United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS [ECF NO.
RICHARD A. LANZILLO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Maurice Stevens ("Plaintiff), an inmate at the State
Correctional Institution at Forest ("SCI-Forest"),
commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 on August 22, 2018, by filing a Complaint
alleging that six employees of the Pennsylvania Department of
Corrections ("DOC") violated his constitutional
rights. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on
February 2, 2019. ECF No. 24. Presently pending before the
Court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Amended
Complaint [ECF No. 25] pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below,
Defendants' motion will be granted.
Amended Complaint alleges that on May 21, 2018, security
personnel at SCI-Forest seized and searched his personal
property while he was confined in the prison's Restricted
Housing Unit (RHU) and that three days later, during an
inventory of his properly, Plaintiff discovered that
"legal documents" and certain family photographs
and items he had purchased from the prison commissary were
missing. ECF No. 43, pp. 3-4. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendant Douglas Dickey, a correctional officer, "took,
lost, destroyed" his personal property and legal
documents. Id. He also alleges generally that
Defendant Charles Carter, a security captain, somehow
participated in the loss or destruction of the missing items.
Id. at 3. After Plaintiff told the correctional
officers working in inventory about the missing items, they
advised him that all of the items "sent from the
security dept" were present. Id. at 4.
Plaintiff further alleges that because he was without the aid
of his legal documents, he was forced to file a defective
petition in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Id. at
then utilized the prison grievance procedure to grieve the
missing items. Id. at 6. He alleges that grievance
officers Lisa Leeher and Keri Moore and SCI-Forest
Superintendent Michael Overmeyer colluded and "gave him
the runaround" when they failed to
"acknowledge" Defendant Carter and Dickey's
"destruction of his personal property."
Id. at 3-4. Plaintiff also named DOC Secretary John
Wetzel as a defendant, but his Amended Complaint includes no
allegations against him.
moved to dismiss Plaintiffs Amended Complaint on February 12,
2019. ECF No. 25. Plaintiff responded twice to the motion on
March 18 and 20, 2019. ECF Nos. 28, 30. This matter is fully
briefed and ripe for disposition.
Standards of Review
Pro se Litigants
se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, "
must be held to "less stringent standards than formal
pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). If the court can
reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the
litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to
cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories,
poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's
unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v.
MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex
rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir.
1969) (petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully
drawn and should be read "with a measure of
tolerance"); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956
F.2d 295 (D.C. Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Dep't of
Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our
liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of
litigation, a district court should construe all allegations
in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v.
Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami
v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (discussing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast
Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990) (same).
Motion to dismiss
motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993).
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the court is not opining on
whether the plaintiff will be likely to prevail on the
merits; rather, the plaintiff must only present factual
allegations sufficient "to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007) (citing 5 C. Wright
& A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure
§ 1216, pp. 235-236 (3d ed. 2004)). See also
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009)). A complaint
should only be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it
fails to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief
that is plausible on its face." Twombly, 550
U.S. at 570 (rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard
established in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41
(1957)). In making this determination, the court must accept
as true all well-pled factual allegations in the complaint
and views them in a light most favorable to the plaintiff.
U.S. Express Lines Ltd. v. Higgins, 281 F.3d 383,
388 (3d Cir. 2002).
complaint does not need detailed factual allegations to
survive a motion to dismiss, it must provide more than labels
and conclusions. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A
"formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action will not do." Id. (citing Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). Moreover, a court
need not accept inferences drawn by a plaintiff if they are
unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint.
See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb
Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing
Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906
(3d Cir. 1997)). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions
disguised as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555. See also McTernan v. City of York,
Pennsylvania, 577 F.3d 521, 531 (3d Cir. 2009)
("The tenet that a court must accept as true all of the
allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
on the Twombly/Iqbal line of cases, the Third
Circuit has articulated ...