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Taylor v. Harrisburg Police Department

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 30, 2014

AARON TAYLOR, Plaintiff.
v.
HARRISBURG POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

THOMAS M. BLEWITT, Magistrate Judge.

I. BACKGROUND.

On December 16, 2014, Plaintiff Aaron Taylor, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, filed, pro se, this instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis on that same date. (Doc. 2).

Plaintiff names the following Defendants in his Complaint (1) Harrisburg Police Department; and (2) Jacob Benjamin Pierce. (Doc. 1, p. 1). The Court has jurisdiction over Plaintiff's action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and § 1343(a). We will now screen Plaintiff's Complaint in accordance with § 1915 of the PLRA.

II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW.

A. PLRA

The Prison Litigation Reform Act of 1995[1] (the "PLRA")obligates the Court to engage in a screening process when a plaintiff wishes to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. Specifically, § 1915(e)(2), which was created by § 805(a)(5) of the Act, 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.

The Court uses the same standard to screen a complaint under the PLRA as it does for a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Matthews v. Villella, 2009 WL 311177, *2 (M.D. Pa.).

B. 42 U.S.C. § 1983

In a § 1983 civil rights action, the Plaintiff must prove the following two essential elements (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct complained of deprived the Plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the law or the Constitution of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 184 (3d Cir. 1993). Further, Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights. Rather, it is a means to redress violations of federal law by state actors. Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002). See also Holocheck v. Luzerne County Head Start, Inc., 385 F.Supp.2d 491, 498-499 (M. D. Pa. 2005); Slater v. Susquehanna County, 613 F.Supp.2d 653, 660 (M.D. Pa. 2009) (citations omitted); Stankowski v. Farley, 487 F.Supp.2d 543, 550 (M.D. Pa. 2007) ("only those who act under color of state law are liable to suit under section 1983."). "In order to satisfy the second prong [of a §1983 civil rights action], a Defendant does not have to be a state official, but can also be held liable as a state actor." Slater v. Susquehanna County, 613 F.Supp.2d at 660(citations omitted).

It is well-established that personal liability under section 1983 cannot be imposed upon a state official based on a theory of respondeat superior. See, e.g., Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 1546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d Cir. 1976); Parratt, supra . It is also well-settled in the Third Circuit that personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a requirement in a § 1983 case and that a complaint must allege such personal involvement. Id. Each named defendant must be shown, through the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences upon which Plaintiff's claims are based. Id. As the Court stated in Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1998)

A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs.... [P]ersonal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate particularity. (Citations omitted).

A civil rights complaint must state time, place, and responsible persons. Id. Courts have also held that an allegation seeking to impose liability on a defendant based on supervisory status, without more, will not subject the ...


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