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Fields v. Federal Bureau of Prisons

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 4, 2015



RICHARD P. CONABOY, District Judge.


Leonidas R. Fields (Plaintiff), an inmate presently confined at the Allenwood United States Penitentiary, White Deer, Pennsylvania (SP-Allenwood), 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 Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP); the United States Parole Commission (Parole Commission) and three of its employees Chairman Issac Fullwood, General Counsel Sharon Gervasoni, and Examiner Tanner. Other Defendants include Assistant United States Attorneys Dennis Pfannenschmidt and Michael Butler as well as Paralegal Cynthia Roman of the United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

Plaintiff is also proceeding against the following USP-Allenwood officials: ex-Warden Ricardo Martinez; Warden Donna Zickefoose; Attorney Michael Sullivan; Paralegal Dominic Desanto; Captain Felton; CMCs Whittmer and Michael Castagnolia; SIS Heath; Case Managers Sheehan and Dewait; and Unit Manager Farley.

Fields describes himself as being a 67 year old inmate who killed a correctional officer 43 years ago but maintains that he is not a threat to institutional security.[2] As a result of that crime, Plaintiff states that he has been classified as requiring an hourly security check. Plaintiff contends that there is no rational basis for the hourly check designation and that it is a retaliatory, unwarranted, punitive measure. Fields notes that a former Warden stopped the hourly checks but they were restarted by ex-Warden Martinez after Plaintiff filed a federal habeas corpus action.

The Complaint adds that the USP-Allenwood Defendants have subjected him to verbal abuse, failed to assist him in seeking halfway house placement, compassionate release, and formulating a post release plan, and will not reduce his maximum custody classification.[3] It is also asserted that the Parole Commission and Attorney General's Office Defendants acted improperly in denying his request for release on parole and have allowed him to be unlawfully detained past his maximum release date. Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages.


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 mauceris, 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).

BOP/Parole Commission

It is well settled that the United States and other governmental entities are not persons and therefore not proper defendants in a federal civil rights action. Accardi v. United States, 435 F.2d 1239, 1241 (3d Cir. 1970); see also Hindes v. F.D.I.C., 137 F.3d 148, 159 (3d Cir. 1998); ...

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