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Allah v. Martinez

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 27, 2019

MS. MARTINEZ, Defendant


          A. RICHARD CAPUTO United States District Judge.

         Pro se Plaintiff Rateek Allah, [1] a federal inmate formerly housed at the Federal Correctional Complex in Allenwood (FCC-Allenwood), Pennsylvania, [2] initiated this lawsuit in August 2018, asserting that Ms. Martinez issued him an Incident Report on June 16, 2018, for being in an unauthorized area, in retaliation for his filing of a lawsuit. (ECF No. 1.) Prior to the Court screening the Complaint, Mr. Allah sought leave to file an amended complaint. On May 20, 2019, Mr. Allah filed his Amended Complaint (ECF No. 29.) Mr. Allah's Amended Complaints names 6 additional defendants but fails to mention Ms. Martinez, the original Defendant. The Amended Complaint also sets forth three new claims unrelated to his retaliation claim against Ms. Martinez. Additionally, at least one of the new claims is based on events that took place after Mr. Allah initiated this action.[3]

         The Amended Complaint is presently before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Since Mr. Allah's Amended Complaint fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20, the Amended Complaint will be dismissed, and Mr. Allah will be granted leave to file a second amended complaint relative to his claims against Ms. Martinez.

         II. Standard of Review for Screening Pro Se In Forma Pauperis Complaints

         When a litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without payment of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to screen the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a government defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding in forma pauperis or not, the court must screen the complaint. See28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) - (iii); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1) - (2); Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013).

         A complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either in law or fact. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d 523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 1832 - 33, 104 L.Ed.2d 338 (1989)). In deciding whether the complaint fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, the court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court “must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 - 11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 - 50, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)). The court may also rely on exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. Sands v. McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007).

         A complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint is required to provide “the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).

         To test the sufficiency of the complaint, the court “must take three steps.” Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, a court must “take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Id.(internal quotations and brackets omitted). Second, the court must identify allegations that are merely legal conclusions “because they . . . are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id.While detailed factual allegations are not required, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964). Third, a court should assume the veracity of all well-pleaded factual allegations and “then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

         A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed and “held ‘to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 - 21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)); see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Yet, even a pro se plaintiff “must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013) (citation omitted). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014). A complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

         With these principles in mind, the Court sets forth the background to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it in his Amended Complaint (ECF No. 29).

         III. Allegations of the Amended Complaint

         Mr. Allah “incorporates all the facts in original claim into [his] amended complaint”. ( 4 and 6.) He also asserts three new claims against several new defendants. (Id.) First, Mr. Allah claims that Counselor Neylon, Corrections Officers (CO) Boyer and Leon, on an unspecified date, issued him a false misconduct for possession of wine and two knives. (Id. at 4.) Although the weapons charge was eventually dropped, it was not until after he was placed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) for prehearing confinement. (Id.) He claims the issuance of the false incident report was in retaliation for his grievance activity while housed at FCC-Allenwood.

         Mr. Allah's second new claim asserts that Lt. Rakowski verbally threatened him with harm if he refused to accept a new cellmate with a known history of talking to imaginary people and starting fights with staff and inmates. ( 5.) Mr. Allah's new cellmate assaulted him on March 16, 2019. (Id.)

         Plaintiff asserts that Dr. Bushman and Pamela Cook denied his request for a medical transfer. ( 6.) Mr. Allah claims that he could not receive the necessary treatment necessary to care for him at FCC-Allenwood. (Id.) He claims these proposed defendants ...

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