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Queen v. Kreamer

April 11, 2006

NICHOLAS J. QUEEN, PLAINTIFF
v.
GARY S. KREAMER, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Richard P. Conaboy United States District Judge

Background

MEMORANDUM

Nicholas J. Queen, an inmate presently confined at the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania (USPLewisburg), initiated this pro se civil rights action. Along with his complaint, Plaintiff has submitted a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Queen's action will be dismissed, without prejudice, as legally frivolous pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

Named as sole Defendant is USP-Lewisburg Correctional Officer Gary S. Kreamer. Plaintiff states that on March 1, 2006, he was walking "through the institutional corridor" when the Defendant "confronted" him and ordered the prisoner to undergo a pat down search. Doc. 1, ¶ 7. Queen indicates that he submitted to the search and that Officer Kreamer refused to answer his questions regarding the basis for the search. After the search was completed, Plaintiff was allowed to proceed down the corridor. On March 6, 2006, the Defendant allegedly entered Queen's cell, woke him up in a loud and intimidating voice and ordered him to report to the Lieutenant's office "for prehearing detention." Id. at ¶ 8.

The complaint indicates that after reporting to the Lieutenant's office, Plaintiff was issued a misconduct charging him with failing to perform work as instructed and placed in "detention mandated for disciplinary proceedings." Id. at ¶ 9. The next day, Queen was again "subjected to prehearing detention at the institutional Counselor's office." Id. at ¶ 11. Plaintiff maintains that his placement in prehearing detention violated his rights under the Eighth Amendment.

Following a hearing before the Unit Disciplinary Committee (UDC), the Plaintiff was acquitted of the misconduct charge and released from prehearing detention.*fn2 Queen alleges that the Defendant "arbitrarily and capriciously" issued him a misconduct in retaliation and thereby violated his due process rights. Id. at ¶ 10. His complaint seeks compensatory and punitive damages for physical, mental and emotional injuries.

Discussion

28 U.S.C. § 1915 imposes obligations on prisoners who file civil actions in federal court and wish to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, e.g., that the full filing fee ultimately must be paid (at least in a non-habeas suit) § 1915(e)(2)provides:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

When considering a complaint accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a district court may rule 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). Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which either it is readily apparent that the plaintiff's complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or that the defendants are clearly entitled to immunity from suit ... ." Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Sultenfuss v. Snow, 894 F.2d 1277, 1278 (11th Cir. 1990)).

The United States 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). It also has been determined that "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, 504 U.S. at 33.

Mental and Emotional Injury

Queen alleges that he suffered mental and emotional injuries as a result of the Defendant's alleged conduct. Although Plaintiff also contends that he suffered physical injury, there are no alleged physical injuries described in the complaint.

42 U.S.C. § 1997e(e) provides that "[n]o federal civil action may be brought by a prisoner confined in a jail, prison or other correctional facility, for mental or emotional injury suffered while in custody without a prior showing of physical injury." In Allah v. Al-Hafeez, 226 F.3d 247,250 (3d Cir. 2000), the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recognized that where a plaintiff fails to allege actual injury, Section 1997e(e) bars recovery of compensatory damages. However, the Court added that an inmate alleging a violation ...


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