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Calimer v. Franklin County Jail

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

February 25, 2014

MATTHEW PAUL CALIMER, Plaintiff
v.
FRANKLIN COUNTY JAIL, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

MATTHEW W. BRANN, District Judge.

Background

Matthew Paul Calimer (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Franklin County Prison, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Accompanying the Complaint is an in forma pauperis application.[1] Named as Defendants are the Franklin County Jail and two prison employees Warden Daniel Keen and Captain Sullen. See Doc. 1, ¶ III.

According to the Complaint, Inmate Kyle Noll was assaulted in his cell at the Franklin County Prison on January 13, 2014. At the time of the attack, Calimer states that he was assisting Correctional Officer Rich in serving lunch trays. See id. at ¶ IV(1). Later that same day, Calimer was allegedly questioned by a correctional officer regarding the attack on Inmate Noll.

The next day, Plaintiff contends that he was placed in administrative custody on locked down status where he remained for fifteen (15) days. Shortly after his arrival in administrative custody, Plaintiff was purportedly informed by Noll that he was under investigation for the assault. Calimer asserts that although Noll informed prison staff in writing that Plaintiff had been wrongly accused, he remained in administrative custody. On the fifteenth day of his placement, Plaintiff was released from administrative custody by Captain Sullen who apologized and returned the inmate returned to general population.[2] The Complaint seeks compensatory damages for that alleged fifteen (15) day period of unwarranted, segregated confinement.

Discussion

28 U.S.C. § 1915 imposes obligations on prisoners who file civil actions in federal court and wish to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915, e.g., that the full filing fee ultimately must be paid (at least in a non-habeas suit) § 1915(e)(2)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.

When considering a complaint accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a district court may rule that process should not be issued if the complaint is malicious, presents an indisputably meritless legal theory, or is predicated on clearly baseless factual contentions. Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989); Wilson v. Rackmill , 878 F.2d 772, 774 (3d Cir. 1989). Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which either it is readily apparent that the plaintiffs complaint lacks an arguable basis in law or that the defendants are clearly entitled to immunity from suit...." Roman v. Jeffes , 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990) (quoting Sultenfuss v. Snow , 894 F.2d 1277, 1278 (11th Cir. 1990)).

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has added that "the plain meaning of frivolous' authorizes the dismissal of in forma pauperis claims that... are of little or no weight, value, or importance, not worthy of serious consideration, or trivial." Deutsch v. United States , 67 F.3d 1080, 1083 (3d Cir. 1995). It also has been determined that "the frivolousness determination is a discretionary one, " and trial courts "are in the best position" to determine when an indigent litigant's complaint is appropriate for summary dismissal. Denton v. Hernandez , 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992).

Franklin County Prison

Courts have repeatedly recognized that a prison or correctional facility is not a person for purposes of civil rights liability. See Fischer v. Cahill , 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973); Philogene v. Adams County Prison, Civ. No. 97-0043, slip op. at p. 4 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 30 , 1997) (Rambo, C.J.); Sponsler v. Berks County Prison, Civ. A. 95-1136 , 1995 WL 92370, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 1995).

Pursuant to the above standards, the Franklin County Prison is clearly not a person and therefore not subject to civil rights liability. See Thompkins v. Doe, No. ...


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