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Cooper v. State

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 7, 2014

JOHN COOPER, Plaintiff
v.
STATE OF PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

John Cooper, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Frackville, Pennsylvania (SCI-Frackville) initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and two SCI-Frackville officials, Superintendent Tritt and Business Manager Dorzinsky. Accompanying the Complaint is a request for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See Doc. 2. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's action will be dismissed without prejudice.

Plaintiff vaguely claims that in 1985 the United States Supreme Court ordered that he be discharged from prison at the age of 54. See Doc. 1, ¶ IV (1). Cooper lists his year of birth as being 1958 and indicates that he was to have been discharged "from Farview in 2006" or between October 11, 2012-October 10, 2013. Id. at (2). Cooper additionally requests that the "Business Manager" (presumably at SCI-Frackville) transfer $2, 000.00 to his "exposed" account and that said official be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Id. at (3).

As relief Plaintiff seeks dismissal of his criminal conviction, a pardon, his immediate release from confinement as well as compensatory and nominal damages.

Discussion

When considering a complaint accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, a district court may rule that process should not issue if the complaint is malicious, presents an indisputably meritless legal theory, or is predicated on clearly baseless factual contentions. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); Neitzke v. Williams , 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989), Douris v. Middleton Township , 293 Fed.Appx. 130, 132 (3d Cir. 2008). Indisputably meritless legal theories are those "in which either it is readily apparent that the plaintiff's 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)).

It is initially noted that these same Defendants and allegations were included in a prior civil rights action filed by Cooper which was dismissed as frivolous by this Court. See Cooper v. State of Pennsylvania, et al., Civil No.3:CV-13-2153 (Oct. 18, 2013) (Conaboy, J.)

Habeas Corpus

As previously discussed by this Court's October 18, 2013 Memorandum and Order, Cooper seeks in part his immediate release, a pardon, and the dismissal of his underlying criminal conviction. See Doc. 1, ¶ V. Inmates may not use civil rights actions to challenge the fact or duration of their confinement or to seek earlier or speedier release. Preiser v. Rodriguez , 411 U.S. 475 (1975). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has similarly recognized that civil rights claims seeking release from confinement sounded in habeas corpus. See Georgevich v. Strauss , 772 F.2d 1078, 1086 (3d Cir. 1985).

The United States Supreme Court in Edwards v. Balisok , 520 U.S. 641, 646 (1997), similarly concluded that a civil rights claim for declaratory relief "based on allegations... that necessarily imply the invalidity of the punishment imposed, is not cognizable" in a civil rights action. Id. at 646. Based on the reasoning announced in Georgevich and Edwards, Plaintiff's present claims of illegal confinement and related requests to be released, pardoned and have his criminal conviction overturned are not properly raised in a civil rights complaint. Accordingly, those claims will be dismissed without prejudice to any right Cooper may have to pursue said allegations via a federal habeas corpus petition.

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that a civil rights action brought against a "State and its Board of Corrections is barred by the Eleventh Amendment unless [the State] has consented to the filing of such a suit." Alabama v. Pugh , 438 U.S. 781, 782 (1978). In Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police , 491 U.S. 58 (1989), the Supreme Court established "that the State and arms of the State, which have traditionally enjoyed Eleventh Amendment immunity" are not subject to civil rights liability in federal court. ...


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