CIVIL NO.: 1:15-CV-00975
(Judge Rambo) () REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
The plaintiff, Kevin Williams ("Williams"), commenced this civil rights action by filing a pro se complaint pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See doc. 1. Williams alleges that, during his incarceration at the State Correctional Institution in Frackville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Mahanoy"), the defendants violated his First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights, based on disparate incidents concerning his property, his medical needs, his time spent in restricted housing, and his desire to enroll in an educational course. See id. As a result of these alleged violations, Williams seeks, inter alia, compensatory damages, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. See id. Currently pending before the Court is the defendants' collective motion to dismiss Williams's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See doc. 50. For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that the defendants' motion to dismiss be granted. It is further recommend, however, that Williams be afforded leave to amend his complaint.
Williams, an inmate who is presently confined at the State Correctional Institution in Marienville, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Forest"), has instituted this civil rights action against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), the Program Review Committee at SCI-Mahanoy, the Educational and Medical Departments at SCI-Mahanoy, and the following individuals, all of whom are employed by the DOC: (1) John Kerestes ("Superintendent Kerestes"), the Superintendent at SCI-Mahanoy; Lieutenant Hart ("Lt. Hart"), the Lieutenant of the "guards" at SCI-Mahanoy; Nelson A. Iannuzzi ("Nurse Iannuzzi"), a Certified Registered Nurse Practitioner at SCI-Mahanoy; Ms. Jones ("Jones"), the Educational Counselor at SCI-Mahanoy; Jane Hinman ("Hinman"), the Grievance Coordinator at SCI-Mahanoy; Dorina Varner ("Varner"), the Chief Grievance Coordinator for the DOC; and finally, Beggs, McKnight, and Vougahta, all of whom Williams associates with the Program Review Committee. Doc. 1 at 1-3. As set forth in the complaint, all of these defendants have been sued in both their individual and official capacities. Id. at 3.
Notably, Williams has inconsistently listed the defendants in two sections of his complaint: the caption (doc. 1 at 1); and the "Defendant(s)" section (id. at 2). Acknowledging this fact, we have set forth all defendants that have been listed in these two sections. The Court's docket, however, only sets forth the defendants listed in the caption of the complaint.
Along with his complaint, Williams also filed two applications to proceed in forma pauperis. Docs. 2, 8. The undersigned, however, denied these motions based on Williams's own assertion that he had filed three lawsuits that had been dismissed as frivolous, malicious, or for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and thus instructed Williams to either pay the filing fee, or show cause that (i) he was seeking relief because he was under imminent danger or (ii) he had not actually amassed three strikes. Doc. 13. Although Williams filed objections, United States District Court Judge Rambo ("Judge Rambo"), rejected his arguments that he had only filed one previous lawsuit and that he was in "imminent danger of serious physical injury," so as to qualify for the three-strikes exception contained in the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). Doc. 15. As a result, Judge Rambo ordered Williams to pay the full filing fee, warning him that failure to do so would result in dismissal of this action. Doc. 16. Williams, despite being ordered to do so, and despite being given ample to do so, failed to pay the filing fee, and thus, on March 21, 2016, the undersigned recommended dismissal of this action. Doc. 26. Judge Rambo adopted this recommendation, overruling Williams's arguments that he did not qualify for the three-strikes exception and that this Court had him confused with another person, and thus dismissed this action. Doc. 28.
The PLRA provides in material part as follows:
(g) In no event shall a prisoner bring a civil action or appeal a judgment in a civil action or proceeding under this section if the prisoner has, on 3 or more prior occasions, while incarcerated or detained in any facility, brought an action or appeal in a court of the United States that was dismissed on the grounds that it is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, unless the prisoner is under imminent danger of serious physical injury.
28 U.S.C. § 1915.
On May 24, 2017, however, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, after examining docket sheets and documents in other civil rights lawsuits that had been filed by Williams in the Eastern, Middle, and Western Districts of Pennsylvania, found that it was unable to identify any case that had actually qualified as a strike. See docs. 35, 39. As a result, the Court of Appeals vacated this Court's decision, which denied Williams leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and remanded this action for further proceedings. See id. In accordance with that remand, Judge Rambo, on June 8, 2017, granted Williams leave to proceed in forma pauperis and remanded this matter to the undersigned. Doc. 36.
