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Johnston v. Onorato

February 22, 2010

RONALD JOHNSTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHIEF EXEC. DAN ONORATO, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Bissoon

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Ronald Johnston is a state prisoner currently incarcerated in the State Correctional Institution at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, who asserts that his constitutional rights were violated while he was a pre-trial detainee at the Allegheny County Jail ("Jail"). Plaintiff was granted leave to file an Amended Complaint, and he did so January 22, 2010 (Doc. 9).

Plaintiff‟s cell was searched on May 3, 2007, and officers noted that someone had tampered with the window in his cell. A make-shift rope and sharp implements were found adjacent to Plaintiff‟s cell. Plaintiff alleges that Jail personnel assaulted him, denied him medical treatment, and falsely accused him of attempting to escape for which he was sentenced to four months disciplinary custody. He also asserts that he was improperly denied communication with counsel representing him in a child custody matter during his time in disciplinary custody. Finally, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Usner, a police detective, maliciously prosecuted him for attempted escape and presented false testimony at a preliminary hearing and at trial.

Plaintiff has filed a second Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) wherein he asserts that he has learned the name of an additional Defendant, William L. Emerick, who was the grievance officer who "failed to respond" to Plaintiff‟s grievances at the Allegheny County Jail. Plaintiff also seeks to withdraw claims against Defendant Pofi in his third Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint (Doc. 20). Defendants have filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 14) asserting that Plaintiff‟s claims are time-barred, and Plaintiff has responded (Doc. 19).

The parties have consented to the undersigned exercising jurisdiction in this case (Docs. 5, 16).

A. Applicable Standard

1. Amendments

Rule 15(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs amendments to pleadings. Plaintiff has already amended his Complaint once. Any further amendment requires leave of court, which should be "freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Grounds that may justify a denial of leave to amend include "undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, prejudice, and futility." In re Burlington Coat Factory Secs. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997) (citations omitted). "In assessing "futility,‟ the district court applies the same standard as applies under Rule 12(b)(6)." Id.

2. Dismissal

Dismissal is appropriate under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) if, reading the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and accepting all factual allegations as true, no relief could be granted under any "reasonable reading of the complaint" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). A complaint must be dismissed even if the claim to relief is "conceivable." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). Rather a plaintiff must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, U.S., 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

B. Analysis.

1. Statute of Limitations

Plaintiff‟s claims against all Defendants save Defendant Usner arise from events occurring on May 3, 2007, and his subsequent placement in the Disciplinary Housing Unit ("DHU") at the Jail for the ensuing four months. The Complaint in this case was received by the Clerk on December 22, 2009, and is dated December 3, 2009.

The limitations period for actions brought under Section 1983 is determined by state law. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 272-76 (1985). Pennsylvania applies a two-year statute of limitations to civil rights actions brought pursuant Section 1983. 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. ยง 5524; ...


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