United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
NATHAN A. RAILEY, Plaintiff
WARDEN DAVID J. EBBERT, et al., Defendants
H. Rambo United States District Judge
case was initiated by the filing of a complaint pursuant to
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of
Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), in Civil Action No.
18-716 by pro se Plaintiffs Camden Barlow,
Christopher Alvarez, Justin Haynes, Darryl Taylor, Tabarus
Holland, Terrell Wilson, Tony C. Knott, Agustin Argueta,
Douglas Piggee, and Nathan A. Railey (“Railey”),
all of whom were incarcerated at the United States
Penitentiary in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (“USP
Lewisburg”) at that time. (Doc. No. 1.) In that
complaint, Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants had violated
their rights under the Equal Protection Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment, their First Amendment rights to access
the courts, and their First Amendment rights regarding mail.
Subsequently, Doreteo Garcia, Juan Carlos Valles, and David
Jackson were added as Plaintiffs. (Doc. No. 28). On July 24,
2018, the Court dismissed Plaintiffs’ Equal Protection
claim and their access to the courts claim and directed
service of their First Amendment enhanced mail restriction
claim. (Doc. Nos. 38, 39). On October 10, 2018, the Court
granted Railey’s motion to sever and directed that each
individual Plaintiff file an amended complaint under a
separate civil action number by November 9, 2018. (Doc. Nos.
filed an amended complaint on December 12, 2018 (Doc. No.
106), which the Court dismissed for failure to comply with
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on January 3, 2019 (Doc.
No. 110). The Court granted Railey leave to file a second
amended complaint within twenty (20) days. (Id.)
After receiving extension of time (Doc. Nos. 117-120), Railey
filed his second amended complaint and memorandum in support
thereof (Doc. Nos. 121-22) on April 18, 2019. In his second
amended complaint, Railey names as Defendants Warden David J.
Ebbert (“Ebbert”), SIS Officer Buebendorf
(“Buebendorf”), Officer Gass
(“Gass”), Counselor Tharp (“Tharp”),
and an Unnamed Mailroom Officer. He alleges that Defendants
violated his First Amendment rights by interfering with and
destroying his mail and by retaliating against him by seizing
his legal property, refusing to provide legal copies, and
interfering with the administrative remedy process. (Doc. No.
121.) He also contends that Defendants violated his Fifth
Amendment due process rights by failing to properly implement
and apply the enhanced mail monitoring procedures and his
equal protection rights by discriminating against him on the
basis of his classification as a sovereign citizen.
(Id.) As relief, Railey seeks compensatory and
punitive damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive
Order entered on April 22, 2019, the Court directed Railey to
provide a name and address for Defendant Unnamed Mailroom
Officer within thirty (30) days and directed service of the
second amended complaint upon Defendant Gass. (Doc. No. 123.)
Railey subsequently filed a motion for a thirty (30)-day
extension to provide identifying information for Defendant
Unnamed Mailroom Officer (Doc. No. 128), which the Court
granted in an Order entered on May 2, 2019 (Doc. No. 129).
Despite the extension of time, Railey has not provided
identifying information for this Defendant.
Ebbert, Buebendorf, Tharp, and Gass filed a motion to dismiss
and/or motion for summary judgment on July 1, 2019 (Doc. No.
132) and filed their supporting materials on July 15, 2019
(Doc. Nos. 135-36). After receiving an extension of time
(Doc. Nos. 137-38), Railey filed his response to
Defendants’ statement of material facts and
oppositional brief (Doc. Nos. 143-44) on September 4, 2019.
In an Order dated September 17, 2019, the Court noted that
Defendants’ motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary
judgment asserts, inter alia, that Railey failed to
properly exhaust his administrative remedies before filing
this action. Pursuant to Paladino v. Newsome, 885
F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2018), the Court informed the parties that
it would consider the exhaustion issue in the context of
summary judgment, and by doing so, would consider matters
outside the pleadings in its role as factfinder.
