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Shawn Michael Ledcke v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

February 3, 2012

SHAWN MICHAEL LEDCKE
PLAINTIFF,
v.
PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



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

(Judge Jones)

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case.

This is a pro se civil rights action which was first brought by Shawn Ledcke, an inmate who was formerly housed in the Lackawanna County Prison, through the filing a civil complaint on December 12, 2011. (Doc. 1) While this first pleading was captioned as a complaint, Ledcke's initial pro se pleading was, in reality, something less than an actual civil rights complaint. Rather, it is a demand for pre-complaint discovery from the defendants. (Id.)

In this pleading, Ledcke indicated that he had sent "FOIA/PA" requests to the defendants for wide-ranging materials, including audio and videotapes, as well as production of documents, but had received no response from these officials. Asserting that he desired this information because he may at some time in the future file a civil rights complaint, Ledcke urged this Court to compel the defendants to respond to his "FOIA/PA" requests. While Ledcke did not further explain what he meant by these "FOIA/PA" requests, it appeared that Ledcke was relying upon the federal Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, 5 U.S.C. §§551-552a, to endeavor to compel these local authorities to produce these materials for him prior to even filing a federal lawsuit.

Along with this complaint, the plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2) On January 9, 2012, as part of our statutorily mandated screening process for pro se in forma pauperis litigants, we granted this motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, (Doc. 2), but recommended that the Court dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, without prejudice to allowing the plaintiff to attempt to correct the deficiencies noted in this report and recommendation by filing an amended complaint. (Doc. 8)

Upon receipt of this report and recommendation, on January 27, 2012, Ledcke filed an amended complaint, which named the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, the Lackawanna County Sheriffs's Office, the Lackawanna County Prison, and the prison warden as defendants. (Doc. 9) This amended complaint repeated Ledcke's explanation that he had sent requests to the defendants for wide-ranging materials, including audio and videotapes, as well as production of documents, but had received no responses from these officials. Ledcke, once again, explained that he was seeking this information because he may at some time in the future wish to file a lawsuit against state officials, but his current amended complaint contains no civil rights claims against any state officials. Instead, Ledcke's amended complaint further explained what he initially meant by these "FOIA/PA" requests he had propounded on state and local officials. It appears from the amended complaint that Ledcke is attempting to rely both upon the federal Freedom of Information and Privacy Acts, 5 U.S.C. §§551-552a, and Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law, 65 Pa.C.S. §67.101, et seq., to endeavor to compel these state and local authorities to produce these materials for him prior to even filing a federal lawsuit.

We have now reviewed this amended complaint, and find that it, too, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Accordingly, we recommend that the amended complaint also be dismissed.

II. Discussion

A. Screening of Pro Se In forma Pauperis Complaints--Standard of Review

This Court has an on-going statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by plaintiffs given leave to proceed in forma pauperis in cases which seek redress against government officials. Specifically, we are obliged to review the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A which provides, in pertinent part:

(a) Screening. - The court shall review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity.

(b) Grounds for dismissal. - On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or

(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

Under Section 1915A, the Court must assess whether a pro se complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." This statutory text mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure ...


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