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Wilson v. Wolfe

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 7, 2019

RONALD E. WILSON, Plaintiff,
v.
TOM WOLFE, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GERALD A. MCHUGH, J.

         Plaintiff Ronald E. Wilson, a pretrial detainee incarcerated at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”) who is representing himself (proceeding pro se), filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on the conditions of his confinement. He named as Defendants Governor Tom Wolf (misspelled Tom Wolfe), Commissioner of the Philadelphia Prison System Blanche Carney (misspelled Blanch Carney), and Warden John Delaney. In a Memorandum and Order entered on the docket June 20, 2019, the Court granted Wilson leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his Complaint for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), with leave to amend within thirty days. (ECF Nos. 5 & 6.) In an Order entered on the docket August 1, 2019, the Court dismissed this case for failure to prosecute because Wilson failed to file an Amended Complaint in accordance with the Court's prior Order. (ECF No. 7.)

         On August 20, 2019, the Court docketed an Amended Complaint submitted by Wilson. Accordingly, the Court vacated its dismissal Order, screened Wilson's Amended Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), dismissed his claims against Governor Wolf with prejudice, and gave him leave to file a second amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 10 & 11.) Wilson filed a document that he prepared using the Court's form petition for a writ of habeas corpus under 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which the Court will construe as the Second Amended Complaint (“SAC”) in this case.[1] However, the Court will dismiss the SAC with prejudice because Wilson has again failed to state a claim.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         In his initial Complaint, Wilson alleged that since November of 2018 he has been housed in a multi-purpose room that at one point held a total of four people. He alleged that there was no electricity in the room, no locks on the door, and no window, but he also alleged that the lights are on all night. Wilson claimed that there was insufficient ventilation, a “very high bed, ” and that eating takes place three feet from a toilet. (Compl. ECF No. 2 at 6.)[2] Wilson contended that he was suffering physical consequences from the conditions of his confinement.

         As noted above, the Court dismissed Wilson's Complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The Court explained that Wilson failed to allege how any of the Defendants were responsible for the challenged conditions. The Court also noted that that the practice of requiring pretrial detainees to eat in a cell containing a toilet does not amount to a constitutional violation. Wilson was given leave to amend with instructions that, in drafting any amended complaint, he should be mindful of the Court's reasons for dismissing his claims.

         Wilson's Amended Complaint again named Wolf, Carney, and Delaney as Defendants. The sole basis for Wilson's claims was an allegation that he was housed in “unsafe conditions” in a multipurpose cell from November 2018 through March 2019. (Am. Compl. ECF No. 8 at 3 & 5.) Wilson did not elaborate on those conditions or describe any injuries suffered as a result of those conditions. He sought damages in the amount of $250, 000.

         The Court screened Wilson's Amended Complaint and concluded that it was subject to dismissal under § 1915(e)(2)(B) for failure to state a claim because his allegations were conclusory, and he failed to describe how any of the Defendants were personally involved in the violations of his rights. The Court dismissed Wilson's claims against Governor Wolf with prejudice but permitted him to file a second amended complaint against Defendants Carney and Delaney. The Court instructed Wilson that any second amended complaint must identify all defendants and state the basis for his claims against each defendant, and reminded Wilson to be mindful of the Court's reasons for dismissing his claims when drafting his second amended complaint. (ECF No. 11.)

         As noted above, Wilson returned with a filing on the Court's form petition for a writ of habeas corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2241, which the Court has construed as his SAC. The SAC is sparse and is almost entirely blank. Wilson has not identified any Defendants. The only allegation that supports his claims is the following sentence fragment: “living in multipurpose closet area.” (SAC, ECF No. 12 at 3.) Wilson does not indicate what relief he seeks.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As Wilson is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court to dismiss the SAC if it fails to state a claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains “sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. As Wilson is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). “A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs.” See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988).

         Wilson's SAC does not name any Defendants or state a claim against any of the individuals previously named as Defendants. Wilson also has not alleged a constitutional violation based on his allegation that he is living in a “multipurpose closet area.” The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment governs claims brought by pretrial detainees. Hubbard v. Taylor (Hubbard I), 399 F.3d 150, 166 (3d Cir. 2005). To establish a basis for a Fourteenth Amendment violation, a prisoner must allege facts showing that the conditions of confinement amount to punishment. Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 538 (1979). That inquiry generally turns on whether the conditions have a purpose other than punishment and whether the conditions are excessive in relation to that purpose. See Id. at 538-39; Hubbard I, 399 F.3d at 158. Additionally, a detainee must generally establish that the defendants acted with deliberate indifference, meaning that they consciously disregarded a serious risk to the detainee's health or safety. Cf. Edwards v. Northampton Cty., 663 Fed.Appx. 132, 135 (3d ...


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