Shortly thereafter, Williams filed a motion, seeking judgment as a matter of law. Doc. 40. On July 19, 2017, the undersigned denied that motion, explaining that the defendants had not yet been served and were, therefore, not in default. Doc. 41. That same day the waiver of service forms were mailed to the defendants that were listed in the caption of the complaint, that is, the DOC, the Program Review Committee, Superintendent Kerestes, Lt. Hart, Varner, Hinman, Nurse Iannuzzi, and Jones. See docs. 42, 43.
On August 3, 2017, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Governor's Office of General Counsel filed a letter on the Court's docket, explaining that it could not accept service on Nurse Iannuzzi's behalf since he was a "contracted employee with Wexford Health Sources, Inc. and was/is not a [DOC] employee[.]" Doc. 46. And, on August 11, 2017, counsel entered his appearance, returned the completed waiver forms, and filed a motion to dismiss Williams's complaint on behalf of the other defendants who were named in the caption of the complaint—the DOC, the Program Review Committee, Superintendent Kerestes, Lt. Hart, Varner, Hinman, and Jones. Docs. 47, 48, 50, 51.
Williams has since opposed the defendants' motion to dismiss by filing a brief in opposition (doc. 55) to which the defendants have filed a reply brief (doc. 57). And, although Williams did not seek leave of Court, see M.D. Pa. L.R. 7.7. (instructing that such briefs may only be filed with leave of Court), he has also filed a response to the defendants' reply brief. Doc. 58. Thus, the defendants' motion to dismiss, which has been fully briefed by the parties, is ready for disposition.
Apart from the moving defendants, however, there are six additional defendants named in the complaint, that is, the Educational and Medical Departments at SCI-Mahanoy, Nurse Iannuzzi, Beggs, McKnight, and Vougahta, none of whom have been served or otherwise made an appearance in this case. Although these defendants have not made such an appearance, the Court is, nevertheless, required to screen complaints brought by prisoners seeking relief against a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). And, pursuant to this statutory authority, the Court is permitted to dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, that fails to state a claim upon which relief may granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
Thus, the undersigned reviews the allegations in the complaint that concern not only the moving defendants, but the non-moving defendants as well.
III. Allegations in the Complaint.
In accordance with the standard of review for a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the undersigned will "accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true, and view them in the light most favorable" to Williams. Carino v. Stefan, 376 F.3d 156, 159 (3d Cir. 2004). At the outset, however, it is noted that the vague allegations in Williams's complaint are largely presented as a rambling narrative, interspersed with accusations involving a variety of individuals and disparate incidents. And, at times, it is unclear when exactly these alleged incidents occurred.
Williams appears to allege that, on or around January 28, 2013, he was transferred from SCI-Somerset to SCI-Mahanoy. See id. at 3. Upon arrival, presumably, to SCI-Mahanoy, "two defendants in another civil action[,]" inventoried Williams's personal property, made negative comments to him about his property, and ultimately confiscated some items from his property, including his G-Shock Casio watch. Id.; see also id. at 3-4 (alleging that, on the Confiscated Items Receipt, Correctional Officer Hycina, a non-defendant in this action, wrote "Watch," instead of "Casio," so that he could steal it from Williams).
Williams was subsequently instructed to meet with Lt. Hart on February 1, 2013. See id. at 4. During that meeting, Lt. Hart stated that he was only "seeing [Williams] as a courtesy to the Captain[,]" but that Williams should "make no mistake[,]" he was "not getting that watch back." Id. Although Williams tried to make the argument that, pursuant to an exception contained within DOC Policy, DC-ADM 815(a), his watch should not have been confiscated, Lieutenant Hart stated, "forget the policy[.]" Id.
As a result, Williams filed a grievance. Id. Williams also spoke to Beggs, the Deputy Warden, and asked Beggs why other inmates at SCI-Mahanoy were permitted to retain the same watch that was confiscated from him. Id. Beggs explained that those inmates were permitted to do so because they "were [at SCI-Mahanoy] when the facility first opened up." Id.
