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Shepler v. Millard

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

November 4, 2014



CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Recommendation

Before the Court is Defendant Brett Millard's Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim for Which Relief Can Be Granted (ECF No. 13). Upon review of the Complaint, and pursuant to the screening requirements for litigants proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court recommends sua sponte dismissal of the Complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and denial of the motion to dismiss as moot.

II. Report

A. Legal Standard

The Court must liberally construe the factual allegations of Plaintiff's Complaint because pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erikson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (internal quotation omitted); Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). In addition, the court should "apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by name.'" Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683, 688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of Veterans Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)).

This Court must review Plaintiff's Complaint in accordance with the amendments promulgated in the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA), Pub.L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (1996). Although Plaintiff is currently incarcerated, he is not seeking "redress from a governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental entity" and therefore, §1915A does not apply to Plaintiff's complaint. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. However, the amendments to the PLRA codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1915 apply to individuals who have been granted in forma pauperis ("IFP") status. See Powell v. Hoover, 956 F.Supp. 564, 566 (M.D. Pa. 1997) (holding that federal in forma pauperis statute is not limited to prisoner suits). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a), Plaintiff requested and has been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Thus, his allegations must be reviewed in accordance with the directives provided in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

Pertinent to the case at bar is the authority granted to federal courts for the sua sponte dismissal of claims in IFP proceedings. Specifically, Section 1915(e), as amended, requires the federal courts to review complaints filed by persons who are proceeding in forma pauperis and to dismiss, at any time, any action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (B). "[A] complaint... is frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).

A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)[1] if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957)). The court must accept as true all allegations of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). "To the extent that a complaint filed in forma pauperis which fails to state a claim lacks even an arguable basis in law, Rule 12(b)(6) and § 1915(d) both counsel dismissal." Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328 (footnote omitted).

B. Plaintiff's claims

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and are accepted as true for purposes of this Report and Recommendation. On April 28, 2012, Plaintiff was arrested by the Pennsylvania State Police and charged with retail theft from the Indiana, Pennsylvania Wal-Mart Connection Center ("Wal-Mart"). See Exhibit #1 to Plaintiff's Complaint at 2 (ECF NO. 6-1). At the time of Plaintiff's arrest, Defendant Brent Millard ("Millard") was employed by Wal-Mart as an Asset Protection Associate. He believed that he had witnessed Plaintiff shoplifting and called the Pennsylvania State Police. Id. Plaintiff was then arrested and charged with retail theft.

According to the Complaint, :

At the preliminary hearing Mr. Brent Millard testified that he stayed in the store with the Petitioner while the other associate followed, Amy Henry out to her car. Also Mr. Millard testified that Mr. Shepler never put anything in Henry's purse or (sic) did Shepler walk out of the store with any merchandise on him.
Then at the Jury Trial Mr. Millard testified that he followed Amy Henry to her car while the other associate stayed in the store with Mr. Shepler. Mr. Millard also testified that he ...

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