GANDY v. REEDER et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY CHIEF JUDGE LAWRENCE F. STENGEL ON 9/19/17. 9/20/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLAINTIFF AND E-MAILED. (jpd,) (Main Document 22 replaced on 9/20/2017) (jpd, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MS. SASHA REEDER, et al.,
SEP 19 2017
September (f , 2017
Jamil Gandy brings this action before the court as a pro se plaintiff. The
defendants have filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Rule 12 (b )( 6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Mr. Gandy has
responded. For the following reasons, I will grant the motion in its entirety, and dismiss
I. BACKGROUND 1
Mr. Gandy began filing prison level grievances against Defendants Sasha Reeder
and Ms. McKelvey as early as February 2015. In his various grievances, the plaintiff has
asserted that Ms. Reeder and Ms. McKelvey have disclosed his personal medical
condition and treatment to other individuals working in the prison dispensary, including
other inmates. He further alleges that Defendant Reeder has repeatedly mocked him and
The facts are gleaned from the complaint and any extrinsic documents upon which it is based. See GSC
Partners, CDO Fund v. Washington, 368 F.3d 228, 236 (3d Cir. 2004). For the purposes of this motion,
they are presented in the light most favorable to the Plaintiff, as the non-moving party, and are accepted
as true with all reasonable inferences drawn in his favor.
called him a "loony toon" and a "loony crazy man." On other occasions, Ms. Reeder has
allegedly told inmates, guards, and staff that when she looked into the plaintiffs eyes she
could see that he was "still crazy." The plaintiff asserts in his complaint that the
defendants' actions created hateful rumors about him which spread to his housing unit
and among other inmates. He asserts that these rumors have caused others to treat him as
though he is "contaminated." The plaintiff claims, without any further explanation or
elaboration, that these actions may result in his "untimely death." The plaintiff alleges
that the defendants' actions have caused him anxiety, harassment, embarrassment, and
humiliation throughout the prison.
In response to the plaintiffs various grievances, Defendant Lt. G.S. Robinson
investigated each claim. Each investigation concluded that because there was no
evidence to support the plaintiffs various claims, they were denied as frivolous. The
plaintiff asserts that these investigations were insufficient because he was never
personally interviewed about the matter. The plaintiff has now turned to the judicial
system for redress, asserting that the actions of the named defendants constitute
violations of his Eighth Amendment rights and of his Fourteenth Amendment due process
II. LEGAL STANDARD
A motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)( 6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
examines the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46
(1957). The factual allegations must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than
just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). In
determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the
complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true, and draw all
plausible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Id.; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County
Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984).
A "complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct,"
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 564, and it must contain enough factual matters to suggest the
required elements of the claim or to "raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of' those elements. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234
(3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Neither "bald assertions" nor
"vague and conclusory allegations" are accepted as true. See Morse v. Lower Merion
School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
In assessing the merits of a motion to dismiss, courts must first identify those
allegations in a complaint that are mere legal conclusions and are therefore not entitled to
the assumption of truth, and next, consider whether the complaint's factual allegations,
which are entitled to a presumption of truth, plausibly suggest an entitlement to relief.
Id. at 680 (emphasis added).
A. The Plaintiff's Eighth Amendment Claims
The defendants first argue that the plaintiffs complaint should be dismissed
because it fails to state a plausible claim for a violation of his Eighth Amendment rights.
The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits any punishment
which violates civilized standards and concepts of humanity and decency. Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 102-03 (1976); Tillery v. Owens, 907 F.2d 418, 425-26 (3d Cir.
1990); Peterkin v. Jeffes, 855 F.2d 1021, 1023 (3d Cir. 1988). This standard imposes
upon prison officials a duty to provide "humane conditions of confinement" and "the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities." Williams v. Armstrong, 566 Fed. Appx.
106, 109 (3d Cir. 2014) (citing Betts v. New Castle Youth Dev. Ctr., 621F.3d249, 256
(3d Cir. 2010)). An inmate must prove both an objective element- that the deprivation
was sufficiently serious, and a subjective element- that a prison official acted with
"deliberate indifference." Young v. Quinlan, 960 F.2d 351, 359-60 (3d Cir. 1992) (citing
Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 299 (1991)).
Courts have found sufficiently serious deprivation where inmates are subject to
inhumane prison conditions, including prolonged isolation in dehumanizing conditions,
failure to provide adequate medical care, exposure to pervasive risks of physical assault,
and unsanitary conditions. See Estelle, 429 U.S. at 104 (medical care); Hutto v. Finney,
437 U.S. 678, 685 (prolonged isolation in an unsanitary, overcrowded cell); Young, 960
F.2d at 365 (failure to adequately protect inmate from physical and sexual assaults and
subsequently confining him to unsanitary living conditions); Tillery v. Owens, 907 F.2d
at 425-26 (systemic overcrowding, pervasive violence, deficient medical, and mental
The "deliberate indifference" prong requires that the defendants actually knew of
and disregarded "an excessive risk to inmate health or safety." Farmer v. Brennan, 511
U.S. 825, 837 (1994). The deliberate indifference standard, therefore, requires more than
mere negligence or lack of due care for a prisoner's safety. Id. at 385. The deliberate
indifference standard is the equivalent of recklessness. Id. at 386. The Third Circuit
Court of Appeals has found deliberate indifference when a prison official: knows of a
prisoner's need for medical treatment and intentionally refuses to provide it; delays
necessary medical treatment for a non-medical reason; prevents a prisoner from receiving
needed or recommended medical treatment; or deliberate indifference to physical assaults
on an individual by other inmates. Rouse v. Plantier, 182 F.3d 192, 197 (3d Cir. 1999);
see also Young, 960 F .2d at 362.
