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Davis v. Sunbury Police Dept.

December 15, 2008

CHARLES DAVIS, JR., PLAINTIFF
v.
SUNBURY POLICE DEPT., ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: James M. Munley United States District Court

(Judge Munley)

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Charles Davis, Jr. filed the instant pro se prisoner civil rights case on November 20, 2008. Along with the complaint, he filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. The court here provides the complaint with an initial screening.

Legal Standard

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d), we are permitted "to consider whether an in forma pauperis complaint is frivolous or malicious before authorizing issuance of the summons and service of the complaint." Urrutia v. Harrisburg County Police Dept., 91 F.3d 451, 453 (3d Cir. 1996). We may "dismiss as frivolous claims based on an indisputably meritless legal theory and whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990). We undertake such an evaluation before service of the complaint.

We find that plaintiff's complaint is frivolous. First, we note that plaintiff has indicated that his suit is against federal officials and is filed under 28 U.S.C. § 1331. A review of the complaint, however, indicates that the defendants are state officials and the proper statute to proceed under is 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides a remedy for the deprivation of civil rights by state actors. We will thus treat the complaint as a section 1983 complaint. Plaintiffs' complaint is comprised of five (5) claims. We will address each of his claims separately.

I. Claim One

In his first claim, plaintiff names as Defendants Police Officer Scott Hause of the Sunbury Police Department; Chad Riener, Sheriff, Northumberland County; District Magistrate Robert Bolten; Police Officer Christopher Brown, Sunbury Police Department; Chief Lockuff and Justin Harrington.

Plaintiff asserts that Defendant Hause is a police officer that he is accused of committing aggravated assault on. (Doc. 1, Complaint at 2). The claims against all of these defendants is quite unclear. He seems to complain that these officers arrived at his residence with a piece of paper from Judge Bolten's office informing him of a preliminary hearing. (Id.). This visit from the police evidently put plaintiff in fear of his life. (Id.). This factual recitation gives rise to no kind of constitutional claim against these defendants. Therefore, this claim will be dismissed as frivolous.

II. Claim Two

Plaintiff's second claim is against Pennsylvania State Trooper Ryan R. Maxwell; Vernon Petty, police officer with the Sunbury Police Department; John Henry Read, Chief Public Defender Snyder County; Pat Johnson, Public Defender; Snyder County District Magistrate Edward G. Mahalik, Jr. (Doc. 1, Complaint at 3)

Plaintiff asserts a claim for false arrest and false imprisonment against Maxwell. (Id.). In order to pursue these claims, plaintiff must first demonstrate, inter alia, that the criminal proceedings terminated in his favor. Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 349 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Lee v. Mihalich, 847 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1988)). These claims are frivolous as plaintiff is evidently still incarcerated regarding these charges.

Plaintiff asserts a claim of "ineffective assistance of counsel" against his public defender. (Doc. 1, Complaint at 3). A public defender, however, cannot be sued for civil rights violations under section 1983 as they do not act "under color of state law." See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981).

The final defendant in this claim, District Magistrate Edward Mahalik improperly issued an arrest warrant according to the plaintiff. (Doc. 1, Complaint at 3). As a judicial officer, however, Mahalik enjoys absolute judicial immunity from suit with regard to section 1983 when performing a judicial act such as approving a warrant. Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547, 553-54 (1967) (explaining that judges are absolutely ...


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