United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
STEVEN L. RAY, Plaintiff
FEDERAL BUREAU OF PRISONS, NORTH EAST REGION, Defendant
RICHARD CAPUTO UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
April 1, 2019, Steven L. Ray, an individual currently
confined at the prison camp located at the Schuylkill Federal
Correctional Complex (FCC Schuylkill) in Minersville,
Pennsylvania, filed this 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). (ECF No. 1.) On June 28, 2019,
the Court denied Mr. Ray's motion to proceed in forma
pauperis based on his inmate account balance. The Court
directed Mr. Ray to file the requisite filing fee in this
matter, which he subsequently did. See ECF Nos.
19 and 21.
Complaint, Mr. Ray alleges the Bureau of Prisons (BOP)
misclassified him on at least two occasions which led to his
improper placement at high security facilities rather than
prison camps more fitting for a minimum-security inmate like
himself. Additionally, he states that after serving as a BOP
confidential informant and receiving threats from other
inmates, prison staff held him in protective custody for
extended periods of time rather than immediately transferring
him to another facility. Finally, he claims his conditions of
confinement in protective custody violated the Eighth
Amendment. The sole named defendant is the Federal Bureau of
Prisons, Northeast Region. (ECF No. 1.)
Court proceeds to screen the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2) and § 1915A. 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).
pending before the Court are several motions concerning Mr.
Ray's quest for a reduction of his sentence and/or
compassionate release as an “equitable” remedy
for his past conditions of confinement and his substantial
assistance to the BOP as a confidential informant. (ECF Nos.
23, 26, 28, 31, 32, 34 and 35.) As the Court is without
jurisdiction to address these motions, they will be dismissed
without prejudice. Alternatively, they will be withdrawn due
to Mr. Ray's failure to comply with Pa. M.D. Local
Standard of Review for Screening Pro Se In Forma
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).
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).
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)).
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).
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).
these principles in mind, the Court sets forth the background
to this litigation, as Plaintiff alleges it in his Complaint.
Allegations of the Complaint
se Plaintiff, Steven Ray, was convicted pursuant to
guilty pleas in the United States District Court for the
Western District of New York of mail fraud and forgery of
United States Treasury checks, and obstruction of justice in
connection with the sentencing on the mail fraud and forgery
counts. United States v. Ray, 713 Fed.Appx. 20 (2d
Cir. 2017). On September 16, 2016, he received an 84-month
sentence on the mail fraud and forgery plea and a concurrent
84-month sentence on the obstruction plea and ordered to pay
restitution. (Id.) His projected release date is
September 20, 2021.
his guilty plea convictions, but prior to sentencing, Mr. Ray
was housed as a presentenced inmate at the County Jail in
Bath, New York. For 13 months he was “segregated”
in a maximum-security section of that facility. (ECF No.
1 at 3.)
October 1, 2016, the BOP transferred Mr. Ray to the
“Youngstown PA CCA Maximum Detention Facility”
where he was again housed with violent criminals and his
privileges were “greatly restricted.”
(Id.) A month later he was transferred to the
Allenwood Federal Correctional Complex in Allenwood,
Pennsylvania. Much to his disagreement, the BOP placed him at
FCI Allenwood Low, a low security federal correctional
institution, rather than the prison camp located at the same
compound. He served 13 months at this facility where his
“conditions were substantially inferior of those
enjoy[ed] at the prison camp.” (Id.) Mr. Ray
believes the BOP committed another “colossal
blunder” by placing him in solitary confinement for 40
days where he was “stripped of all human rights”
and forced to endure “the harshest living
conditions” as a means of “reward[ing] a
cooperating inmate”. (Id.)
the BOP recognized its misclassification of Mr. Ray, instead
of sending him to a prison camp, they sent him to the
Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Center (MDC Brooklyn), in
Brooklyn, New York. This “vertical” facility had
“virtually no ...