United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
KAROLINE MEHALCHICK, United States Magistrate Judge.
before the Court is an amended complaint seeking damages and
declaratory relief (Doc. 24), filed by pro se
prisoner-Plaintiff Armoni Masud Johnson (hereinafter referred
to as “Johnson”) on April 9, 2019. In his amended
complaint, Johnson seeks damages against the following
Defendants pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1343 and 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983: Superintendent McGinley; Deputy Luscavage, Major
Mirachi, Nancy Wilson, Blue Shirt Davis, Superior Blue Shirt
Hendricks, Lt. Belles, Captain Burns, Karen Merritt-Scully,
and Debra Carnuccio. At the time he filed his complaint,
Johnson was incarcerated at the State Correctional
Institution at Coal Township (“SCI-Coal
Township”), located in Northumberland County,
Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1). Johnson has since been transferred to
Luzerne County Correctional Facility, located in
Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 26, at 12).
Court has conducted its statutorily-mandated screening of the
complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). For the reasons provided herein,
the Court finds that this complaint (Doc. 24) fails to state
a claim upon which relief may be granted, and Johnson should
be granted leave to file an amended complaint.
Background and Procedural History
proceeding pro se, initiated the instant action by
filing a complaint in this matter on August 29,
2018. (Doc. 1). The initial complaint did not
satisfy the requirements set forth in Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure. (Doc. 1). Johnson's allegations
failed to provide factual grounds on which his claims rested.
(Doc. 21, at 6). On March 15, 2019, the Court found that
Johnson's complaint failed to state a claim and granted
him 30 days to file an amended complaint. (Doc. 22).
amended complaint alludes to a variety of perceived civil
rights violations, a few of which seem to be moot, and none
of which appear connected. (Doc. 24, at 11-21). Johnson
claims damages from SCI Coal-Township as an entity, and from
the named Defendants in their official and personal
capacities. (Doc. 24, at 18, 21). Johnson also seeks
declaratory relief in the form of forcing the facility to
“cease abuse.” (Doc. 24, at 15).
matter is now before the Court pursuant to its statutory
obligation under 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1915(e) to screen the amended complaint.
28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the Court is obligated, prior to
service of process, to screen a civil complaint in which a
prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer
or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. §
1915A(a); James v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 230 F.
App'x. 195, 197 (3d Cir. 2007).The Court must
dismiss the complaint if it fails to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1);
Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D.
Pa. 2010). The Court has a similar obligation with respect to
actions brought in forma pauperis. See28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). In this case, because Johnson is a
prisoner suing a governmental employee and brings his suit
in forma pauperis, both provisions apply. In
performing this mandatory screening function, a district
court applies the same standard applied to motions to dismiss
under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Mitchell, 696 F.Supp.2d at 471; Banks v. Cnty.
of Allegheny, 568 F.Supp.2d 579, 588 (W.D. Pa. 2008).
12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a
defendant to move to dismiss for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has noted the evolving standards governing pleading
practice in federal court, stating that:
Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of
jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme
Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), continuing with our
opinion in Phillips v. [County of Allegheny, 515
F.3d 224 (3d Cir. 2008)] and culminating recently with the
Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal,
556 U.S. 662 (2009), pleading standards have seemingly
shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form
of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the
possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d
deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court may consider the
facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as
“documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial
notice.” Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues &
Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007). In order to
state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some
factual ground for relief which “requires more than
labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action will not do.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). A
trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon
which relief can be granted, and should “begin by
identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than
conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679
(2009). “[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. A court
“need not credit a complaint's ‘bald
assertions' or ‘legal conclusions' when
deciding a ...