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Massey v. Holman

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 23, 2019

MICHAEL HOLMAN, et al., Defendants




         I. Recommendation

         It is respectfully recommended that Defendants' Motion to Dismiss [ECF No. 31] be granted in part and denied in part. It is further recommended that Defendants Michael Holman, D.W. Bryant, and Jason Stevens be dismissed from this action, with prejudice. Finally, it is recommended that Plaintiff's demand for specific unliquidated damages be stricken from the Complaint.

         II. Report

         A. Procedural Background

         Plaintiff Wesley A. Massey (“Massey”) is a pre-trial detainee in the custody of the Erie County Prison. ECF No. 22 ¶ 4. Massey initiated the instant action on October 30, 2017, seeking redress for alleged violations of his constitutional rights as secured by the First, Fifth, Sixth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. ECF No. 22. ¶¶ 3, 35. As Defendants, Massey names Deputy Warden Michael Holman, Deputy Warden D.W. Bryant, and Correctional Officers Jason Stevens, Lt. Lindsey, and B. DeFranco. Id. ¶¶ 5-9. Plaintiff seeks relief pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[1]

         Presently pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). ECF No. 31. Although Defendants' motion does not explicitly request alternative relief pursuant to Rule 56, Defendants have attached a host of exhibits to their motion to dismiss, none of which appears to have been attached to or relied upon in Plaintiff's Complaint. Because this action is still in the pleadings stage, the Court will reject Defendants' implicit invitation to consider matters outside of the pleadings in resolving the instant motion. Instead, each of Plaintiff's allegations will be evaluated pursuant to the familiar 12(b)(6) standard elucidated below.

         B. Factual Background

         On September 8, 2017, Massey helped another inmate, Roman Bronson, file a civil rights complaint against the Erie County Prison. ECF No. 22 ¶ 11. Massey also aided several other inmates in filing grievances against staff members at the prison. Id. ¶ 12. Shortly thereafter, Holman and Gardner approached Massey in his housing unit and asked why he was helping other inmates file grievances. Id. ¶ 16. Massey explained that other inmates did not understand the grievance process. Id. Holman replied, “What's next? Are you going to help [Bronson] file a lawsuit?” Id. Massey indicated that he was “ok with helping” other inmates if they needed help. Id. Holman responded by moving Massey to another housing unit, away from Bronson. Id. ¶ 17.

         Upon Massey's arrival in his new housing unit, several inmates again requested his assistance with grievances. Id. ¶ 18. On September 25, 2017, Bryant approached Massey and asked, “why are you helping inmates file civil rights lawsuits?” Id. ¶ 19. Massey stated that he was simply helping them to fill out and file the correct forms. Id. Bryant declared that Massey was “not to help inmates file lawsuits against the facility” and that, if he persisted, Bryant and Holman would “take action.” Id.

         On October 1, 2017, Plaintiff returned to his cell after a cell search and discovered that his legal materials had been moved. Id. ¶ 21. When Plaintiff threatened to file a grievance, DeFranco stated, “I don't like your tone, and if you want to grieve, I'll put your ass in the hole. Turn around and put your hands behind your back.” Id. ¶ 22. DeFranco escorted Massey to the Restricted Housing Unit (RHU), stating: “This is because you think you can continue to help people sue ‘us' with no repercussion! Now how are you going to help people from the Hole?” Id. ¶ 23.

         Massey spent the following eighteen days in a “stripped cell” while being forced to sleep on a metal bunk with no mattress or blankets. Id. ¶¶ 24-26. When Massey requested an explanation, Lindsey stated, “We have friends in Crawford County who [you're] suing, and we don't like that, and now you bring your crap up here!” Id. ¶ 25.

         In addition to the incidents described above, Massey also alleges that Defendants deprived him of his right to access the courts and withheld necessary medical care. These claims, tucked into a single paragraph at the end of Massey's Complaint, consist entirely of the following averment:

The defendants campaign of harassment continues, with the denial of access to the courts, denial of access to law library as a pro se litigant in my criminal case, that has cause me to miss deadlines, with the federal courts and habeas corpus with the criminal courts, they intermittently deny access to medical care for my diabetes, with deliberate indifference.

Id. ¶ 27.

         With respect to exhaustion, Massey alleges that he requested a grievance form from prison officials on the following occasions: October 7, 2017 (from a prison “counselor”); October 12, 2017 (again, from the counselor); October 15, 2017 (from Holman); and October 22, 2017 (from the warden of Erie County Prison, a non-defendant). Id. ¶¶ 30-33. Massey did not receive a response to any of his requests. Id. ΒΆ 34. As detailed above, Massey also alleges that ...

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