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Allah v. Beasely

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 19, 2019

WARDEN BEASELY, et al., Defendants



         On October 12, 2018, Rateek Allah, a federal prisoner formerly held at Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex (FCC-Allenwood), in White Deer, Pennsylvania, filed a pro se civil rights action pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971).[1] (ECF No. 1.) He seeks leave to proceed without prepayment of the filing fee. (ECF Nos. 2 and 10.) He asserts seven claims against ten Bureau of Prisons (BOP) FCC-Allenwood employees: Warden Beasely; Unit Manager Rodarmel; Dr. Stahl; Dr. Bushman; Pamela Cook; Mr. Constant; Ms. Holtzapple; Mr. Shaffer; Captain Han and Mr. Veigh. (ECF No. 1.) He challenges his placement at FCC-Allenwood; the denial of a medical transfer; the cost of commissary items; the retaliatory denial of a portable urinal while temporarily housed in the Special Housing Unit (SHU); his SHU conditions of confinement; the lack of variety and nutritional content of the institution’s menu; and the loss of outgoing legal mail. (Id.)

         The Court proceeds to screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A. Mr. Allah’s request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. However, for the reasons set forth below, the Complaint will be dismissed with leave to amend. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and 1915A(b)(1).

         Also pending before the Court are two motions for preliminary injunction. (ECF Nos. 7 and 8.) The Court will deny these motions as moot due to Mr. Allah’s to transfer from FCC-Allenwood.

         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. See 28 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. See 28 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 Complaint.

         III. Allegations of the Complaint

         Prior to his transfer to FCC-Allenwood, Mr. Allah was housed at FCI-Estill were staff “maliciously” “overscored” him and accused him of assaulting a staff member. FCI-Estill staff “overscored” him in effort “to railroad Mr. Allah to the penitentiary.” (ECF No. 1 at 7.) Once at FCC-Allenwood, Mr. Allah complained to Warden Beasely and his Unit Manager, Mr. Rodarmel, that he was erroneously over classified and should be housed in a medium security prison. (Id.)

         Next, Mr. Allah who suffers from HIV and AIDS, argues he “is in his last stage of life.” (Id. at 8.) He suffers from an incurable brain infection and is extremely fragile requiring his placement in a medical facility where he can receive 24-hour nursing care in a long-term care unit. (Id. at 8-9.) These ailments are chronic and incurable. Plaintiff claims that Dr. Stahl, Dr. Bushman and Pamela Cook denied his transfer request for monetary reasons and are “intentionally to try and kill [him and] let him die in prison.” (Id. at 8-9.) Dr. Bushman falsified portions of the medical transfer request when he stated Mr. Allah was non-compliant with his medication and did not have dementia. (Id. at 8.) Dr. Bushman denied Mr. Allah’s request for a transfer without ever examining him. (Id. at 9.) Drs. Bushman and Stahl cosigned fraudulent medical entries by a former staff member who reported seeing Mr. Allah walking when he is confined to a wheelchair. (Id. at 8-9.) Mr. Allah raised these concerns with Dr. Stahl, Dr. Bushman and Pamela Cook to no avail. (Id.)

         In his third claim, Mr. Allah asserts that the institution’s commissary, run by Mr. Constant, overcharges for items, and does not have the same television services, video rental practices, and does not ““give out prizes for holidays” like other facilities. (Id. at 10.) Mr. Allah accuses Mr. Constant of stealing money from the Inmate Trust Fund. (Id.)

         Next, on an unspecified date, while in the SHU, Mr. Allah asked Ms. Holtzapple for “a urinal the SHU Lieutenant approved for him to have … in his possession.” (Id. at 11.) Ms. Holtzapple asked if Mr. Allah was suing Ms. Martinez (non-defendant). When he responded affirmatively, Ms. Holtzapple discontinued his use of a urinal. (Id.) Mr. Allah used other containers as a portable urinal while in the SHU. Without a urinal, Mr. Allah frequently smelled of urine and soiled his bed linens. (Id.) Ms. Holtzapple discontinued Mr. Allah’s use of a urinal in retaliation for his lawsuit against Ms. Martinez. (Id.)

         Mr. Allah’s fifth claim argues that per Captain Han and Warden Beasley, SHU inmates do not receive the same amenities as general population inmates. (Id. at 15.) SHU inmates may not possess radios or purchase commissary food items. Staff may take away an inmate’s recreation time for having a piece of paper on the floor. (Id.) The books available to SHU inmates are tattered and worn. (Id.) Mr. Allah also claims he was denied a copy of his “contact list,” the name and address of his friends and family, while in the SHU. (Id.)

         Next, Mr. Allah claims that Mr. Shaffer, the institution’s Food Service Director, does not follow the national menu and fails to serve nutritionally adequate meals. Additionally, he serves the same meals every week. Mr. Shaffer also does not provide sweet desserts at lunch and serves inmates processed meats. (Id. at 12-13.) Mr. Shaffer does not survey the inmate population to see which meals they prefer or dislike. (Id. at 12.) Mr. Allah believes Mr. Shaffer economizes on the menu and portions to save money. He claims Mr. Shaffer is “stealing the money sent to feed the prisoners.” (Id.) “The current menu can be considered cruel and unusual punishment.” (Id. at 12.)

         In his final claim, Mr. Allah alleges that several pieces of Mr. Allah’s outgoing legal mail never reached the Court. (Id. at 14.) Mr. Veigh, the Mailroom Supervisor, told Mr. Allah to send his mail certified so it could be tracked. One of Mr. Allah’s cases was dismissed by the Court because it failed to receive his in forma pauperis motion. (Id.) Mr. Allah claims that Mr. “Veigh is liable for the actions of his department.” (Id.)

         Mr. Allah seeks compensatory and punitive damages from each Defendants. (Id. at 16.)

         IV. ...

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