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Conner v. Salzinger

decided: March 31, 1972.

JOHN R. CONNER, APPELLANT,
v.
JOSEPH F. SALZINGER, SR., WARDEN, LEROY ZIMMERMAN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, DAUPHIN COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA



Kalodner, Staley and Adams, Circuit Judges.

Author: Kalodner

Opinion OF THE COURT

KALODNER, Circuit Judge.

On September 11, 1969, the appellant John R. Conner filed an action in the Dauphin County Common Pleas Court, Pennsylvania, September Term, 1969, No. 66, seeking recovery of $500,000 damages from the defendants Joseph F. Salzinger, Warden of the Dauphin County Prison and Leroy Zimmerman, District Attorney of Dauphin County for alleged failure to provide him with proper medical attention with respect to injuries he sustained while an inmate of the Dauphin County Prison.

On July 9, 1970, Conner filed in the District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania a "Petition for Removal" of his Dauphin County suit.

The Petition stated in relevant part:

"Plaintiff now moves this Honorable Court under Civil Right Codes to take jurisdiction of Civil Action No. 66 Sept. Term 1969, filed in the Dauphin County Court, against the named defendants, who are political (sic) influential and affiliated with said Court, and allow the Plaintiff to seek redress in this Honorable Court, where the Plaintiff can receive equity, justice and due process of law, as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution."

The "Petition for Removal" had attached to it these exhibits: "Exhibit 1" -- Conner's Complaint for "Criminal Negligence Violation of Civil Rights" in his Dauphin County action; "Exhibit 2" -- a copy of "Proof of Service by Mail" of his Removal Petition of the "presiding judge Dauphin County Court," and on Dowling and Dowling, Attorneys at Law, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, defendants' counsel of record in his Dauphin County action; "Exhibit 3" -- a copy of Conner's pending "Petition for Change of Venue" in his Dauphin County action, premised on his allegations "that the named defendants are influential politically in the County of Dauphin, Pennsylvania," and "that the defendants are directly, or indirectly associated with the above named Court"; "Exhibit 4" -- "Defendants' Answer to Plaintiff's Petition for Change of Venue" denying the allegations in his "Petition for Change of Venue," and "Exhibit 5" -- "Plaintiff's Rebuttal of Defendants' For Change of Venue."

The foregoing establishes that Conner's "Petition for Removal" sought only to remove his pending action from the Dauphin County Court of Common Pleas to the District Court, and that it did not purport to constitute the filing of a new and independent action in the District Court.

It is apparent that the District Court mistakenly treated the removal petition as the filing of an independent action. It directed the Clerk of the Middle District to docket the Petition as a "Complaint," and then denied leave to prosecute it in forma pauperis on the ground that it "failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," citing the holding in Commonwealth of Pennsylvania ex rel. Gatewood v. Hendrick, 368 F.2d 179 (3rd Cir. 1966), cert. den. 386 U.S. 925, 87 S. Ct. 899, 17 L. Ed. 2d 797 (1967), that a complaint by a state prisoner charging prison authorities with negligence in failing to provide him with necessary medical treatment does not state a cause of action under the civil rights laws or the federal Constitution.

The threshold question presented by this appeal is whether the District Court had jurisdiction to entertain Conner's "Petition for Removal" of his pending action in the Dauphin County court.

We are of the opinion that the District Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the "Petition for Removal" and that it erred in failing to deny it and to dismiss the proceedings on that ground.

Removal of civil actions, including civil rights actions,*fn1 is governed by the provisions of the Removal Statutes, 28 ...


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