Although Williams's watch appears to have been confiscated directly from him upon arrival to SCI-Mahanoy, his other property, including his brother's ML-500 Typewriter, had to be shipped from SCI-Somerset to SCI-Mahanoy. See id. at 3, 4. Following his property's arrival on February 11, 2013, however, Williams discovered that his brother's typewriter did not work, despite giving it plenty of time to charge. Id. Hinman, the grievance coordinator at SCI-Mahanoy, instructed Williams to file a grievance with SCI-Somerset, since it is the sending institution's responsibility to repair or replace damaged property. Id. Although Williams filed such a grievance, his brother's typewriter was neither repaired nor replaced. Id. And, in this regard, Williams alleges that he has already expressed to the defendants that he only wants his brother's typewriter fixed or replaced; he does not want any money. Id.
On an unspecified date, Williams wrote a request slip to staff, and on August 8, 2013, Williams was called to "Receiving and Departing," where Lt. Hart asked Williams if he had written that request slip to staff. Id. at 5. Williams, who admitted doing so, was handcuffed and led to the Restricted Housing Unit ("RHU"). Id. While in route to the RHU, Lt. Hart "made several threats on [Williams's] life[,]" stating that the Aryan Brotherhood runs SCI-Mahanoy, SCI-Coal Township, and SCI-Frackville. Id.
While confined in the RHU, Superintendent Kerestes went to Williams's cell and stated as follows: "You need to get some patience." Id. And, while also confined there, Williams received a haircut. Id. The clippers that were used for this haircut made his neck bleed. Id. Williams alleges that when he washed his neck, a tingling sensation occurred, and so, he filed a sick-call slip, as well as two request slips. Id. By the time Williams finally made it to medical, however, puss was discharging from his "face[.]" Id.
At medical, Williams was seen by Nurse Iannuzzi, who saw "nothing wrong" with Williams and made excuses stating, "it's just dirty, you need to wash your face more thoroughly." Id. Williams told Nurse Iannuzzi that he had the same problem in the past for which he was prescribed Antibiotics, but Nurse Iannuzzi refused to prescribe him Antibiotics. Id. Although Nurse Iannuzzi did say that he was going to give Williams cream, Williams never received the cream, despite paying $14.00 for both his visit to medical and that cream. Id. at 6. As his condition worsened, Williams filed more request and sick call slips, but they all went unanswered. Id.
Williams, however, was eventually called to medical and seen by Nurse Iannuzzi once more. Id. Williams claims that Nurse Iannuzzi was loud, rude, and obnoxious, stating to Williams, "fuck you[,]" and telling Williams to "get out." Id. Williams also claims that the infection continued to get worse, as blood and puss discharged from his face and the infection spread to his eyes, making his eyes bloodshot and watery, and his vision blurry. Id. Regardless of this, however, the whole Medical Department "ignored" Williams and all of his requests for treatment and, thus, he did not receive "any medical attention." Id. Although Williams wrote directly to Hinman and asked that pictures to be taken of his face, Hinman never wrote Williams back. Id. Thus, had Williams not self-medicated with the Antibiotics he allegedly purchased at the prison yard, he would have died, as he was starting to "piss-blood." Id.
On another unspecified date, Williams "went to see" the Program Review Committee, and "they" stated to him that "the investigation" could last 15 days. Id. at 5. Williams, who apparently did not understand this statement, asked the Program Review Committee what was being investigated. Id. The only response Williams alleges to have received was from Beggs, who stated as follows: "[T]his is not the western region- we look out for our women[.]" Id.
In addition, Williams alleges that, at unspecified times, he wrote several request slips to Jones, the Educational Counselor at SCI-Mahanoy, requesting that he be enrolled in a vocational trade class. Id. at 6. Jones informed Williams that he needed a GED, "pre-voc.," and other verifications in order to be enrolled in that class. Id. Williams asked Jones to access the DOC's educational file, but Jones refused, explaining that it was Williams's responsibility to do so. Id. After the "back and forth with request slips," Williams eventually filed a grievance and wrote to the Principal at SCI-Somerset, stating that the staff at SCI-Mahanoy is incompetent, and requesting that his educational files be faxed to such staff. Id. at 6-7. Williams alleges that Beggs responded, at some point, as follows: "We have your files- you have all of the requirements, if you would like to sign-up for a vocational class-you can do so; But keep in mind that your [sic] a lifer. And the waiting list for these classes are [sic] very long, it might be several years before you make it to the class." Id.
