United States District Court, D. Delaware
DONALD D. PARKELL, Plaintiff,
MARIA LYONS, et al, Defendants.
HONORABLE LEONARD P. STARK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the Court are Defendant's motions to dismiss for
failure to exhaust administrative remedies (D.I. 27) and
failure to state a claim (D.I. 28). Having reviewed the
parties' briefing (D.I. 27, 28, 34, 36, 37), IT IS HEREBY
Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies (D.I. 27) is DENIED without prejudice
to Defendant having an opportunity to renew its motion as one
for summary judgment. As the parties appear to agree that
additional, limited discovery may be warranted for the issue
of exhaustion (D.I. 34 at 2; D.I. 36 at 2), the parties shall
meet and confer and, no later than April 15, submit a joint
status report addressing: (1) what, if any, discovery may be
required; and (2) a proposed schedule for summary judgment
briefing on exhaustion. Once briefing is complete, the Court
may serve as factfinder on the issue of exhaustion and may
(or may not) hold an evidentiary hearing. See Paladino v.
Newsome, 885 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2018) (holding that
district court may act as factfinder on exhaustion after
providing parties with notice and opportunity to respond), 2.
Defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim against Defendant Little (D.I. 28) is GRANTED. Plaintiff
is granted leave to file an amended complaint, with the
assistance of counsel, that complies with federal pleading
of pleadings is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
8, which requires a complainant to provide "a short and
plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is
entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Rule 12(b)(6)
allows the accused party to bring a motion to dismiss the
claim for failing to meet this standard. A Rule 12(b)(6)
motion may be granted only if, accepting the well-pleaded
allegations in the complaint as true and viewing them in the
light most favorable to the complainant, a court concludes
that those allegations "could not raise a claim of
entitlement to relief." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007); see also Fowler
v. UP MC Shady side, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).
presented with a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure
to state a claim, a court conducts a two-part analysis.
See Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210. First, the court
separates the factual and legal elements of a claim,
accepting "all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts
as true, but [disregarding] any legal conclusions."
Id. at 210-11. Second, the court determines
"whether the facts alleged in the complaint are
sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible
claim for relief" Id. at 211 (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)).
whether a claim is plausible is "a context-specific task
that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial
experience and common sense." Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 679. A plausible claim does more than merely allege
entitlement to relief; it must also demonstrate the basis for
that "entitlement with its facts." Fowler,
578 F.3d at 211 (internal citations omitted). Thus, a
claimant's "obligation to provide the grounds of his
entitle[ment] to relief requires more than labels and
conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a
cause of action will not do." Twombly, 550 U.S.
at 555 (internal quotation and citation omitted); see
also Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 ("Threadbare recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements, do not suffice."). In other
words, "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to
draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
1983 liability is predicated on personal involvement rather
than vicarious liability; "a plaintiff must plead that
each Government-official defendant, through the
official's own individual actions, has violated the
Constitution." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 676; see
also Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir.
1988) ("A defendant in a civil rights action must have
personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot
be predicated solely on the operation of respondeat
superior"). "Personal involvement can be shown
through allegations of personal direction or of actual
knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or
actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with
appropriate particularity." Rode, 845 F.2d at
1207. A complaint is sufficiently particular "where it
states the conduct, time, place, and persons
responsible." Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347,
353 (3d Cir. 2005).
filed a pro se complaint charging Defendant Little,
who serves as Legal Services Administrator at James T. Vaughn
Correctional Center ("VCC"), with: (1) one count of
retaliation "by destroying or seizing in-house court
documents meant for filing or copying" (D.I. 1 at ¶
85); (2) one count of interfering with access to the courts
"by failing to file or copy original motions, petitions
and writs [leading to] the destruction or seizure of the
documents has caused actual injury" in several
identified cases (id. at ¶ 88); and (3) a
general allegation of "obstruct[ing] the plaintiffs
right to confidential communication and privacy in
communicating or corresponding with attorneys and with the
Courts," by "enact[ing] a method" to ensure
Little served as a "self-appointed gate-keeper who
decide[s] what legal claims are filed." (Id. at
Court's view, none of these allegations meet the
requisite level of particularity required by Rule 8.
Plaintiff has not identified any specific documents that
Little had withheld or destroyed, or when those documents
were withheld or destroyed. Plaintiff also has not identified
any facts tending to show that Little had possession of those
documents at the time they went missing, had personally
created or ordered a policy of withholding or destroying
legal documents, had any control over protocols or procedures
pertaining to the review of prisoner communications, or his
motivation for the alleged retaliation. By failing to allege
any acts with particularity, the complaint does not state a
plausible claim for which relief may be
granted. See Mincy v. Klem, 448 Fed.Appx.
169, 171 (3d Cir. 2011) (affirming grant of motion to dismiss
when plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead personal
involvement); Kostyshyn v. Fink, 2011 WL 4344450, at
*2 (D. Del. Sept. 15, 2011) (granting motion to dismiss
because "it is not clear from the pleadings when the
alleged violations occurred, where they occurred, or the
involvement (if any) of each defendant in the alleged
Court does not decide whether Defendant Little may assert
qualified immunity, as the issue is moot. Defendant Little
may raise the issue again should Plaintiff file an amended
complaint that meets federal pleading standards.
FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall meet and confer and,
no later than April 10, submit a joint status report with
their proposal(s) for how this case should now proceed.
 Defendants also moved to dismiss
Defendants David Pierce and Maria Lyons (D.I. 28 at 1), but
Plaintiff has voluntarily dismissed Pierce and Lyons ...