United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
November 9, 2005.
JEFFREY S. WADE, Plaintiff,
JEFFREY A. BEARD, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. CAPUTO, District Judge
Plaintiff, Jeffrey S. Wade, while an inmate at the State
Correctional Institution in Coal Township (SCI-Coal),
Pennsylvania, commenced this pro se action with a civil rights
complaint filed pursuant to the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff contemporaneously filed an application to proceed in
forma pauperis. The complaint spans a time period from March 7,
2001 through October 27, 2001, and includes a host of claims such
as denial of boots in the yard cage; denial of fresh soap; denial
of a shower "for no apparent reason"; deprivation of medical and
dental care; threats; excessive force; and retaliation. Plaintiff
requests declaratory, compensatory and punitive relief.
Subsequently, since the complaint fails to satisfy the
requirements for permissive joinder pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 20(a), Plaintiff was given an opportunity to file
an amended complaint in compliance with the requirements of Rule
20, and Plaintiff was notified that failure to comply would
result in the dismissal of all but his first claim. The time for
filing an amended complaint has long since expired, and Plaintiff
has failed to file an amended pleading. Accordingly, all claims
but Plaintiff's first count will be dismissed pursuant to the Court's prior Order. Moreover, for the following
reasons Plaintiff's remaining claim related to denial of boots in
the yard cage will be dismissed as frivolous pursuant to
28 U.S.C. § 1915.
A. Screening Requirements
The Prison Litigation Reform Act (the "Act") established new
procedures for prisoners' civil rights actions filed in federal
court. Under § 1915(e)(2) of the Act, the Court shall dismiss
claims by parties seeking to proceed in forma pauperis "if the
court determines that (B) the action or appeal (i) is
frivolous. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). Similarly, under
Section 1915A of the Act, the Court is required to screen civil
complaints by prisoners who seek redress from a governmental
entity, or employees or officers of a governmental entity, and
Section 1915A(b) requires courts to "dismiss the complaint . . .
if the complaint (1) is frivolous. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b).
The frivolousness determination applies equally to cases that are
factually frivolous and those that are legally frivolous.
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989). An action is
legally frivolous if it is based upon an indisputably meritless
legal theory. Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir.
1989). Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which
it is . . . readily apparent that the plaintiff's complaint lacks
an arguable basis in law. . . ." Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192,
194 (3d Cir. 1990). "[T]he frivolousness determination is a
discretionary one," and trial courts "are in the best position"
to determine when a complaint is appropriate for summary
dismissal. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). B. Section 1983 Standard
To state a viable § 1983 claim, Plaintiff must establish (1)
that the alleged wrongful conduct was committed by a person
acting under color of state law, and (2) that the conduct
deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured
by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Nicini v.
Morra, 212 F.3d 798, 806 (3d Cir. 2000). Both elements must be
present to sustain a § 1983 action, and Plaintiff fails to
satisfy the second.
C. Deliberate Indifference
The Constitutional issue implicated in this case is the Eighth
Amendment requirement that prison officials make reasonable
efforts to assure prisoner health and safety. Farmer v.
Brennan, 511 U.S. 825, 832 (1994). That duty is violated when
prison officials know of and disregard an excessive risk to
inmate health or safety. Id. at 837. In Estelle v. Gamble,
429 U.S. 97 (1976), the prisoner/plaintiff claimed that
inadequate medical treatment violated his Eighth Amendment
protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The Supreme Court
acknowledged that the government has an obligation to provide
adequate care to its prisoners, but held that a constitutional
violation does not occur unless the Plaintiff can show Defendants
had a "deliberate indifference to serious . . . needs of
prisoners" which constitutes "unnecessary and wanton infliction
of pain." Id. at 104 (citation omitted).
Plaintiff alleges that on March 7, 2001, while incarcerated at
SCI-Camp Hill, he signed up to use the exercise yard. When he
arrived in the vestibule, prior to entering the yard, he
requested "a pair of boots because of the snow and ice that was
inside the yard cages. . . ." (Doc. 1 at 5.) Although he was
denied boots and he was denied permission to return to his cell, Plaintiff fails to plead that any of the
Defendants were deliberately indifferent to serious needs which
constituted the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain. To the
contrary, Plaintiff alleges no pain, he does not plead that he
was required to leave the vestibule and enter the snow and ice,
and Plaintiff's complaint does not allege any hardship that would
violate the norms of a civilized society. Although there is no
heightened pleading requirement, Plaintiff's complaint is devoid
of any facts that would constitute unnecessary and wanton
infliction of pain. His allegation of one instance of denial of
boots for the yard does not rise to the level of Constitutional
deprivation sought to be prevented by § 1983. Accordingly,
Plaintiff's remaining count is legally frivolous, and it will be
dismissed under the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915. An
appropriate Order follows. ORDER
NOW, THEREFORE, THIS 9th DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2005, in
accordance with the foregoing memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
1. Plaintiff's complaint (Doc. 1) is DISMISSED as
legally frivolous under the provisions of
28 U.S.C. § 1915 and 28 U.S.C. § 1915A.
2. The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment
in favor of Defendants and against Plaintiff, and the
Clerk of Court shall mark this case closed.
3. Any appeal from this order will be deemed
frivolous, without probable cause, and not taken in
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