Here, the factual allegations contained in the complaint do not describe a
deprivation that is sufficiently serious to establish the first required element of an Eighth
Amendment claim. They further do not raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of those elements. The plaintiff asserts in his complaint that the
defendants have called him names such as "loony toon" and "loony crazy man." He
claims that the defendants' actions have resulted in unfavorable rumors being spread
about him; that the defendants' conduct may trigger his "untimely death," but does not
allege specific facts or explain further how or why that might occur; and that the
defendants' actions have resulted in the plaintiff experiencing anxiety, harassment,
embarrassment, and humiliation. While humiliation and mockery of inmates by
corrections officers should not be tolerated and may be actionable under a different
theory, the facts here simply do not rise to the level of depriving the plaintiff of the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities such as medical care, sanitary living
conditions, and protection from physical assault. The deprivation the plaintiff claims is,
therefore, not sufficiently serious, and the first element is not met or suggested in the
facts alleged in plaintiff's complaint.
The second prong, i.e., "deliberate indifference," is also not satisfied. A complaint
must show that the defendants actually knew of and disregarded an excessive risk to
inmate health or safety. Defendants Reeder and McKelvey have allegedly acted
deliberately to mock and humiliate the plaintiff. They have been made aware that their
actions cause the plaintiff anxiety, embarrassment, and humiliation through the plaintiff's
many grievances and the subsequent investigations into their own conduct. Their
conduct, however intentional, does not disregard an excessive risk to the plaintiff's health
or safety. Ms. Reeder and Ms. McKelvey have not intentionally refused to provide the
plaintiff his medical treatment, nor have they caused delay or prevented such treatment.
They have not put the plaintiff at risk of physical harm from other inmates. While the
defendants' mockery of the plaintiff does not reach such severity that this court can deny
the defendants' motion to dismiss, their conduct is unnecessary, uncivil, and is not looked
upon favorably by this court.
The plaintiff has failed to allege sufficient factual matter to state a claim under the
protections of the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Accordingly, the
defendants' motion to dismiss this claim is granted.
B. Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment Claims
The defendants next argue that the plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed for
failure to state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment against Defendant Robinson.
The complaint alleges that Defendant Robinson failed to conduct a concise investigation
of the plaintiffs grievance regarding the conduct of Defendants Reeder and McKelvey,
which the plaintiff argues constitutes a violation of his Fourteenth Amendment due
Lawful incarceration brings about necessary withdrawal or limitation of many
privileges and rights. Jones v. North Carolina Prisoner's Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S.
119, 125 (1977). Although prisoners do not shed all constitutional rights at the prison
gate, access to prison grievance procedures is not a constitutionally mandated right. See
Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. 2001) ("[T]he existence of a prison
grievance procedure confers no liberty interest on a prisoner."); Hoover v. Watson, 886
F. Supp. 410, 418 (D. Del. 1995), affd, 74 F.3d 1226 (3d Cir. 1995) (holding that if a
state elects to provide a grievance mechanism, violations of its procedures do not give
rise to a§ 1983 claim). A prisoner's constitutional right to petition the government for
redress of grievances is the right of access to the courts, "which is not compromised by
the prison's refusal to entertain his grievance." Flick v. Alba, 932 F.2d 728, 729 (8th Cir.
The plaintiffs allegations against Defendant Robinson relate to the manner in
which Defendant Robinson handled his grievances regarding the conduct of Defendants
Reeder and McKelvey. The plaintiff takes issue with the manner in which the
investigations were conducted and asserts that therefore, his Fourteenth Amendment due
process rights have been violated. However, if a state elects to provide prisoners with
prison grievance procedures, violations of those procedures do not give rise to a due
process violation. Access to prison grievance procedures is not constitutionally
mandated. Accordingly, I will also grant the defendants' motion to dismiss this claim.
In conclusion, while a pro se plaintiff should be afforded an opportunity to amend
his complaint before the complaint is dismissed with prejudice, I believe granting Mr.
Gandy leave to amend would be futile. The conduct of Defendants Reeder and
McKelvey towards the plaintiff, while distasteful, is not serious enough to trigger the
protections of the Eighth Amendment. The allegedly improper investigations of the
plaintiffs grievances conducted by Defendant Robinson cannot give rise to a due process
violation because access to prison grievance procedures is not constitutionally mandated.
Thus, an amendment would be futile, a waste of judicial resources, and unfair to the
defendants. No amendment will be permitted. I will dismiss this case with prejudice.
An appropriate Order follows.
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