In connection with all of these allegations, Williams raises the following claims: (1) that the defendants blatantly disregarded DOC policy, regarding the confiscation of his watch, in violation of the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution; (2) that the defendants damaged his brother's typewriter, in order to prevent him from filing future grievances and lawsuits, in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution; (3) that Superintendent Kerestes, the Program Review Committee, and Lt. Hart confined Williams in the RHU for a total of 14 days, in violation of the First and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; (4) that Nurse Iannuzzi and the Medical Department at SCI-Mahanoy denied Williams medical attention in violation of, presumably, the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution; (5) that Superintendent Kerestes had knowledge of the alleged constitutional violations regarding the confiscation of Williams's watch, the damage to his brother's typewriter, the retaliatory time he spent in the RHU, and the complete denial of medical treatment, yet failed to do anything to correct these violations; and, finally, (6) that the defendants threatened him with physical violence for exercising his right to free speech, in violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Id. at 8-10.
In the "Legal Claims" section of his complaint, Williams also loosely asserts that the defendants used "AC" as a tool to punish him in retaliation for him seeking redress from the prison through its grievance system and, further, that the defendants stole all of his legal files. See doc. 1 at 10. These assertions, however, have neither been raised nor fully articulated in the factual allegations section of his complaint and, thus, the undersigned will not consider these assertions any further.
As for relief, Williams seeks compensatory and "other" damages, as well as declaratory relief and injunctive relief in the form of being granted a "permanent separation" from SCI-Mahanoy, SCI-Coal Township, and SCI-Frackville. Id. at 10-11. In addition, Williams also appears to be seeking a stay on a state court action he filed in the "Schuylkill County Court," regarding matters related to his "missin [sic] property." Id. at 8.
Before turning to the defendants' motion to dismiss, the undersigned sets forth the standard of review that guides this Report and Recommendation.
In accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court may dismiss a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." When reviewing a motion to dismiss, "[w]e must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, construe the complaint in the light favorable to the plaintiff, and ultimately determine whether plaintiff may be entitled to relief under any reasonable reading of the complaint." Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 229 (3d Cir. 2010). In making that determination, we "consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the [plaintiff's] claims are based upon these documents." Id. at 230.
"A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the pleading requirements of Rule 8(a)." I.H. ex rel. D.S. v. Cumberland Valley Sch. Dist., 842 F. Supp. 2d 762, 769-70 (M.D. Pa. 2012). "Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a 'short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-78 (2009). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and of the grounds upon which it rests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Detailed factual allegations are not required, but more is required than labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009). "A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts." Id.
In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint, and the court must draw all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). But a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). A court also need not "assume that a . . . plaintiff can prove facts that the . . . plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).
Following Twombly and Iqbal, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, it must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. In practice, consideration of the legal sufficiency of a complaint entails a three-step analysis:
First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Finally, "where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief."
Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (footnote and citations omitted) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679).
A complaint filed by a pro se litigant is to be liberally construed and "'however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Erickson, 551 U.S. at 94 (quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Nevertheless, "pro se litigants still 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). Thus, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a pro se complaint must recite factual allegations that are sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation, set forth in a "short and plain" statement of a cause of action.
A. Williams's Complaint Fails to Comply with Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
In the complaint, Williams raises claims that a variety of defendants violated the First, Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, regarding a number of unrelated incidents, including the confiscation of his watch, the damage to his brother's typewriter, the denial of medical care, preclusion from an educational class, and retaliatory placement in the RHU. See doc. 1. The defendants argue that, given this series of distinct claims and diverse parties, Williams's complaint fails to comply with Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See doc. 51 at 5-6. The undersigned agrees.
"For courts applying Rule 20 and related rules, 'the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged.'" Hagan v. Rogers, 570 F.3d 146, 153 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting United Mine Workers of Am. v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 724 (1966)). Still, the liberal policy of joinder under Rule 20 does not mean that unrelated claims and defendants can be joined in one action. Rather, the requirements of Rule 20(a)(2), regarding the joinder of defendants, must be satisfied, and that Rule provides that persons may be joined in one action as defendants if "any right to relief is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and . . . any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action." FED. R. CIV. P. 20(a)(2).
