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Ysassi v. Spalding

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 21, 2015

CAPTAIN S. SPALDING, et al., Defendants.


EDWIN M. KOSIK, District Judge.

Roberto Charles Ysassi ("Plaintiff") is an inmate currently confined at the Federal Correctional Institution at Allenwood, Pennsylvania. He files this Bivens-style[1] civil rights action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. (Doc. 1, Compl.) Along with his complaint, Plaintiff files motions for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 2, 7.) Named as Defendants in the complaint are the following three (3) employees at FCI-Allenwood: Warden S. Spalding, Captain Michael Underwood and Lieutenant M. Hughes. Also named as defendants are "Unknown Agents/Employees/Staff Members." (Doc. 1 at 2.) The case is presently before the court for obligatory preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff will be granted in forma pauperis status, and his Bivens claims will be dismissed for failure to state a claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). To the extent he raises property deprivation/destruction claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA"), 28 U.S.C. § 2671, et seq., his claims will be dismissed due to the lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

I. Background

Plaintiff contends that on September 18, 2014, Defendants confiscated his personal and private property, including legal materials, thereby hindering his rights without due process of law. By doing so, he claims his right to access to the courts was also obstructed. He asserts that Defendants conspired to confiscate and/or destroy his property which included data, documents, files, forms, and records in violation of the Fifth Amendment. He claims that education and legal materials were among the documents taken. Attached to his complaint are copies of grievances/appeals he pursued with respect to this issue.

II. Discussion

28 U.S.C. § 1915 imposes obligations on prisoners who file civil actions in federal court and wish to proceed in forma pauperis. Section 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.

(Emphasis added.) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) allows a defendant, in response to a complaint, to file a motion to dismiss a claim or claims for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted...." Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) provides this ground for summary dismissal of a complaint (before service) - failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) principles. A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the claims alleged in the complaint. Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint, and construe any inferences to be drawn from the allegations in Plaintiff's favor. See Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007)(quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). "The assumption of truth does not apply, however, to legal conclusions couched as factual allegations or to [t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.'" Marangos v. Swett, No. 08-4146, 2009 WL 1803264 (3d Cir. June 25, 2009)(citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949-50 (2009).

In considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must contain enough "facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), and the factual allegations "must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (internal citations omitted); accord Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1953. The facts plead must offer more "than an unadorned, the defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Id., 120 S.Ct. at 1949 (internal quotations and citations omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). Further, a district court should provide leave to amend "when amendment could cure the deficiency and would not be inequitable." Grayson v. Mayview State Hospital, 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002). A complaint that does not establish entitlement to relief under any reasonable interpretation is properly dismissed without leave to amend. Id. at 106.

To state a Bivens claim, a plaintiff must allege (1) a constitutional deprivation caused by the exercise of some right or privilege created by the federal government, and (2) the party responsible for the action must be fairly considered a federal actor. See McCauley v. Computer Aid, Inc., 447 F.Supp.2d 469, 473 (E.D. Pa. 2006) (citations omitted). Plaintiff asserts that he was deprived of his property without due process of law in violation of the Fifth Amendment, and that Defendants conspired to engage in said activity.

In Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527, 101 S.Ct. 1908, 68 L.Ed.2d 420 (1981), an inmate claimed that prison officials had negligently deprived him of his property without due process of law. The Parratt Court held that the alleged loss constituted a deprivation of property under the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. Id. at 536-37. Nevertheless, the Court also held that negligent deprivations by state officials of a prisoner's personal property are not actionable under the due process clause where a remedy exists under state law for reimbursement. Id. at 541-43.

Subsequently, in Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 104 S.Ct. 3194, 82 L.Ed.2d 393 (1984), the Court held that, regardless of whether a government employee intentionally or negligently deprived an inmate of his or her property, the deprivation does not violate the due process clause as long as the inmate has adequate post-deprivation remedies available under state law. Id. at 533.

In Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330-31 (1986), the Court overruled the holding in Parratt that a mere lack of due care by a state official may deprive an individual of property under the Fourteenth Amendment. Id. at 330-31. The Daniels Court concluded "that the Due Process Clause is simply not implicated by a negligent act of an official causing unintended loss of or injury to life, liberty, or property." Id. at 328.

In a more recent case, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals invoked the holding in Hudson in determining that the District Court properly found that a state inmate had failed to state a procedural due process claim where he was provided with a meaningful post-deprivation remedy regarding the loss of his property through the state prison system's internal grievance ...

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