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Jasper Earl Sanders v. Erie County Courthouse

May 31, 2012


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


M.J. Susan Paradise Baxter

Procedural History

This action will be dismissed as legally frivolous in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §1915(e) and the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 1] will be dismissed as moot.

On May 29, 2012, Plaintiff filed the instant action. At the time of the filing of the complaint, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis, along with his institutional account statement from the Erie County Prison and an affidavit from the Deputy Warden indicating the authenticity of Plaintiff's account statement.

In his pro se complaint, Plaintiff names the following Defendants: Erie County Courthouse; Judge Shad Connelly; David Ungerman, Esquire, Public Defender; Elizabeth Hirz, Esquire, Chief Deputy District Attorney; and Nathaniel Strasser, Esquire, Assistant District Attorney. Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his constitutional rights by keeping him in the Erie County Prison for 229 days for a maximum sentence of 90 days on a parole violation. Plaintiff seeks monetary relief in the amount of one and one-half million dollars.

Standards of Review

1)The Prison Litigation Reform Act

On April 23, 1996, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (hereinafter, "Act"), Pub.L.No. 104-134, was enacted to amend 28 U.S.C. §1915, which establishes the criteria for allowing an action to proceed without payment of costs. Section 1915(e) as amended, states in relevant part: "The court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -- ...(B) the action or appeal --

(i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted..." A claim is frivolous if it: 1) is based upon an indisputably meritless legal theory and/or, 2) contains factual contentions that are clearly baseless. Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). A plaintiff has failed to allege a section 1983 claim if the court is satisfied "that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegation." Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). This Court has discretion to dismiss frivolous or malicious in forma pauperis complaints under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). Wilson v. Rackmill, 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989). The U.S. Supreme Court has instructed that section 1915 provides the Court with the authority "... to dismiss a claim based on an indisputably meritless theory, but also the unusual power to pierce the veil of the complaint's factual allegations and dismiss those claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless." Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327. In fact, the statute not only empowers the court to screen out frivolous cases before the complaint is served, it actually encourages it. Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 195-96 (3d Cir. 1990).

2)Pro Se Litigants

Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded," must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969)(petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance"); Smith v. U.S. District Court, 956 F.2d 295 (D.C.Cir. 1992); Freeman v. Department of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Company, 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990)(same). Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court will consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.


Even liberally construing the factual allegations of the complaint, this action will be ...

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