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Ramos v. Pennsylvania Dep't of: Corrections

July 27, 2006

MARIO G. RAMOS, PLAINTIFF
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Background

Mario G. Ramos ("Plaintiff"), an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Coal Township, Pennsylvania ("SCI-Coal Twp."), initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint is accompanied by a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.*fn1 For the reasons set forth below, Ramos' complaint will be dismissed, without prejudice, as legally frivolous pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i).

Named as Defendants are the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections ("DOC"), and two of its officials, Secretary Jeffrey Beard and Chief Grievance Officer Sharon M. Burks. Plaintiff is also proceeding against the following SCI-Coal Twp. Officials, Superintendent Joseph Piazza; Captain Michael Miller; Notary Public James O. Lindberg; and School Principal Elizabeth Hnylanski. The complaint initially states that on or about August, 2005, Plaintiff "presented Mr. Beard with status of sovereign person #200438757 from Pedro A. Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania." Record document no. 1, ¶ IV(1). Ramos generally contends that Secretary Beard did not acknowledge his submission.

Plaintiff next claims that Defendant Lindberg refused to notarize and copy an affidavit and other "lawful paperwork" on November 16, 2005. Id. In response, Ramos initiated an administrative grievance which was denied by Captain Miller on November 22, 2005. On March 16, 2006, Lindberg again allegedly refused Plaintiff's request to have documents notarized and copied. Plaintiff filed another grievance which was denied by Defendant Hnylanski on April 7, 2006, by Superintendent Piazza on April 17, 2006, and thereafter by Defendant Burks. He concludes that the Defendants' actions: denied him access to the courts, are unconstitutional, discriminatory, and constitute an act of slavery. As relief, Plaintiff seeks compensation and injunctive relief including a change in the DOC's policy "on U.C.C." Id. at ¶ V, (1).

Discussion

28 U.S.C. § 1915 imposes obligations on prisoners who file civil actions in federal court and wish to proceed in forma pauperis. § 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.

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).*fn2 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).

DOC

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). Pursuant to the above standards, the DOC is clearly not a person and may not be sued under § 1983.

Respondeat Superior

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).

Civil rights claims cannot be premised on a theory of respondeat superior. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Rather, each named defendant must be shown, via the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences which underlie a claim. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); ...


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