Here, Williams names a variety of defendants in his complaint, all of whom are associated with different offices, departments, and committees operating within not only the DOC generally, but SCI-Mahanoy specifically. See doc. 1. For instance, Williams has named a Superintendent, a correctional officer, an educational counselor, a nurse, a DOC grievance coordinator, and an SCI-Mahanoy grievance coordinator, as well as several individuals who work with the Program Review Committee at SCI-Mahanoy. See id. In addition, Williams raises claims that cover a variety of factually distinct incidents, including those related to the confiscation of his watch, the damage to his brother's typewriter, the denial of medical care, preclusion from an educational class, and retaliatory placement in the RHU. See id. Finally, some of the factual allegations in the complaint have been set forth without any reference to dates and, thus, it is unclear whether these alleged incidents occurred within days, weeks, or even years of one another. See id.
Thus, we conclude that Williams's claims are not sufficiently related to be joined in one action. In particular, we conclude that they do not arise out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences, and they do not raise any question of law or fact common to all defendants. Accordingly, Williams's complaint fails to comply with Rule 20(a)(2). See, e.g., Atwater v. Gabriel, No. 1:11-CV-2043, 2012 WL 760740, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 7, 2012) (adopting United States Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the amended complaint, which contained different and unrelated incidents, involving two different correctional officers, failed to comply with Rule 20(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).
B. Williams's Complaint Also Fails to Satisfy the Threshold Elements of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In addition to failing to comply with Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the defendants argue that Williams's complaint also fails to satisfy the threshold elements of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See doc. 51 at 6-7, 11. The undersigned agrees. In order for Williams to state a claim under § 1983, he must allege a deprivation of a federally protected right and that this deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law. See Woloszyn v. County of Lawrence, 396 F.3d 314, 319 (3d Cir. 2005). Williams's complaint, however, fails to make this requisite showing against the DOC, the Program Review Committee at SCI-Mahanoy, and the Medical and Educational Departments also at SCI-Mahanoy, because these defendants do not qualify as persons under § 1983 and cannot, therefore, be held liable under the statute. Indeed, the DOC is not a "person" within the meaning of the statute. See, e.g., Manchas v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, No. 3:16-CV-563, 2017 WL 440259, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 1, 2017) ("[T]he DOC is not a person and thus, not a properly named defendant with respect to the civil rights portion of the pending Complaint. Defendant DOC is entitled to entry of dismissal with respect to any § 1983 claims."); Lenhart v. Pennsylvania, 528 F. App'x 111, 114 (3d Cir. 2013) (holding that the county prison was not a person capable of being sued within the meaning of § 1983). Likewise, a department within a correctional institution, like the Medical and Educational Departments at SCI-Mahanoy, do not qualify as persons within the meaning of the statute. See, e.g., Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973) (per curiam) (holding that the New Jersey Prison Medical Department is a state agency that cannot be sued under § 1983 because it is not a person). And, thus, it necessarily follows that if the departments operating within a correctional institution do not qualify as a "person" under § 1983, then neither does one of the correctional institution's committees, such as the Program Review Committee that is discussed here. Thus, Williams's complaint fails to state claims upon which relief can be granted against the DOC, the Program Review Committee at SCI-Mahanoy, and the Medical and Educational Departments also at SCI-Mahanoy, since they are not persons capable of being sued under § 1983. These defendants should, therefore, be dismissed from the complaint.
Furthermore, Williams's complaint also fails to allege the "personal involvement" of some of the defendants in the alleged wrongdoing, another threshold element under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Liability in a § 1983 action is personal in nature, and to be liable, a defendant must have been personally involved in the wrongful conduct. In other words, defendants are "liable only for their own unconstitutional conduct." Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014), rev'd on other grounds sub nom., Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015). And so respondeat superior cannot form the basis of liability. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir. 2005). Thus, a constitutional deprivation cannot be premised merely on the fact that the defendant was a prison supervisor when the incidents set forth in the complaint occurred. See Alexander v. Forr, 297 F. App'x 102, 104-05 (3d Cir. 2008). "Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the Constitution." Ashcroft, 556 U.S. at 676.
