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Pruden v. Pennsylvania State Prison System

September 25, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


I. Background

Plaintiff, Ronald Pruden, an inmate at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania, commenced this pro se action with a civil rights complaint filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 (Doc. 1). Plaintiff contemporaneously filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2). Because the complaint does not comply with Rule 8 and Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the complaint will be dismissed, and Plaintiff will be afforded an opportunity to submit an amended complaint in compliance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. Discussion

Pro se parties are accorded substantial deference in federal court, and their pleadings are construed liberally. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972); Hughes v. Rowe, 449 U.S. 5, 9 (1980). They are not, however, free to ignore the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Although there is no heightened pleading standard in § 1983 cases,*fn1 a § 1983 complaint must bear some relation to the rules. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that a complaint contain a short and plain statement setting forth (1) the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction rests, (2) the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief sought by the pleader. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).

Plaintiff utilized a form for filing a civil rights complaint. He listed as Defendants all of the institutions in which he has been incarcerated. In the "Statement of Claim" section of Plaintiff's complaint, Plaintiff states generally that he has undergone eight years of intentional infliction of pain and four years in the Restricted Housing Unit. (Doc. 1, ¶ 2). He further alleges that "they" do not understand his medical condition and refuse Plaintiff medication and medical services. (Id. at ¶¶ 3 and 6). Plaintiff appears to ask the Court to order the prison to stop assaulting him and to bring in a neurologist to properly diagnose Plaintiff's medical condition. (Id. at 3, ¶¶ 1-3).

Plaintiff's complaint does not list proper Defendants. A prison is not a "person" which is amenable to suit within the meaning of §1983. Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64, 70, 109 S.Ct. 2304 (1989). Thus, Plaintiff needs to list each Defendant by name in accordance with Rule 10(a). Further, Plaintiff's complaint lacks specific allegations of time and place, and the complaint fails to identify the Defendant(s) allegedly committing the wrongful acts which are the basis of his claim. "A complaint which contains a bare bones allegation that a wrong occurred and which does not plead any of the facts giving rise to the injury, does not provide adequate notice." Walker v. South Central Bell Telephone Co., 904 F.2d 275, 277 (5th Cir. 1990). Thus, even if the Defendants were clearly identified, the complaint precludes a meaningful response from Defendants, and it fails to satisfy the notice pleading requirements of Rule 8. Alston v. Simmon, 363 F.3d 229, 233 (3d Cir. 2004). Additionally, the complaint is accompanied by an application to proceed in forma pauperis filed pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"). The PLRA contains a provision requiring the court to screen all proceedings that are filed in forma pauperis. Because Plaintiff's complaint is not in compliance with the Rules, the court cannot adequately screen this pleading as required by 28 U. S. C. § 1915.*fn2

Similarly, the complaint fails to meet the requirements of Rule 10. While Plaintiff attempted to use numbered paragraphs, the contents of each are not limited to a statement of a single set of circumstances, as required. This non-compliance is not merely a technical defect, but frustrates the purpose of the Rules to "secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action." Fed. R. Civ. P. 1. There is no way for the Defendants to understand the allegations for preparation of a proper response. The lack of numbered paragraphs also precludes a point of reference for the Defendants' answer(s).

Accordingly, the complaint is subject to sua sponte dismissal by the Court for failure to comply with Rules 8 and 10. Such dismissal will be ordered with leave to file an amended complaint. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002). Plaintiff is reminded that the amended complaint must be complete in all respects. It must be a new pleading which stands by itself without reference to the complaint already filed. Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1198 (M. D. Pa. 1992). Such amended complaint should set forth Plaintiff's claims in short, concise and plain statements, and in numbered paragraphs. It should specify each Defendant by name. Further, it should specify which actions are alleged as to which Defendants, with specificity as to time, and it should set forth a specification of the relief sought. If Plaintiff fails to file an amended complaint adhering to the standards set forth above, this case will be closed.


AND NOW, this 25th day of September, 2007, for the reasons set forth in the foregoing memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT:

1) Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2) is construed as a motion to proceed without pre-payment of fees and costs, and the motion is GRANTED.

2) Within twenty (20) days from the date of this Order, Plaintiff may file an amended complaint in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

3) Failure to submit an amended complaint in accordance with the attached memorandum will result in ...

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