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Rambert v. Dept of Corrections

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 29, 2015

ERIC X. RAMBERT, Plaintiff,
v.
DEPT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

WILLIAM J. NEALON, District Judge.

I. Background

Eric X. Rambert, an inmate confined in the State Correctional Institution, Coal Township, (SCI-Coal Township), Pennsylvania, filed the above-captioned civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are the following seven Philadelphia County employees: Jane Doe, Clerk of Court; Ronald D. Castille, former District Attorney and Chief of the Career Criminal Program; Seth Williams, District Attorney; Daniel McElHatton, Assistant District Attorney; John Doe, Special Investigator for the Career Criminal Program; Jules Epstein, former Public Defender; and Dennis T. Kelly, Deputy Defender of the Defenders Association; the following four SCI-Coal Township employees: Records Supervisors Barlow, Kodack and Fobia and Business Manager Nancy Wilson; and the following two Department of Corrections employees: John Wetzel, Secretary of Corrections and Andrew Filkosky, Open Records Supervisor.

Along with the filing of his complaint, Rambert submitted an application to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C. § 1915. (Doc. 5).

A court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions). The court must accept all factual allegations in a complaint as true and take them in the light most favorable to a pro se plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir.2008); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Because Plaintiff proceeds pro se, his pleading is liberally construed and his complaint, "however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. at 94 (citations omitted). The Court has conducted an initial screening of Plaintiff's complaint, and for the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted, and the Plaintiff's complaint will be dismissed as frivolous. Plaintiff, however, will be given an opportunity to file an amended complaint as to his denial of access to the courts and retaliation claims only.

II. Complaint

Plaintiff states that [o]n June 2, 1983 [he] was arrested in Philadelphia County and he was a seventeen (17) year old kid and certified as an adult." (Doc. 1, complaint at 6). He claims that he was "illegally selected and included in the Philadelphia's makeshift Career Criminal Program that was sanctioned by Defendant Ronald D. Castille, former District Attorney and Chief of the Career Criminal Program" in which Plaintiff claims "Defendant John Doe, Special Investigator gave false information that the Plaintiff had either three strikes or two strikes (convictions) to sanction the Plaintiff as a Career Criminal and placed in the Career Criminal Program which was fraud on the Court because the Plaintiff had no prior convictions." Id. Thus, Plaintiff alleges that "the Career Criminal Program tribunal lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff and only had jurisdiction because of the false information that the Plaintiff who was a juvenile was either a three striker or two striker." Id. He claims that as a result of this "egregious fraud", the Defendants "added 15 years to Plaintiff's sentence without statutory authority by the sentencing judges" and he was subjected to "false imprisonment when the Plaintiff was placed in a Career Criminal Program" and "subjected to definite mandatory sentencing scheme." Id.

Plaintiff claims that on July 29, 2010, he filed a Post Conviction Relief Act ("PCRA") petition in the Philadelphia County Court, challenging the decision to try Plaintiff as a career offender. Id. He claims that the PCRA petition is still pending. Id.

With respect to the SCI-Coal Township Defendants, Plaintiff states that on October 26, 2014, he "filed for indigent status with Defendant Nancy Wilson and was denied." (Doc. 1, complaint at 7). The Plaintiff states that he "initiated a grievance that was processed probably because by right [Plaintiff] had no claim to get the status at that time so the Plaintiff withdrew that grievance." Id.

On November 1, 2014, "Defendant Wilson declared the Plaintiff indigent for legal materials, legal postage, and hygiene products and asked the Plaintiff what he wanted, never issuing any form for the Plaintiff to fill out." (Doc. 1, complaint at 7). Plaintiff states that once he "wrote out what he wanted, Wilson then sent a form to fill out and told Plaintiff to get with the RHU Lieutenant for hygiene products." Id. The Plaintiff states that he "did not receive any hygiene products until November 19, 2014, 18 days later." Id. Plaintiff further alleges that "Defendant Wilson obstructed the Plaintiff's outgoing legal mail in retaliation for Plaintiff's previous DC-804 Grievance #534337 that was later withdrawn by the Plaintiff because it was premature to file or be granted indigent status under the policy." Id. Specifically, Plaintiff states that Defendant Wilson "had the mail room return his out going legal mail dated "11/9/14, 11/1/0/14, 11/12/14 and 11/13/14 for insufficient funds, clearly a retaliatory act because the Plaintiff was suing her co-workers and the previous grievance #534337 initiated 10/26/14 after she denied the Plaintiff's first indigent status request." Id.

Finally, with respect to the DOC Defendants, Plaintiff states that "on November 3, 2014, Defendant Wetzel re-issued Department Policy DC-ADM 005 Collection of Inmate Debts' in which he announced that the only way that deductions are made is if the DOC is in possession of a court order or sentencing transcript." (Doc. 1, complaint at 3). Plaintiff claims that on November 5, 2014, he "wrote directly to Defendant Wetzel concerning his announcement in the re-issue policy DC-ADM 005 which is of great concern because the only binding legal document is the Court's Order and not the sentencing or DC-300B Court Commitment Form" and that "Plaintiff was being denied a copy of his Court order reflecting the Judge's actual sentencing scheme in the Plaintiff's case, Com v. Rambert, CP-51-CR-0625331-1983 because the Plaintiff was deemed a Career Criminal and tried in the Career Criminal Program as a juvenile in violation of statutory authorization by the legislatures." Id. Thus, Plaintiff requested Wetzel provide him with a copy of the Court's Order." Id. Plaintiff claims that when he received no reply from Wetzel he "filed a complaint on December 5, 2014 with the DOC Office of Professional Responsibility against Defendant Wetzel and not surprising has not been giving a reply." Id.

Plaintiff filed the instant action in which he seeks damages from Defendants "for everyday since June 2, 2008, he is serving based on [Defendants'] illegalities of aggregating a definite mandatory sentencing concealing the truth in sentencing scheme of the Judge's sentencing order, or the examination of the DC-300B Court Commitment Form", as well as damages for "refusing to correct the false imprisonment after being made aware that it is illegal to aggregate a definite mandatory sentence under Career Criminal Status because that sentence is already enhanced for punishment and refusal to follow the propr statutes set by the legislatures and the Supreme Court" and for the "deliberate false imprisonment under fraudulent concealment where the Defendants knew or should have known that a 17 year old kid was not a three time or two time convicted felon." (Doc. 1, complaint at 11). Plaintiff further seeks "immediate correction of his sentence by the DOC Defendants to reflect June 2, 2018 as the max date and not the June 2, 2033 maximum sentence they illegally aggregated" or to "release him." Id. Finally, Plaintiff seeks damages from the Philadelphia County Clerk of Court for "failing to turn over a copy of the Court's Sentencing Order", as well as "damages from Defendant Wilson for denial of access to the Court that caused the Plaintiff to lose a significant right to access the Court for redress." Id.

III. Discussion

In order to state a viable section 1983 claim, a plaintiff must plead two essential elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state 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. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995); Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990). "To establish liability for deprivation of a constitutional right under § 1983, a party must show personal involvement by each defendant." Keys v. Carroll, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 137930, *26 (M.D. Pa. 2012) (Caputo, J.) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 676-77 (2009) ("Because vicarious liability is inapplicable to Bivens and § 1983 suits, a ...


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