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Michael Kevin Brown v. Venango County

December 17, 2010


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


United States Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter


A. Relevant Procedural History

On October 22, 2009, Plaintiff Michael Kevin Brown, a former inmate at the Venango County Prison ("VCP") in Franklin, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are: Venango County ("Venango"); Gene Prise, Sheriff of Venango County ("Prise"); Major Smith, Warden at VCP ("Smith"); Amy Johnston, Venango County Public Defender ("Johnston"); John Doe, Business Office Manager at VCP ("J. Doe"); Debbie Bigley, Business Office Administrative Assistant at VCP ("Bigley"); Peggy Miller, Venango County Office of the Clerk of Court and Prothonotary ("Miller"); Cathy Lackatos, Jail Advocate at VCP ("Lackatos"); and four unnamed deputies, each identified as "Doe."

In his complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendants violated and/or conspired to violate his rights under the fourth, fifth, sixth, and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as his rights under the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9121, et seq. ("UCEA"), and the Interstate Agreement on Detainers Act, 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9101, et seq. ("IADA"), when he was transferred from the North Eastern Ohio Correction Center ("NEOCC") to VCP on or about April 16, 2009.

On May 7, 2010, Defendant Johnston filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a more definite statement [ECF No. 26], arguing that: (i) she is not a state actor and is, thus, immune from Plaintiff constitutional claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (ii) Plaintiff has no cognizable claim under either the UCEA or the IADA; and (iii) Plaintiff has otherwise failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.*fn2 Despite being given ample time to do so, Plaintiff has failed to file a response to Defendant Johnston's motion. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Relevant Factual History*fn3

On or about July 28, 2008, Plaintiff was stopped in the Borough of Sugar Creek, Venango County, Pennsylvania, and charged with driving under the influence ("DUI"), after which he was released on his own recognizance. (ECF No. 6, Complaint, at p. 2). As a result of the DUI charge, Plaintiff was found guilty of violating the terms of the federal supervised release he was serving from a prior conviction, which caused him to serve approximately four months in the Erie County Prison and the NEOCC. (Id.). After serving the four-month sentence, Plaintiff reported to the Sugar Creek Police Department to be "booked" on the DUI charge. (Id.). Plaintiff was thereafter released on December 15, 2008. On or about December 28, 2008, Plaintiff was arrested on a bench warrant issued by the Venango County Court of Common Pleas for his failure to appear at a scheduled hearing on the DUI charge. (Id.). Plaintiff posted bail and was released. In January 2009, Plaintiff appeared in the Venango County Court and entered a plea of "not guilty" to the DUI charge. (Id.).

On or about March 4, 2009, Plaintiff was arrested again for violating the terms of his federal supervised release and was ultimately sentenced to serve a term of nine months' imprisonment. (Id.). Plaintiff began serving the nine-month sentence at the Erie County Prison, but was then transferred to the NEOCC. (Id.). At that point, Plaintiff discovered that a bench warrant had been issued for his arrest in Venango County. He immediately contacted Defendant Johnston and asked her to have the bench warrant removed, which she did successfully. (Id.).

On or about April 16, 2009, Plaintiff was transferred from the NEOCC to VCP pursuant to an "Order for Transport," executed by the Court of Common Pleas of Venango County, which directed the Venango County Sheriff to transport Plaintiff to Venango County to appear at a call of the list on April 20, 2009. (Id.; ECF No. 6-1 at p. 6, ¶ 1). The Order specified that it was a "Writ of Habeas Corpus" that was authorized by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christine Sanner, Erie Branch of the U.S. Attorney's Office. (ECF NO. 6-1 at p. 6, ¶ 5). The Order further specified that Plaintiff was to be returned to the NEOCC upon completion of his court appearance. (Id. at ¶ 4).

On April 20, 2009, Plaintiff pled guilty to the DUI charge in Venango County and was sentenced on April 28, 2009, to serve a term of 3 to 6 months of incarceration to run concurrently with his federal sentence. (ECF No. 6-1 at p. 12). Plaintiff was later returned to the NEOCC on or about June 16, 2009. (ECF No. 6, Complaint, at p. 3; ECF No. 6-1 at p. 15).

Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Johnston, "acting alone and in collusion with" the other Defendants, "did in fact draft a document entitling it a "Motion to Transport" which was used to obtain custody, unlawful custody, of [Plaintiff], who was in federal custody, within a federal enclave, in another state, thus entitling him to all of the rights, state and federal that apply to him." (ECF No. 6, Complaint, at p. 3). As a result, Plaintiff claims that his rights under the UCEA and IADA were violated, and that he was "deprived of his 4th Amendment right to be free from unlawful seizure, of the 5th Amendment[] right to have formal proceeding initiated against him in a proper forum, the 6th Amendment[] guarantee of effective and adequate assistance of counsel in any and all phases of a criminal proceeding brought against him, and of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment." (Id.).

C. Standards of Review

1. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also ...

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