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SANDERS v. SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY JAIL

November 8, 2005.

ERNEST SANDERS, Plaintiff
v.
SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY JAIL, ET AL., Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHARD CONABOY, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Background

Ernest Sanders initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on November 2, 2005. Since the required filing fee has been paid, Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis will be denied as moot. For the reasons set forth below, Sanders' complaint will be dismissed, without prejudice, as legally frivolous pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.

  Named as Defendants are the Susquehanna County Jail, Montrose, Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Police and Susquehanna County. Plaintiff generally states that "they have falsely imprisoned me 3 times so far." Doc. 1, ¶ 3. Attached to the complaint is a copy of criminal complaint (CR. 31-04) filed against the Plaintiff in 2004. Sanders has also submitted a copy of a letter wherein he alleges that Susquehanna officials have subjected him to harassment over the past four (4) years. His letter indicates that on one occasion he was jailed for ninety (90) days on charges which were eventually dropped. Next, Sanders asserts that he was incarcerated for approximately ten (10) months until he was acquitted following a jury trial. Plaintiff adds that he is presently facing criminal charges (CR. 31-04) which are also allegedly baseless. His complaint also claims that his court appointed public defender has been providing him with ineffective assistance and is insisting that he enter a guilty plea to CR. 31-04. As relief, Sanders seeks "a serious investigation into this county and there [sic] officials." Id. at ¶ 4.

  Discussion

  As previously noted, Plaintiff has paid the required filing fee. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A provides in pertinent part:
(a) Screening. — The court shall review . . . a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for dismissal. — On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint —
(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
  A district court may determine that process should not be issued if the complaint is malicious, presents an indisputably meritless legal theory, or is predicated on clearly baseless factual contentions. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989).*fn1 The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has added that "the plain meaning of `frivolous' authorizes the dismissal of in forma pauperis claims that . . . are of little or no weight, value, or importance, not worthy of serious consideration, or trivial." Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1083 (3d Cir. 1995). "The frivolousness determination is a discretionary one," and trial courts "are in the best position" to determine when an indigent litigant's complaint is appropriate for summary dismissal. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).

  A plaintiff, in order to state a viable civil rights claim under § 1983, must plead two essential elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995); Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990).

  Pennsylvania State Police

  The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a § 1983 action brought against a "State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit." Alabama v. Pugh, 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has likewise concluded that the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole could not be sued because "it is not a `person' within the meaning of Section 1983." Thompson v. Burke, 556 F.2d 231, 232 (3d Cir. 1977).

  In Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58 (1989), the Supreme Court reiterated its position that state agencies are not "persons" subject to liability in § 1983 actions brought in federal court. The Court noted that a § 1983 suit against a state official's office was "no different from a suit against the State itself." Id. at 71. "Will establishes that the State and arms of the State, which have traditionally enjoyed Eleventh Amendment immunity, are not subject to suit under § 1983 in either federal or state court." Howlett v. Rose, 496 U.S. 356, 365 (1990). See also Bolden v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transp. Auth., 953 F.2d 807, 818 (3d Cir. 1991).

  It is clear that under Will and Bolden, the Pennsylvania State Police is not a "person" for the purpose of § 1983 and, therefore, not a properly named defendant.

  Susquehanna County Jail

  A prison or correctional facility is also not a person within the meaning of § 1983. See Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973); Philogene v. Adams County Prison, Civ. No. 97-0043, slip op. at p. 4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 30, 1997) (Rambo, C.J.); Sponsler v. Berks County Prison, Civ. A. 95-1136, 1995 WL 92370, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 1995). Pursuant to the above standards, the Susquehanna County Jail is likewise not a ...


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