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Short v. Byrne

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 15, 2019

HARVEY PATRICK SHORT, Plaintiff,
v.
DAVID BYRNE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          PAPPERT, J.

         Plaintiff Harvey Patrick Short, a prisoner who had been incarcerated at George W. Hill Correctional Facility (“GWH”), filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 along with a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.[1] For the following reasons, the Court will grant Short leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismiss one Defendant with prejudice for failure to state a claim, dismiss certain other Defendants without prejudice for failure to state a claim, and permit Short to file an amended complaint if he is able to cure the defects identified by the Court.

         I[2]

         Short was detained at GWH beginning on May 16, 2019. (ECF No. 2 at 9.) He alleges that he received a medical screening upon his commitment that was conducted by Defendants Mariel[3] and Krester. (Id. at 10.) He told these Defendants he suffered from dental problems as well as high blood pressure, a seizure disorder, and mental health disorders, and that took medicine for his disorders. (Id.) He received blood pressure medicine on that day only. (Id. at 10, 11.) He asserts these health care providers refused or failed to give him his prescribed medicine from the day he was admitted until June 19, 2019. (Id. at 10.) Short also contends a doctor issued a special needs permit due to his seizure disorder, instructing that he be housed on the lower tier of the cell block and in a bottom bunk, but Defendant Mike Moore knowingly and intentionally refused to honor the instruction. (Id. at 10-11.)

         Short asserts that Defendant Tariff Hall falsely accused him of violating jail rules, leading to his being placed in solitary confinement. (Id. at 11.) He contends that Defendant Sergeant Davis denied him due process by not providing a disciplinary hearing. (Id.) Officer Kenney allegedly denied Short access to the law library because he was in solitary confinement. (Id. at 11-12.) He asserts that he had a non-frivolous legal action, as well as his criminal case, pending during this time.[4] (Id. at 14.) Mariel and Krester allegedly denied him dental care and his prescription medicine while he was in solitary confinement. (Id. at 12.) For three days he was denied toilet paper, clean sheets, clean clothing and locked down. (Id.)

         Defendants Francis and Oscar, who are prison food service workers, are alleged to have denied Short adequate serving portions of food. (Id.) Short alleges that Defendant GEO Group, Inc. has a policy to provide inadequate food portions to force inmates to buy food from the commissary to satisfy themselves and that it gives monetary bonuses to Francis and Oscar to save it money on the costs of food. (Id. at 12, 13.) Pursuant to this policy, Francis and Oscar served Short spoiled meat patties. Finally, Short alleges that he informed Defendant Warden Byrne of the allegedly unconstitutional conditions, but Byrne refused to respond to his grievance. (Id. at 13.)

         II

         The Court grants Short leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[5] 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 Short is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Moreover, Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain “a short a plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A district court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint that does not comply with Rule 8 if “the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.” Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 1995) (quotations omitted). This Court has noted that Rule 8 “requires that pleadings provide enough information to put a defendant on sufficient notice to prepare their defense and also ensure that the Court is sufficiently informed to determine the issue.” Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. Ctr., No. Civ. A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).

         III

         As noted above, Short brings his claims pursuant to § 1983. “To 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).

         A

         Short has sued Warden Byrne on the ground that Short told him of the conditions under which he is confined but Byrne refused to respond to his grievance. (ECF No. 2 at 13.) Claims based on the handling of prison grievances fail because “[p]rison inmates do not have a constitutionally protected right to a grievance process.” Jackson v. Gordon, 145 Fed.Appx. 774, 777 (3d Cir. 2005) (per curiam); see also Caldwell v. Beard, 324 Fed.Appx. 186, 189 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam). Accordingly, the facts alleged by Short about grievances do not give rise to a plausible basis for a constitutional claim and will be dismissed with prejudice.

         To the extent that Short has sued Warden Byrne because he is a supervisor of other Defendants at GWH, that claim also fails. 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 plaintiff's rights, directed others to violate them, or, as the person in charge, had knowledge of and acquiesced in the subordinate's unconstitutional conduct.” Id. Short does not allege that Byrne was personally involved in the acts of others about which he complains. Short's allegation that Byrne “knows of these unconstitutional conditions . . . but allows his subordinates to violate Plaintiff's constitutional rights” (ECF No. 2 at 13) fails to comply with Rule 8's requirement that Short provide enough information to put a defendant on sufficient notice to prepare a defense and also ensure that the Court is sufficiently informed to determine the issue. While Short's allegation against Defendant Byrne is ...


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