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Oritz v. Prison Board Members

October 7, 2009

ALBERT JUAN ORITZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PRISON BOARD MEMBERS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Thomas I. Vanaskie United States District Judge

(Judge Vanaskie)

MEMORANDUM

Background

Albert Juan Oritz, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Camp Hill, Pennsylvania (SCI-Camp Hill), proceeding pro se, filed this civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.§ 1983. (Dkt. Entry # 1.) Along with his complaint, Ortiz has submitted an application requesting leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Dkt. Entry # 2.)

This matter regards events which purportedly transpired during Plaintiff's prior confinement at the Dauphin County Prison, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Named as Defendants are the City of Harrisburg and its Mayor; the Dauphin County Prison, the Dauphin County Prison Board and various Dauphin County Prison employees. Plaintiff contends that he was subjected to unconstitutional conditions of confinement*fn1 and that Defendants violated his constitutional rights of access to the courts and freedom of speech.

The complaint is currently before the Court for preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(b).*fn2 For the reasons that follow, Ortiz's complaint will be dismissed in part without prejudice.

Discussion

When considering a complaint accompanied by a motion to proceed informapauperis, a district court may rule that process should not issue 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), Douris v. Middleton Township, 293 Fed. Appx. 130, 132 (3d Cir. 2008). 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)).

Dauphin County Prison

As previously noted, one of the named Defendants is the Dauphin County Prison. However, a prison or correctional facility is not a person within the meaning of § 1983. See Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973); Thompkins v. Doe, No. 99-3941, slip op. at 3 (3d Cir. March 16, 2000); Philogene v. Adams County Prison, Civ. No. 97-0043, slip op. at p. 4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 30, 1997)(Rambo, C.J.); Sponsler v. Berks County Prison, Civ. A. 95-1136, 1995 WL 92370, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 1995). It is thus clear that the Dauphin County Prison is not a properly named Defendant in this matter.

City of Harrisburg / Mayor Reed

Also named as Defendants are the City of Harrisburg and Mayor Reed. A plaintiff, in order to state an actionable 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 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). 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); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077 (3d Cir. 1976).

A municipal body or other local governmental unit, not part of a state for Eleventh Amendment purposes, may be a "person" subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978)("Congress did intend municipalities and other local government units to be included among those persons to whom § 1983 applies.") "Local governing bodies, like every other § 1983 'person,' by the very terms of the statute, may be sued for constitutional deprivations visited pursuant to governmental 'custom' even though such a custom has not received formal approval through the body's official decisionmaking channels." Id. See also Board of County Comm'rs ...


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