United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.
It is respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 1] should be granted and the Complaint be dismissed with prejudice pursuant to the screening provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act.
A. Procedural History
This civil action was filed in this Court on January 14, 2014. Plaintiff, an inmate presently in state custody and acting pro se, brought this civil rights action against the following Defendants: City of Erie Police Department, Judge Thomas Carney, Judge John Bozza, Judge Ernest Disantis, Jr., Assistant District Attorney Robert Sambroak, Jr., Detective Donald Dacus, Lt. Michael Nolan, Gene Placidi, Esq., and Unidentified Respondent Judge. Plaintiff alleges that his constitutional rights were violated by these Defendants at the time of his arrest in October of 2008.
Plaintiff seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis in this matter. See ECF Nos. 1.
B. Screening Provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
The Prison Litigation Reform Act ("PLRA"), Pub.L. No. 104-134, §§ 801-810, 110 Stat. 1321-66 to 1321-77 (April 26, 1996), requires a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis (28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)) or seeks redress against a governmental employee or entity (28 U.S.C. § 1915A). The Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A(b). This action is subject to sua sponte screening for dismissal under both 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2) and 1915A because Plaintiff is a prisoner proceeding in forma pauperis and seeking redress from governmental officers and employees.
Evaluating motions to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915 is a two-step process. See Roman v. Jeffes , 904 F.2d 192, 194 n.1 (3d Cir. 1990). "First, the district court evaluates a litigant's financial status and determines whether (s)he is eligible to proceed in forma pauperis under § 1915(a). Second the court assesses the complaint under [§ 1915(e)(2)] to determine whether it is frivolous." Id . citing Sinwell v. Shapp , 536 F.2d 15 (3d Cir. 1976); see also Schneller v. Able Home Care, Inc. , 389 Fed.Appx 90, 92 (3d Cir. 1990). Therefore, only after the district court grants the request to proceed in forma pauperis may it dismiss the complaint as legally frivolous. See Jackson v. Brown , 460 Fed.Appx 77, 79 n.2 (3d Cir. 2012) ("As a procedural matte, therefore, the District Court should have addressed Jackson's [ in forma pauperis ] motion before dismissing the complaint as frivolous, rather than deny the [ in forma pauperis ] motion as moot after dismissal."); Spuck v. Fredric , 414 Fed.Appx 358, 359 (3d Cir. 2011) ("When a complaint is submitted along with an [ in forma pauperis ] application, the complaint is not deemed filed unless and until [ in forma pauperis ] status is granted. [...] in that situation, the District Court must first rule on the [ in forma pauperis ] application and, only if it grants the application, proceed to determine whether the complaint should be dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).").
C. Assessment of Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis
In his motion and other filings, Plaintiff states that he is unable to pay the filing fee associated with this civil rights case. Plaintiff's institutional account statement reveals that his account balance on January 1st was less than ten dollars. Based upon this averment, I find that Plaintiff is without sufficient funds to pay the costs and fees of the proceedings, and accordingly, his request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis should be granted.
D. Standard of Review for Failure to State a Claim in the Complaint
The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) or § 1915A(b)(1) is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Tourscher v. McCullough , 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). However, before dismissing a complaint or claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915 and 1915A, a court must grant the plaintiff leave to ...