United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
R. PADOVA, J.
Ronald Winn, a prisoner currently incarcerated at SCI
Phoenix, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 based on allegations involving the transfer of prisoners
from SCI Graterford to SCI Phoenix. He seeks to proceed
in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the
Court will grant Winn leave to proceed in forma
pauperis and dismiss his Complaint without prejudice for
failure to state a claim.
was previously incarcerated at SCI Graterford. As that prison
was closing, inmates and their property were relocated to SCI
Phoenix. Winn alleges members of a Corrections Emergency
Response Team ("CERT") took custody of
prisoners' property in connection with the move. Winn
alleges generally that prisoners' property was destroyed,
lost, or left in disarray. He also makes allegations that
there were personal disputes among permanent staff at SCI
Graterford/Phoenix and members of CERT. He claims that
certain CERT members engaged in a systematic conspiracy
designed to harm and frustrate the prisoners by damaging and
destroying their personal property during the move to SCI
Phoenix. (ECF No. 1 at 10.) This included religious items,
legal material, family photos and personal care products.
Winn's allegations are all stated generally, discussing
the experiences of "prisoners" in conclusory terms,
rather than alleging how he himself was injured by the
actions he describes. (See e.g., Id. at 12-13
("These Defendant committed criminal acts, human rights
violations, and harmed not only the prisoners, but the
prisoners family as well whom sent the pictures, monies, and
gifts up to the prison system, or the family who was hopeful
of their loved ones chances of freedom.").) He also
describes the actions of the named supervisory Defendants in
general terms. For example, he asserts that Defendants
Wetzel, Ferguson and Sipple, each of whom are supervisory
officials at SCI Graterford/Phoenix, "are indirectly
responsible [for the actions of the John Doe CERT Defendants]
as they hired and overseen these Defendants, and thus, they
knew and should have know about the crimes this group of
officers were doing since hundreds of prisoners were
complaining and hundreds of staff members witnessed and had
to address this matter to these Defendants."
(Id. at 9; see also id at 13-15.) Finally,
he signs his Complaint on behalf of "The Men of
SCI-Graterford/Phoenix." (Id. at 18.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court grants Winn leave to proceed in forma pauperis
because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to
commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court to
dismiss the Complaint if it fails to state a claim. Whether a
complaint fails to state a claim under §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable
to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236,
240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine
whether the complaint contains "sufficient factual
matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Conclusory
allegations do not suffice. Id. As Winn is
proceeding pro se, the Court construes his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the
violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of
the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation
was committed by a person acting under color of state
law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).
While Winn asserts constitutional claims under the First,
Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments based on the loss of
property, negligent or intentional deprivations of property
by a state employee do not give rise to the level of
constitutional claims if the state provides an adequate
post-deprivation remedy. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S.
517, 533 (1984). Winn cannot state a due process claim under
the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments because the prison
grievance system and Pennsylvania law provide him with an
adequate state remedy for the deprivation of his property.
See Spencer v. Bush, 543 Fed.Appx. 209, 213 (3d Cir.
2013) ('"[A]n unauthorized intentional deprivation
of property by a state employee does not constitute a
violation of the procedural requirements of the Due Process
Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment if a meaningful
postdeprivation remedy for the loss is available.'"
(quoting Hudson, 468 U.S. at 533); Shakur v.
Coelho, 421 Fed.Appx. 132, 135 (3d Cir. 2011) (per
curiam) (explaining that the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act
provides an adequate remedy for a willful deprivation of
property); Tillman v. Lebanon Cty. Corr. Facility,
221 F.3d 410, 422 (3d Cir. 2000) (holding that prison
grievance system provides adequate post-deprivation remedy).
Winn has not stated a plausible Fourteenth Amendment equal
protection claim because, although he alleges the "root
cause" of Defendants' actions "is inherently
racism," (see ECF No. 1 at 12), he has not
alleged he personally suffered race-based animus or was
treated differently from other prisoners due to race- or
religion-based animus. Faruq v. McCollum, 545
Fed.Appx. 84, 87 (3d Cir. 2013) ("To state a claim for
race- or religion-based discrimination, [plaintiff] needed to
show specifically that he received different treatment from
that received by other similarly situated inmates."
(citing Williams v. Morton, 343 F.3d 212, 221 (3d
Cir. 2003)). Again, he only generally alleges that
"prisoners have a legal protection right, a right not to
be retaliated against nor discriminated against." (ECF
No. 1 at 12.)
has not stated a plausible First Amendment claim since he
does not claim that any of his own religious items were lost,
so as to support a freedom of religion claim, and, while he
asserts that "prisoner" legal papers were lost or
purposely destroyed, he does not allege that he personally
lost any opportunity to pursue a nonfrivolous or arguable
underlying claim, making implausible any First Amendment
claim based on denial of access to the courts. See Monroe
v. Beard, 536 F.3d 198, 205-06 (3d Cir. 2008) (per
curiam) (citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343, 346
(1996)) (holding that where a plaintiff alleges that the
defendants' actions have cost him the opportunity to
pursue a past legal claim, he "must show (1) that [he]
suffered an 'actual injury' - that [he] lost a chance
to pursue a 'nonfrivolous' or 'arguable'
underlying claim" and (2) that he has no remedy
"other than in the present denial of access suit,"
and "[t]he complaint must describe the underlying
arguable claim well enough to show that it is 'more than
mere hope,' and it must describe the 'lost
has also failed to state a plausible claim against the
supervisor Defendants. There are "two general ways in
which a supervisor-defendant may be liable for
unconstitutional acts undertaken by subordinates."
Barkes v. First Corr. Med, Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316
(3d Cir. 2014), reversed on other grounds by Taylor v.
Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015). First, a supervisor may
be liable if he or she '"with deliberate
indifference to the consequences, established and maintained
a policy, practice or custom which directly caused [the]
constitutional harm." Id. (quoting A.M. ex
rel. J.M.K. v. Luzerne Cty. Juvenile Det. Ctr., 372 F.3d
572, 586 (3d Cir. 2004) (alteration in original)).
"Second, a supervisor may be personally liable under
§ 1983 if he or she participated in violating the
plaintiffs rights, directed others to violate them, or, as
the person in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in the
subordinate's unconstitutional conduct."
Id. Because he fails to allege any violation of his
own rights by a named or John Doe Defendant, Winn's
supervisor liability claims against Defendants Wetzel,
Ferguson and Sipple cannot proceed.
Winn brings his claims against all Defendants in their
official and individual capacities. The official capacity
claims are also implausible because the Eleventh Amendment
bars suits against a state and its agencies in federal court
that seek monetary damages. See PennhurstState Sch.
AndHosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99-100 (1984);
A.W. v. Jersey City Public Schs., 341 F.3d 234, 238
(3d Cir. 2003). Suits against state officials acting in their
official capacities are really suits against the employing
government agency, and as such, are also barred by the
Eleventh Amendment. A. W., 341 F.3d at 238; see
also Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991); Will v.
Mich. Dep 't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 70-71
(1989). As the Commonwealth has not waived its Eleventh
Amendment immunity for lawsuits filed in federal court,
see 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 8521-22, it and its
departments, as well as its officials sued in their official
capacities, are immune from suits filed in federal court.
foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Winn's
Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The dismissal will be without
prejudice and Winn will be given leave to amend because the
Court cannot say at this time that any amendment would be
futile. If he chooses to file an amended complaint, Winn is
advised to only include allegations describing how he ...