United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.
I. Statement of Facts and of The Case
This pro se civil rights case was filed by the plaintiff, a federal prisoner, on January 27, 2014. (Doc. 1) Robertson's complaint was characterized as a civil rights tort action against federal officials, and names the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the Warden of the United States Penitentiary, Lewisburg, and the Commissioner of the Maryland Department of Corrections as defendants. (Id.) While Robertson names these three defendants, the factual narrative in his complaint makes no reference to any of the named defendants. Moreover, that factual narrative does not contain a clearly identifiable prayer for relief. Instead, Robertson's complaint simply states as follows:
Steadily there has been a disruptive flow of me ordering and receiving Maryland State legal materials. Staff with inmates tamper with my ordering/obtaining legal materials which hamper my civil and criminal appeal filings. To receive equality as all other prisoners under the constitution a level playing field needs to be established in fairness that isn't as of right now.
( Id., p.4.)
While we liberally construe this complaint as alleging a violation of Robertson's right of access to the courts, we are unable to determine what relief Robertson seeks, and we cannot identify how the defendants named in this action are alleged to be personally culpable for this conduct, since Robertson has made not factual allegations relating to these officials. Nor can we identify with any specificity how Robertson's access to the courts was actually impeded in this case.
Robertson has not paid the filing fee required by law, and apparently seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons set forth below, we will grant Robertson leave to proceed in forma pauperis, but as part of our legally-mandated screening review we find that Robertson has failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Therefore, we recommend that the Court dismiss this complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, but without prejudice to allowing the plaintiff to attempt to correct the deficiencies noted in this report and recommendation by filing an amended complaint.
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 to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).
With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing ...