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Adams v. T. Bickert

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

May 12, 2015

SHAUN ADAMS, Plaintiff
v.
T. BICKERT, ET AL., Defendants

MEMORANDUM

Matthew W. Brann United States District Judge

Background

Shaun Adams, an inmate presently confined at the State Correctional Institution, Somerset, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has also submitted an in forma pauperis application. For the reasons set forth below, Adams’ action will be dismissed, without prejudice, as legally frivolous pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915.

Named as Defendants in the Complaint are three (3) officials at Adams’ former place of confinement, the Smithfield State Correctional Institution, Huntingdon, Pennsylvania (SCI-Smithfield): Lieutenant Abroshoff; Correctional Officers T. Bickert and H. Ersek. Plaintiff states that on or about March 6, 2013 he was escorted by Defendants Bickert and Ersek from the SCI-Smithfield Restricted Housing Unit (RHU) yard to his cell. Upon arriving at Adams’ cell, CO Bickert allegedly “yanked on the handcuffs leaving an abrasion on my wrists.” Doc. 1, ¶ IV(2). The Complaint adds that Bickert and Ersek refused Plaintiff’s request for medical attention and Bickert “laughed and walked away smiling.” Id. Adams also asserts that the following day he notified prison supervisors of the alleged incident. As relief, the Complaint seeks compensatory and punitive 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.

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); Douris v. Middleton Township, 293 Fed.Appx. 130, 132 (3d Cir. 2008). 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, 504 U.S. at 33.

Personal Involvement

With respect to the civil rights claims against Lieutenant Abroshoff, civil rights claims cannot be premised on a theory of respondeat superior. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Rather, each named defendant must be shown, via the complaint's allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences which underlie a claim. See Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 546 F.2d 1077 (3d Cir. 1976). As explained in Rode:

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.

Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207.

Furthermore, prisoners have no constitutionally protected right to a grievance procedure. See Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Labor Union, Inc., 433 U.S. 119, 137-38 (1977)(Burger, C.J., concurring) (“I do not suggest that the [grievance] procedures are constitutionally mandated.”); Speight v. Sims, No. 08-2038, 2008 WL 2600723 at *1 (3d. Cir. Jun 30, 2008)(citing Massey v. Helman, 259 F.3d 641, 647 (7th Cir. ...


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