudice
Plaintiff's Haynes, Argueta, and Piggee from this action
for their failure to comply with the Court's April 18,
2018, 30 Day Administrative Order. (Id.) Finally,
the Court ordered that all remaining applications for leave
to proceed in forma pauperis must be filed on or
before July 14, 2018, otherwise, failure to do so would
result in that particular Plaintiff being dismissed from this
action without prejudice. (Id.) On June 20, 2018,
Plaintiff David Jackson filed a motion to withdraw from this
action. (Doc. No. 30.) The Court will grant David
Jackson's motion to withdraw from this action and he will
date, the following Plaintiffs have filed motions for leave
to proceed in forma pauperis: (1) Camden Barlow
(Doc. Nos. 9, 10); (2) Terrell Wilson (Doc. Nos. 19, 20); (3)
Christopher Alvarez (Doc. Nos. 21, 22); (4) Nathan A. Railey
(Doc. Nos. 23, 24); (5) Juan C. Valles (Doc. Nos. 33, 34);
and (6) Doreteo Garcia (Doc. Nos. 36, 37). Accordingly, the
Court will grant these Plaintiffs' motions to proceed
in forma pauperis, and the aforementioned six
Plaintiffs are the remaining Plaintiffs in this action.
However, the following Plaintiffs have failed to file a
motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and
will be dismissed from this action without prejudice: (1)
Darryl Taylor; (2) Tabarus Holland; and (3) Tony C. Knott.
Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995
(“PLRA”), the Court will perform its mandatory
screening of the complaint prior to service.
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)”).
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
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
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.
conducting its screening review of a complaint, 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 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).