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Snow v. United States

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 13, 2013

CHANDAR A. SNOW, Plaintiff
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, et al., Defendants


THOMAS M. BLEWITT, Magistrate Judge.


On March 27, 2013, Plaintiff Chandar A. Snow[1], an inmate at USP-Lewisburg located in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, filed, pro se, this instant Bivens [2] civil action, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331. (Doc. 1). On March 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to proceed in forma pauperis and used an improper form. (Doc. 2). On April 8, 2013 Plaintiff filed a second Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis using the proper form. (Doc. 5). The Court has jurisdiction over his Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and 1343(a)(3). (Doc. 1, p. 1). On April 16, 2013, we screened Plaintiff's Complaint in accordance with § 1915 of the PLRA and issued a Report and Recommendation recommending the following:

1. DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Plaintiff's claims for monetary damages to the extent they are against Defendants in their official capacities.
2. DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Defendants BOP Regional Director Samuels and United States of America.
3. DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE Plaintiff's claim that he was wrongfully charged and convicted by the DHO of threatening his cell-mate.
4. DISMISS WITH PREJUDICE Plaintiff's request for Declaratory Judgment.
5. DISMISS WITHOUT PREJUDICE Defendant Warden Bledsoe.
6. ALLOW PLAINTIFF TO AMEND his Eighth Amendment excessive force claim, his Eighth Amendment denial of access to medical care claim, and his First Amendment denial of access to courts claim in order to properly allege the personal involvement of each prison official regarding each claim.

(Doc. 8).

On July 17, 2013, the Court adopted our Report and Recommendation. (Doc. 10). The Court further granted Plaintiff's in forma pauperis Motion. ( Id. ). On September 23, 2013, Plaintiff filed an appeal to the Third Circuit regarding the Court's July 17, 2013 Order docketed as USCA Case Number 13-3979 which is currently pending. (Docs. 14, 16). After extensions of time were granted, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on October 21, 2013. We will now screen Plaintiff's Amended Complaint in accordance with § 1915 of the PLRA. Also, on October 21, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction and Brief in support of same[3]. (Docs. 17, 18).



The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995, [4] (the "PLRA"), obligates the Court to engage in a screening process when a prisoner wishes to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Specifically, § 1915(e)(2), which was created by § 805(a)(5) of the Act, provides:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal (i) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.


A Bivens civil rights action under § 1331 has the same standards as does a § 1983 civil rights action. In Naranjo v. Martinez, 2009 WL 4268598, *6 (M.D. Pa.), the Court stated:

Bivens creates no substantive rights, but rather allows "a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest [to] invoke the general federal-question jurisdiction of the district court to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504, 98 S.Ct. 2894, 57 L.Ed.2d 895 (1978). A civil rights claim brought under Bivens is the federal counterpart to an action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and the same legal principles governing a § 1983 claim apply to a Bivens claim. Brown v. Philip Morris Inc., 250 F.3d 789, 800 (3d Cir.2001); Paton v. LaPrade, 524 F.2d 862, 871 (3d Cir.1975); Cyrus v. Hogsten, No. 06-2265, 2007 WL 88745, at *3 (M.D.Pa. Jan.9, 2007). To state a claim under Bivens, the plaintiff must show that the defendant, acting under color of Federal law, deprived him of a right secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Brown, 250 F.3d at 800; Cyrus, 2007 WL 88745, at *3.
Civil rights claims may only be brought against "persons." 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Individual liability in a civil rights action is personal in nature, and a defendant is liable only if he was personally, affirmatively involved in the alleged malfeasance. C.N. v. Ridgewood Bd. of Educ., 430 F.3d 159, 173 (3d Cir.2005); Robinson v. City of Pittsburgh, 120 F.3d 1286, 1294 (3d Cir.1997), abrogated in part on other grounds by Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White, 548 U.S. 53, 126 S.Ct. 2405, 165 L.Ed.2d 345 (2006) (citing Rhode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir.1988). Further, "[b]ecause vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a plaintiff must plead that each Government-official defendant, through the official's own individual actions, has violated the constitution." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1948, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (collecting cases).

It is well-established that personal liability in a civil rights action cannot be imposed upon an official based on a theory of respondeat superior. See, e.g., Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 1546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d Cir. 1976); Parratt, supra. It is also well-settled in the Third Circuit that personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a requirement in a civil rights case and that a complaint must allege such personal involvement. Id. Each named defendant must be shown, through the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences upon which Plaintiff's claims are based. Id. As the Court stated in Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1998):

A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs.... [P]ersonal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate particularity. (Citations omitted).

A civil rights complaint must state time, place, and responsible persons. Id. Courts have also held that an allegation seeking to impose liability on a defendant based on supervisory status, without more, will not subject the official to liability. See Rode, 845 F.2d at 1208.

In screening a Complaint under the PLRA, the Court uses the same standard that it uses to determine a Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss. See Banks v. County of Allegheny, 568 F.Supp.2d 579, 588 (W.D. Pa. 2008).


In Reisinger v. Luzerne County, 712 F.Supp.2d 332, 343-344 (M.D. Pa. 2010), the Court stated:

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently set out the appropriate standard applicable to a motion to dismiss in light of the United States Supreme Court's decisions Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 433 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). "[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true to state a claim that relief is plausible on its face.'" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at 1950. Moreover, it continued, "[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. (citation omitted). McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir.2009). The Circuit Court discussed the ...

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