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Dent v. Fritts

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 10, 2013

MARVIN J. FRITTS, et al., Defendants.


WILLIAM W. CALDWELL, District Judge.

I. Introduction

On January 8, 2013, Robert Wilson Dent, an inmate at the Mahanoy State Correctional Institution, in Frackville, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se civil rights action alleging that in 2009 he was subjected to an illegal search and arrest by Marvin Fritts, a Lock Haven police officer. He also claims he was denied copies of the criminal complaints, probable cause affidavits, search warrants, and arrest warrants for two criminal prosecutions against him. He names Officer Fritts, Clinton County District Attorney Michael Salisbury, and Assistant District Attorney Rexroth as defendants. Dent does not seek damages, rather only injunctive relief, specifically, the "release [of] the affidavit of probable cause, and the search or arrest warrant" lodged against him in 2009. ( Id. )

Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis. We will grant that request. And because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, we will examine the complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) for legal sufficiency before authorizing service on the defendants.

In screening the Complaint, we will dismiss the action as time-barred. However, Dent will be provided the opportunity to show why his Complaint is timely.

II. Standard of Review

Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), the court must review a complaint filed in forma pauperis and dismiss it if it is frivolous or malicious, subsection (B)(i), fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, subsection (B)(ii), or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. Id. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(iii).

In applying subsection (B)(ii), the screening requirement for failure to state a claim, a court employs the standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). On a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, "[w]e accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'" Byers v. Intuit, Inc., 600 F.3d 286, 291 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoted case omitted). We may also rely on matters of public record. Delaware Nation v. Pennsylvania, 446 F.3d 410, 413 n.2 (3d Cir. 2006).

A complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). Nonetheless, a complaint has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955 at 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

Pro se pleadings are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings drafted by attorneys and are to be liberally construed. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007); Giles v. Kearney, 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). Pro se litigants are to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Phillips, 515 F.3d at 245-46 (citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004)). However, a complaint that sets forth facts which affirmatively demonstrate that the plaintiff has no right to recover is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002).

II. Background

On February 2, 2009, Officer Fritts of the Lock Haven Police Department arrested Dent and charged him with aggravated assault, among other offenses. (Doc. 1, Compl.; see also Commonwealth v. Dent, CP-18-CR-0000156-2009 (Clinton Cnty. Common Pleas Ct.) (docket)).[1] Dent alleges Officer Fritts entered his home on that date "without consent, without a search or arrest warrant, and absent exigent circumstances such as the presen[ce] of an alleged victim or [a] crime." (Doc. 1, Compl. ¶ 1).

At his arraignment the same day, he was not provided with a copy of the criminal complaint against him, the "supporting affidavit, " or the search or arrest warrant that led to his arrest. ( Id. ¶ 2). When he attended his preliminary hearing on March 31, 2009, on another criminal charge, he was again not provided with copies of the criminal complaint against him, supporting affidavits, or the search or arrest warrant in that case. ( Id. ).[2]

In No. 156, Dent pled guilty to aggravated assault on June 6, 2009, and was sentenced to 78 months to 20 years' imprisonment. In No. 150, the charges were dismissed, with a notation in the docket that dismissal was ...

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