Here, while Varner, McKnight, and Vougahta are named as defendants, Williams's complaint contains no other mention of these individuals whatsoever. See doc. 1. Similarly, while Williams contends, in the "Legal Claims" section of his complaint, that Superintendent Kerestes knew of various constitutional violations and did nothing to stop them, Williams raises no factual allegations in support of this contention. See id. Indeed, the only factual allegation he raises against Superintendent Kerestes is that he stated to Williams, in the RHU, as follows: "[Y]ou need to get some patience." Id. at 5. Furthermore, the DOC, as well as the Program Review Committee, the Educational Department, and the Medical Department at SCI-Mahanoy, cannot be "personally" involved in the alleged constitutional deprivations and, thus, cannot be held liable under § 1983 for the alleged acts of their employees. Thus, because Varner, McKnight, Vougahta, Superintendent Kerestes, the DOC, and the Program Review Committee, Educational Department, and Medical Department at SCI-Mahanoy, had no personal involvement in the alleged deprivations of Williams's constitutional rights, these defendants should be dismissed from the complaint.
C. Other Deficiencies in Williams's Complaint.
Additionally, it appears, as the defendants have argued, that some of the claims Williams is raising are barred by the two-year statute of limitations that is applicable to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claims. See Fitzgerald v. Larson, 769 F.2d 160, 162 (3d Cir. 1985) (reiterating that Pennsylvania's two-year limitations period for personal injury actions governs § 1983 actions). That limitations period begins to run when the plaintiff knows or has reason to know of the injury that constitutes the basis for the action. Sandutch v. Muroski, 684 F.2d 252, 254 (3d Cir. 1982) (per curiam); accord Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 348 (3d Cir. 1989).
Here, Williams alleges, among other things, that his G-Shock Casio watch was confiscated on January 29, 2013, and that his brother's typewriter was returned to him in a non-working condition on February 11, 2013. Doc. 1 at 3, 4. Williams, however, did not file the instant complaint until April 30, 2015, more than two years later. Thus, because these two claims accrued more than two years before Williams filed his complaint, it appears that those claims are barred by the statute of limitations.
Although the complaint was not received and thus docketed by the Clerk's Office until May 19, 2015, Williams appears to have signed and dated the complaint on April 30, 2015. Thus, the undersigned affords Williams the benefit of the prison-mailbox rule, which deems a pleading filed upon the delivery of that pleading to prison officials. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 275-76 (1988); Longenette v. Krusing, 322 F.3d 758,761 (3d Cir. 2003).
In addition to the deficiencies discussed here, in this Report and Recommendation, the defendants have also raised arguments regarding the sufficiency of the factual allegations Williams has raised in his complaint. Because, however, Williams's complaint fails to comply with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and because Williams's complaint also fails to satisfy certain, threshold elements of a claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, it is not necessary for the undersigned to address the defendants' remaining arguments at this time. --------
D. Williams Should be Afforded Leave to File an Amended Complaint.
Consistent with the discussion above, Williams's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. "[I]f a complaint is subject to a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must permit a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile." Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008). The court "must provide the plaintiff with this opportunity even if the plaintiff does not seek leave to amend." Id.
The undersigned cannot say that amendment would be inequitable or futile in this case. Thus, it is recommended that Williams be granted leave to file an amended complaint. Any amended complaint shall be complete in all respects. It shall be a new pleading which stands by itself as an adequate complaint without reference to the original complaint already filed. Any amended complaint shall be titled as an amended complaint and shall contain the docket number of this case, 1:15-CV-00975. And finally, any amended complaint shall comply with the mandate of Rule 20 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Based on the foregoing, IT IS RECOMMENDED that the complaint (doc. 1) be DISMISSED. IT IS FURTHER RECOMMENDED that Williams be GRANTED leave to amend. IT IS FINALLY RECOMMNEDED that this matter be REMANDED to the undersigned and that Williams be afforded 28 days to file an amended complaint.
The Parties are further placed on notice that pursuant to Local Rule 72.3:
Any party may object to a magistrate judge's proposed findings, recommendations or report addressing a motion or matter described in 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1)(B) or making a recommendation for the disposition of a prisoner case or a habeas corpus petition within fourteen (14) days after being served with a copy thereof. Such party shall file with the clerk of court, and serve on the magistrate judge and all parties, written objections which shall specifically identify the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations or report to which objection is made and the basis for such objections. The briefing requirements set forth in Local Rule 72.2 shall apply. A judge shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made and may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.
The judge, however, need conduct a new hearing only in his or her discretion or where required by law, and may consider the record developed before the magistrate judge, making his or her own determination on the basis of that record. The judge may also receive further evidence, recall witnesses or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions.
Submitted this 26th day of July , 2018 .
S/Susan E . Schwab
Susan E. Schwab
United States Chief Magistrate Judge