(Id.) Accordingly, the Court directed Defendants to,
within fourteen (14) days, file an amended or supplemental
brief and statement of material facts “to further
address the issue of whether Plaintiff has exhausted his
administrative remedies and present any additional materials
pertinent to the issue to the extent they have not already
done so.” (Id.) The Court directed Railey to
file a brief in opposition within twenty-one (21) days from
the date that Defendants filed their amended or supplemental
materials. (Id.) The Court directed Railey to
“specifically address the issue of administrative
exhaustion and submit materials and documents pertinent to
the issue.” (Id.) The Court also directed him
to “file a statement of material facts specifically
responding to the numbered paragraphs in Defendants’
filed their reply brief on September 18, 2019 (Doc. No. 146),
as well as a letter noting that they “will not avail
themselves of the opportunity to file a supplemental
memorandum and statement of material facts but will instead
rely on the papers previously filed” (Doc. No. 147 at
2). Given Defendants’ letter, there will be no
supplemental materials to which Railey can respond.
Accordingly, the motion to dismiss and/or motion for summary
judgment is ripe for resolution.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Motion to Dismiss, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court
must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint
and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them,
viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See
In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314
(3d Cir. 2010). The Court’s inquiry is guided by the
standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662
(2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading
requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of
pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil
complaints must set out “sufficient factual
matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible.
Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a
mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged
misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in
Iqbal, “where the well-pleaded facts do not
permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of
misconduct, the complaint has alleged – but it has not
‘show[n]’ – ‘that the pleader is
entitled to relief.’” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under
Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court
of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following
steps a district court must take when determining the
sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify
the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2)
identify any conclusory allegations contained in the
complaint “not entitled” to the assumption of
truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded
factual allegations” contained in the complaint
“plausibly give rise to an entitlement to
relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629
F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks
ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim, “a court must consider only the
complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of
public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if
the complainant’s claims are based upon these
documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223,
230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v.
White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir.
1993)). A court may also consider “any ‘matters
incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items
subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders,
[and] items appearing in the record of the
case.’” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist.,
452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting 5B Charles A.
Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice &
Procedure § 1357 (3d Ed. 2004)).
context of pro se prisoner litigation specifically,
the court must be mindful that a document filed pro
se is “to be liberally construed.”
Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A
pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded,
” must be held to “less stringent standards than
formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and can only be
dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond a
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support
of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).
Motion for Summary Judgment
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) requires the court to render
summary judgment “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). “[T]his standard provides that the mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties
will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for
summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine
issue of material fact.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby,
Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986). The Third Circuit has
held that filing a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative,
a motion for summary judgment is sufficient “to place
the parties on notice that summary judgment might be
entered.” Hilfirty v. Shipman, 91 F.3d 573,
578-79 (3d Cir. 1996).
judgment is appropriate when “the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact, and the moving
party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is “genuine” if
there is sufficient evidence with which a reasonable jury
could find for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty
Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Childers v.
Joseph, 842 F.2d 689, 693-94 (3d Cir. 1988) (citing
Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248). A factual dispute is
“material” if it might affect the outcome of the
case. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248. In determining
whether an issue of material fact exists, the court must
consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Skerski v. Time Warner Cable Co.,
257 F.3d 273, 278 (3d Cir. 2001); White v. Westinghouse
Elec, Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988).
seeking summary judgment always bears the initial burden of
informing the court of the basis of its motion and
identifying those portions of the record that it believes
demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact.
Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
The non-moving party then has the burden to “come forth
with ‘affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of
the pleadings, ’ in support of its right to
relief.” U.S. Bank, Nat’l Ass’n v.
Greenfield, No. 1:12-cv-2125, 2014 WL 3908127, *2 (M.D.
Pa. Aug. 11, 2014) (quoting Pappas v. City of
Lebanon, 331 F.Supp.2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004)).
“If a party fails to properly support an assertion of
fact or fails to properly address another party’s
assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), ” a court
may grant summary judgment or consider the fact undisputed
for purposes of the motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e)(2-3).
was previously confined in the Special Management Unit
(“SMU”) at USP Lewisburg from December 26, 2017