United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
PATRICIA L. DODGE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Plaintiff Brakeer Newsome (“Plaintiff”), an
inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Forest,
commenced this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for alleged
violations of his Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments rights
that transpired during his incarceration at the State
Correctional Institution at Greene (“SCI
Greene”). (ECF No. 8). Named as Defendants in
Plaintiff's Amended Complaint are John Wetzel
(“Secretary Wetzel”), Secretary of Pennsylvania
Department of Corrections; SCI Greene Corrections Officers
Teagarden (“CO Teagarden”); Carter (“CO
Carter”); C. R. Smith (“CO Smith”); Lt.
John Doe; Sgt. John Doe; Robert D. Gilmore
(“Superintendent Gilmore”), Superintendent
Facility Manager at SCI Greene; and D. Benner (“Hearing
Officer Benner”), Disciplinary Hearing Officer at SCI
Greene (collectively “Defendants”).
pending before the Court is Defendants' partial motion to
dismiss. (ECF No. 36). Specifically, Defendants seek
dismissal of Hearing Officer Benner, Superintendent Gilmore,
and Secretary Wetzel from the case. (Id.).
Additionally, Defendants ask the Court to dismiss all
official capacity claims against the remaining Defendants.
(Id.). For the reasons stated herein,
Defendants' motion will be granted.
commenced the present action by moving for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis. On November 20, 2018,
Plaintiff's motion was granted, and his complaint was
docketed the same day.
initial complaint, Plaintiff alleged that his Eighth
Amendment rights were violated through the excessive use of
force and that his extensive disciplinary confinement
violated the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Subsequently, Defendants filed a partial motion to dismiss in
which they sought dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against
Secretary Wetzel, Hearing Officer Benner, and Superintendent
Gilmore because Plaintiff had failed to allege their personal
involvement in an incident that is alleged to have occurred
on April 24, 2017.
response, Plaintiff sought and was granted permission from
Court to file an Amended Complaint. (ECF No. 32). Defendants
then filed the currently pending motion with an accompanying
brief to which Plaintiff has responded. (ECF Nos. 36, 37,
46). Accordingly, the matter is ripe for consideration.
Relevant Factual Background
claims in this action stem from an incident which is alleged
to have occurred on April 24, 2017 (the “April
Incident”). (Am. Compl. at ¶ 2). According to the
allegations of the Amended Complaint, while Plaintiff was
being escorted from intake to the F-block strip cage, he was
verbally assaulted in a “low tone” by CO
Teagarden and other unidentified officers. (Id.
¶¶ 8, 9). This verbal assault continued after he
was escorted out of the strip cage and when he arrived at his
housing unit, CO Teagarden forcibly pushed him and pinned his
shoulder. (Id. ¶¶ 11, 12). He was then
forced to the ground and ankle restraints were attached,
after which his escort to his housing unit continued.
(Id. ¶¶ 14, 15).
arriving at his cell in SCI Greene's Restricted Housing
Unit (“RHU”), he was asked to kneel so that the
restraints could be removed, then stood and was told to enter
his cell. (Id. ¶¶ 16, 17; see Id.
at 3). As he took a step, he was pushed forcibly from behind
by CO Carter, causing him to turn awkwardly. (Id.
¶ 18). As his cell door was being closed, CO Smith and
CO Carter began forcibly pulling on a tether in an effort to
pull his hands through the wicket, which represented an
unnecessary use of force with malicious intent, resulting in
injuries to Plaintiff's wrists. (Id.
¶¶ 19, 20).
was subsequently taken to medical triage and it was decided
that he should be seen by medical personnel at an outside
hospital. (Id. ¶¶ 23-29). He was first
taken to Washington Hospital and then sent to Presbyterian
Hospital, where he was treated with stitches for a severed
vein and a torn tendon; an x-ray was also taken.
(Id. ¶¶ 29-32). Upon his return to SCI
Greene, he was placed back in the RHU. (Id. ¶
claims that he was initially refused medical attention, but
after he advised a unit manager that his stitches had become
undone, he was taken to the main medical triage and placed in
a psychiatric observation cell. (Id. ¶¶
33-36). Plaintiff did not want SCI Greene's medical staff
to treat him and requested that they contact his family
before they performed any medical treatment, but they refused
to do so. (Id. ¶¶ 37, 38). When Plaintiff
requested to be treated at an outside hospital, he was placed
in a smock and gown despite the fact that there was no need
to do so. (Id. ¶¶ 39-41). Plaintiff was
then forcibly taken out of the cell and his clothing was cut
off, exposing his body and private parts and causing him a
“period of humiliation.” (Id.
¶¶ 42, 43). While exposed on a blanket, he was
searched, checked by the medical staff, photographed and
placed back into the cell. (Id. ¶ 44). He then
went on a hunger strike between April 25, 2017 and May 1,
2017 because he was not able to advise his family about what
happened, although the hunger strike is “not likely to
be recorded.” (Id. ¶¶ 45, 46).
2, 2017, Plaintiff had a disciplinary hearing with respect to
the April Incident at which he asked Hearing Officer Benner
to review the video of what had occurred. (Id.
¶ 47). This request was denied but Plaintiff then was
advised that no video existed. (Id.). Plaintiff
alleges that Hearing Officer Benner sentenced him to 180 days
in disciplinary custody without “properly explaining
the findings of the guilty verdicts.” (Id.).
On appeal, the Program Review Committee (“PRC”)
at SCI Greene upheld Hearing Officer Benner's decision.
(Id. ¶ 48). Plaintiff then filed a second level
appeal to Superintendent Gilmore. (Id.). Plaintiff
alleges that Superintendent Gilmore did not provide a
“proper response;” however, he also alleges that
Superintendent Gilmore denied his appeal (Id.
¶¶ 48, 51).
alleges that Secretary Wetzel knew about Defendants'
violations but refused to reply to his appeal and denied any
relief. (Id. ¶¶ 49, 52). He also alleges
that at ¶ 90-day review of his disciplinary custody, the
PRC told him he was being placed on restricted release by
Secretary Wetzel because of the April Incident. (Id.
¶ 50). This further extended his confinement.
(Id.). Plaintiff acknowledges that he grieved his
claims to final appeal. (Id. ¶¶ 51, 52).
Standard Of Review
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, for “failure to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion,
the court must “accept all factual allegations as true,
construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable
reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to
relief.” Fowler v. UPMCShadyside,
578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v.
Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008).