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Bianca Bucano, and Melissa Bucano v. Judge Jennifer Sibum

June 25, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Conaboy)

(Magistrate Judge Blewitt)


Here we consider the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt in which he recommends that Plaintiffs' Complaint be dismissed as to all claims and all Defendants. (Doc. 10 at 35.) In the underlying action, pro se Plaintiffs Bianca and Melissa Bucano (mother and daughter respectively) filed a form 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Complaint against the following Defendants: Judge Jennifer Sibum of the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas; the Monroe County Correctional Facility ("MCCF"); the Monroe County Courthouse; the Pennsylvania Attorney General, Insurance Division; Jennifer Harrison, Investigator with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office; and Mark Bellavia, Deputy Pennsylvania Attorney General ("DAG"). (Doc. 10 at 2.)

Magistrate Judge Blewitt filed his Report and Recommendation on April 23, 2012. (Doc. 10.) The filing included the appropriate notice regarding the filing of objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 10 at 36-37.)

On May 7, 2012, Plaintiffs filed a document in this Court which was docketed as objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 15.) A review of this document shows that it does not contain objections to the Report and Recommendation. Rather, the filing complains of many aspects of Plaintiffs' Monroe County criminal trial, raises some claims which were raised in Plaintiffs' Complaint, and raises other unrelated matters. The envelope in which the document was mailed is addressed to the "Office of the Clerk" of this Court, "Attn: Habeas Corpus Petition." (Doc. 15-2 at 9.) Because neither the content nor the form of Plaintiff's filing show it to be directed at Magistrate Judge Blewitt's Report and Recommendation, we will not construe it as objections. Rather, we will review the Report and Recommendation using the standard required when no objections are filed.

When a magistrate judge makes a finding or ruling on a motion or issue, his determination should become that of the court unless objections are filed. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150-53 (1985). Moreover, when no objections are filed, the district court is required only to review the record for "clear error" prior to accepting a magistrate judge's recommendation. See Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 378 (M.D. Pa. 1998). However, when objections are filed to a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, the district judge makes a de novo review of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made. See Cippolone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 822 F.2d 335, 340 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 976 (1987).

Because no objections have been filed, we employ the clear error standard of review.*fn1 For the reasons discussed below, we adopt the Report and Recommendation as modified, dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 1), and allow Plaintiffs to file an amended complaint as limited by this Memorandum and the simultaneously filed Order.

I. Background

Plaintiffs' Complaint (Doc. 1) presents primarily rambling accusations unaccompanied by factual support. Reading the Complaint very liberally, Magistrate Judge Blewitt identified potential claims. (See Doc. 10.) In the absence of objection to the Report and Recommendation, we will not repeat the recitation of the Complaint's allegations reviewed. (Doc. 10 at 6-11.)

By way of general background, both Plaintiffs were confined at the Monroe County Correctional Facility when they filed this action pro se on April 3, 2012. (Doc. 1.) It appears that the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office prosecuted Bianca Bucano and her daughter Melissa Bucano for several counts of insurance fraud and related offenses.*fn2 Defendant Harrison investigated the case and is listed on the Pennsylvania docket as the arresting officer. The trial was scheduled to commence on April 16, 2012, before Defendant Judge Sibum in the Monroe County Court of Common Pleas. (Doc. 10 at 2 n.3.) Judge Sibum handled most of the pretrial matters about which Plaintiffs complain. (Doc. 1.) It further appears from the Pennsylvania docket that both Plaintiffs were found guilty of several counts on April 25, 2012, and are awaiting sentencing. They remain incarcerated at the Monroe County Correctional Facility.


As a general matter, Magistrate Judge Blewitt finds that Plaintiffs' Complaint is in clear violation of the pleading standard set out in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (See Doc. 8 at 13.) We concur with this assessment.

A. Screening Plaintiff's Claims

1. Confinement and Medical Care Claims

We concur with Magistrate Judge Blewitt that, as pretrial detainees, Plaintiffs' claims related to confinement and medical care brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 are brought under the Fourteenth Amendment. (Doc. 10 at 16-17.) We will review the appropriate standard in our discussion of the specific claim asserted.

a. Melissa Bucano's Confinement

We agree with the Report and Recommendation that Plaintiffs' Complaint fails to state a claim regarding the confinement of Plaintiff Melissa Bucano. However, for the reasons discussed below, we do not concur that allowing amendment of the claim would be futile.

Plaintiffs assert that Plaintiff Melissa Bucano is being abused mentally at the Monroe County Correctional Facility by the direct orders of Defendant Judge Sibum. (Doc. 1 at 1.) Other allegations regarding Melissa's confinement include the following: she was on suicide watch from "12/13-12/20" and in "'B' Status in G Unit both for no reason and to pressure her to take guilty plea" (Doc. 1 at 2) and in retaliation for her refusal to sign a guilty plea (Doc. 2 at 6); the specified confinements were at Judge Sibum's "request [to] the Warden" (Doc. 1 at 2); she remained in G Unit at the time the Complaint was filed on April 3, 2012 (id.); and she is the only inmate to be held in G Unit in a cell for twenty-two (22) hours per day (Doc. 2 at 5).

A pretrial detainee's challenge to the conditions of her confinement is, as noted above, brought under the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment rather than the Eighth Amendment which would be applicable to such a claim brought by a convicted prisoner. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 535-36 (1979). Under the due process clause, "the proper inquiry is whether the [challenged] conditions amount to punishment of the detainee." Id. at 535. "Thus, sentenced prisoners are protected from only punishment that is 'cruel and unusual,' while pretrial detainees are protected from any punishment." Burton v. Kindle, 401 F. App'x 635, 637 (3d Cir. 2010) (not precedential) (quoting Hubbard v. Taylor, 399 F.3d 150, 166-67 (3d Cir. 2005)). "In order to determine whether the challenged conditions of pre-trial confinement amount to punishment, '[a] court must ...

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