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Gaskins v. Untig

November 10, 2008


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hochberg, District Judge



Plaintiff David Gaskins, a prisoner incarcerated at Sussex County Correctional Facility, seeks to file a Complaint alleging violation of his constitutional rights, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Based on Plaintiff's affidavit and prison account statement, this Court will grant Plaintiff's application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. As required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), this Court has screened the Complaint for dismissal and, for the reasons set forth below, will dismiss the Complaint, without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint if Plaintiff believes he can cure the deficiencies described in this Opinion.


Plaintiff sues the Sussex County Sheriff and three undersheriffs involved in the operation of the jail for violation of his constitutional rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He asserts the following facts, which this Court is required to regard as true for the purposes of this review. See Stevenson v. Carroll, 495 F. 3d 62, 66 (3d Cir. 2007). Plaintiff alleges that he has been confined in the Sussex County Correctional Facility since June 12, 2008, to the present. He asserts that on approximately June 30, 2008, he submitted a written request to defendants for certain law books, but the books did not arrive at the jail until August 12, 2008. Plaintiff contends that defendants violated his constitutional rights by failing to have the books he requested in the law library as soon as he arrived at the jail on June 12, 2008. Plaintiff seeks the following relief:

I would like for you to send someone here to check my file as I made all requests, and to see that all books are here, and why we as prisoners have no access to the westlaw computers? (Compl. ¶ 7.)


The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires the Court, prior to docketing or as soon as practicable after docketing, to review a complaint in a civil action in which a plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis or a prisoner seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B), 1915A. The PLRA requires the Court to sua sponte dismiss any claim if the Court determines that it is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id.

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a complaint "must contain

(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds of the court's jurisdiction . . . ; (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; and (3) a demand for the relief sought . . ." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a). Rule 8(d)(1) provides that "[e]ach allegation must be simple, concise, and direct. No technical form is required." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(d).

A claim is frivolous if it "lacks even an arguable basis in law" or its factual allegations describe "fantastic or delusional scenarios." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 328 (1989); see also Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990). As for failure to state a claim, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently clarified the standard, in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (2007), as follows:

Thus, under our reading, the notice pleading standard of Rule 8(a)(2) remains intact, and courts may generally state and apply the Rule 12(b)(6) standard, attentive to context and a[] showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.* * *

The Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: stating . . . a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element. This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading state, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element . . . .

Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F. 3d 224, 233, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted); see also Monroe v. Beard, 536 F. 3d 198, 205 (3d Cir. 2008) ("To survive a motion to dismiss, a plaintiff must allege facts that raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that the allegations in the ...

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