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Hopkins v. Luzerne Co. District Attorney's Office

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 6, 2015

KENTLIN HOPKINS, Plaintiff
v.
LUZERNE CO. DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, ET AL., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.

Background

Kentlin Hopkins (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, initiated this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The Plaintiff has also submitted an in forma pauperis application.[1]

Named as Defendants are the Luzerne County District Attorney's Office and the Luzerne County Correctional Facility. Plaintiff states that on Tuesday, March 10, 2015 he was made aware that the Luzerne County District Attorney had placed his life in danger. See Doc. 1, ¶ IV(1). The Complaint vaguely alleges that two known street gang members were allegedly "given paperwork" listing Plaintiff's name and describing him as being a possible witness in a criminal case against those two gang members. Id. at (2). As a result of that purported conduct, Plaintiff claims that his safety has been put at risk. There are no other allegations set forth in the Complaint. Plaintiff seeks compensatory damages.

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 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)).

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).

Luzerne County Correctional Facility

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 Luzerne County Correctional facility is clearly not a person and therefore not subject to civil rights liability. See Thompkins v. Doe, No. 99-3941, slip op. at 3 (3d Cir. March 16, 2000).

It is also noted that there are no factual allegations set forth in the Complaint whatsoever that any prison official engaged in any conduct which violated the Plaintiff's constitutional rights. There is also no claim by Plaintiff that his constitutional rights were violated as the result of any policy, custom or practice of the Luzerne County Correctional Facility. See Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690-91 (1978).

District Attorney's Office

A plaintiff, in order to state an actionable civil rights claim, must plead two essential elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of law, and (2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d ...


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