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Johnson v. McGinley

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 28, 2019

ARMONI MASUD JOHNSON, Plaintiff
v.
SUPERINTENDENT MCGINLEY, et al., Defendants

          BRANN, J.

          MEMORANDUM

          KAROLINE MEHALCHICK, United States Magistrate Judge.

         Presently 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).

         The 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.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Johnson, proceeding pro se, initiated the instant action by filing a complaint in this matter on August 29, 2018.[1] (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).

         Johnson's 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).

         The 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.

         II. Discussion

         A. Legal Standard

         Under 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).

         Rule 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 Cir. 2009).

         In 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 ...


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