United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
October 6, 2005.
EDWARD KELLEY, Plaintiff,
DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION AND NATURAL RESOURCES, PENNSYLVANIA GAME COMMISSION, Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: THOMAS VANASKIE, Chief Judge
THE BACKGROUND OF THIS ORDER IS AS FOLLOWS:
On August 19, 2005, pro se Plaintiff Edward Kelley, a
prisoner currently confined at SCI-Frackville, filed this instant
civil rights complaint. The complaint is before the Court for
preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
Named as Defendants are the Department of Conservation and
Natural Resources and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Plaintiff
alleges that Defendants have failed to fulfill their
responsibility of managing the wildlife in Pennsylvania,
specifically with respect to the elk and deer population.
Plaintiff's claims are based on generalized grievances, and
Plaintiff makes no allegation as to whether or how he himself has
been injured by these alleged matters. Plaintiff's complaint will
be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
When screening a prisoner complaint, a district court must look
to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Under § 1915A, if the civil action seeks
redress from a governmental entity, officer, or employee, the
district court must dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the
complaint which (a) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a
claim upon which relief may be granted, or (b) seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from monetary relief. See
28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
In determining whether a complaint states a claim for purposes
of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A the Court must apply the standards used to
address an adversarial motion to dismiss under FED. R. CIV. P.
12(b)(6). Under Rule 12(b)(6) a "complaint should not be
dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond
doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of
his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson,
355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). "The test for reviewing a 12(b)(6)
motion is whether under any reasonable reading of the pleadings,
plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Simon v. Cebrick,
53 F.3d 17, 19 (3d. Cir. 1995). Additionally, a prisoner whose complaint
fails to state a cause of action is entitled to amend his
complaint unless doing so would be inequitable or futile. See
Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir.
Although the complaint identifies a long list of grievances,
Plaintiff fails to allege that he himself has been subjected to
any of the actions underlying the grievances. Nor does Plaintiff
allege any injury. Consequently, he fails to establish standing. "In essence the question of standing is whether the litigant is
entitled to have the court decide the merits of the dispute or of
particular issues. Standing involves both constitutional and
prudential limitations on federal court jurisdiction." Storino
v. Borough of Point Pleasant Beach, 322 F.3d 293, 296 (3d Cir.
2003) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Constitutional limitations pursuant to Article III of the
U.S. Constitution include three elements:
(1) the Plaintiff must have suffered an injury in
fact an invasion of a legally protected interest
which is (a) concrete and particularized and (b)
actual or imminent, not conjectural or hypothetical;
(2) there must be a causal connection between the
injury and the conduct complained of the injury has
to be fairly traceable to the challenged action of
the defendant and not the result of independent
action of some third party not before the court; and
(3) it must be likely, as opposed to merely
speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a
Miller v. Nissan Motor Acceptance Corp., 362 F.3d 209
, 221 (3d
Cir. 2004). "The party invoking federal jurisdiction bears the
burden of establishing these elements." Lujan v. Defenders of
Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555
, 561 (1992).
The prudential principles are:
(1) the Plaintiff generally must assert his own legal
rights and interests, and cannot rest his claim to
relief on the legal rights or interests of third
parties; (2) even when the Plaintiff has alleged
redressable injury sufficient to meet the
requirements of Article III, the federal courts will
not adjudicate abstract questions of wide public
significance which amount to generalized grievances
shared and most appropriately addressed in the
representative branches; and (3) the Plaintiff's
complaint must fall within the zone of interests to
be protected or regulated by the statute or
constitutional guarantee in question.
Miller, 362 F.3d at 221. As applied to the present case, Plaintiff's allegations fail to
demonstrate injury in fact. "[T]he `injury in fact' test requires
more than an injury to a cognizable interest. It requires that
the party seeking review be himself among the injured.'" Mariana
v. Fisher, 338 F.3d 189, 206 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Lujan,
504 U.S. at 563). Moreover, the alleged injury must be concrete
and particularized, not conjectural or hypothetical. Plaintiff
fails to allege that he himself has been injured by the
generalized grievances listed in the Complaint, not to mention
the lack of allegations regarding causation and redressability.
"[A] litigant must clearly and specifically set forth facts
sufficient to satisfy [the] Art. III standing requirements. A
federal court is powerless to create its own jurisdiction by
embellishing otherwise deficient allegations of standing."
Whitmore v. Arkansas, 495 U.S. 149
, 155-56 (1990). Accordingly,
Plaintiff has failed to allege facts sufficient to establish
standing. Plaintiff fails to state a viable claim arising out of
his grievance procedure against the defendants and any attempt to
amend this claim would be futile.
Furthermore, the Eleventh Amendment to the United States
Constitution precludes suit against the named defendant state
agencies. Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity stands for two
propositions: "first, that each State is a sovereign entity in
our federal system; and second, that it is inherent in the nature
of sovereignty not to be amenable to the suit of an individual
without its consent." Seminole Tribe v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44,
54 (1996) (internal quotations omitted).*fn1 Thus, by virtue of the
Eleventh Amendment, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania cannot be sued in
federal court under state law. See 1 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §
2310. Moreover, "[t]he Eleventh Amendment's bar extends to suits
against departments or agencies of the state having no existence
apart from the state." Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25
(3d Cir. 1981) (citing Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Educ. v. Doyle,
429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977)).
Sovereign immunity may be waived by a state's consent, but the
waiver must be "unequivocally expressed." Pennhurst State Sch. &
Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99 (1984). The Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania has not consented to suit in this matter. See
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8521(b) (withholding consent to suit in
federal court). Accordingly, this suit is also subject to
dismissal on sovereign immunity grounds.*fn2 NOW, THEREFORE, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:
1. The above-captioned matter is DISMISSED pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915A for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted and for seeking relief from defendants immune from
suit in this Court.
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to mark this matter CLOSED.
3. The various motions filed by Plaintiff are dismissed as
4. Any appeal from this Order will be deemed frivolous, without
probable cause and not taken in good faith.
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