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Robinson v. Wright

April 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Renée Marie Bumb United States District Judge



1. In August 2009, the Clerk received Plaintiff's complaint ("Complaint"), executed pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). See Docket Entry No. 1. The Complaint arrived unaccompanied by Plaintiff's filing fee or by his complete in forma pauperis ("IFP") application. See id. (While Plaintiff submitted his affidavit of poverty, he failed to submit his certified six-month prison account statement required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a)(2). See id.)

2. Consequently, the Court denied Plaintiff IFP status without prejudice and directed administrative termination of this matter subject to reopening upon Plaintiff's submission of his six-month prison account statement. See Docket Entry No. 2. Plaintiff duly cured the deficiency of his IFP application. See Docket Entry No. 3.

3. In light of Plaintiff's submission, the Court will grant Plaintiff IFP status, direct assessment of filing fee in accordance with the terms stated below, and order the Clerk to file the Complaint. In addition, the Court will dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint.

Such dismissal will be with prejudice since, as the Court details below, it does not appear that Plaintiff can cure the deficiencies of his pleadings by amendment.

a. Here, Plaintiff asserts that, on August 26, 2007, he had an argument with several inmates, following an altercation he had with another inmate, named "Holloway"; that altercation was followed by another altercation between Plaintiff and inmates named "Price, Coleman and Hughes." See Docket Entry No. 1, at 3. Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of these two sequential altercations, he suffered punches and even stubbing. See id. The Complaint indicates, in no ambiguous terms, that Plaintiff was immediately provided with medical care by his prison officials. See id. However, Plaintiff maintains that his constitutional rights were violated because: (i) Defendant Robinson, who was allegedly the officer assigned to the area where the altercations took place, stepped away for a period of fifteen minutes (that fifteen-minute period began, allegedly, shortly prior to the initiation of Plaintiff's initial argument and encompassed both altercations, plus Plaintiff's walk through the hall after the first altercation and before the second altercation); and (ii) Defendant Schultz "failed his duties to inst[r]ument and practice policy with his correction officers which provides equal protection to inmates." Id.

b. It appears self-evident that Plaintiff cannot bring valid Bivens claims against the inmates who allegedly assaulted him: these claims should be dismissed for failure to meet the color of law requirement.

c. Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Schultz are subject to dismissal. The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub. L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity. The Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A. This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under both 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2) (B) an § 1915A. In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007) (following Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976), and Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)); see also United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). The Court need not, however, credit a pro se plaintiff's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Id. A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint as "frivolous" is an objective one. See Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995). Recently, the Supreme Court clarified the standard for summary dismissal in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). The issue before the Supreme Court was whether Iqbal's civil rights complaint adequately alleged defendants' personal involvement in discriminatory decisions regarding Iqbal's treatment during detention at the Metropolitan Detention Center. The Court examined Rule 8(a)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which provides that a complaint must contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Citing Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), for the proposition that "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do,'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), the Supreme Court identified two working principles underlying the failure to state a claim standard:

First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.... Rule 8... does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense. But where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not "show[n] that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2).

Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949-1950 (citations omitted).

The Court further explained that

a court... can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a ...

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