United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
KHALIL K. HAMMOND
LANCASTER CITY BUREAU OF POLICE, et al.
Khalil K. Hammond, a prisoner incarcerated at the State
Correctional Institution at Fayette, claims that his
constitutional rights were violated by the destruction of his
property. He seeks leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. The Court will grant plaintiff leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint.
to the complaint, on January 5, 2010, Detective Jarrad
Berkihiser seized fifty-three pieces of plaintiff's mail
from the cell where plaintiff was incarcerated at the
Lancaster County Prison. Included in the seized mail were
family photographs that were meaningful to plaintiff.
Plaintiff filed several motions in his criminal case seeking
the return of his property and was granted a hearing.
hearing on April 17, 2015, the Assistant District Attorney
represented that any property not already returned to
plaintiff had been discarded or destroyed. Accordingly, the
judge presiding over the case denied plaintiff's motion
because he was unable to order the return of plaintiff's
property. Plaintiff alleges that no one from the District
Attorney's Office or the Lancaster City Bureau of Police
contacted him to let him know that his property would be
destroyed prior to destroying the property. He believes that
employees of the Lancaster City Bureau of Police threw his
property away to be vindictive and malicious, and notes that
they failed to follow applicable procedures for returning
on those allegations, plaintiff initiated the instant lawsuit
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Detective
Berkihiser, the Lancaster City Bureau of Police, and
Lancaster City. He asserts claims under the Fourth Amendment,
Eighth Amendment, Due Process Clause, and state law based on
the seizure and destruction of his mail.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted
because it appears that he is incapable of prepaying the fees
to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss the complaint
if it fails to state a claim. To survive dismissal for
failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain
“sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(quotations omitted). Additionally, the Court may dismiss
claims based on an affirmative defense if the affirmative
defense is obvious from the face of the complaint. See
Fogle v. Pierson, 435 F.3d 1252, 1258 (10th Cir. 2006);
cf. Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 459 (3d Cir.
2013), abrogated on other grounds by, Coleman v.
Tollefson, 135 S.Ct. 1759, 1763 (2015). As plaintiff is
proceeding pro se, the Court must construe his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Fourth Amendment Claims
Fourth Amendment claims based on the seizure of his mail are
time-barred. Pennsylvania's two-year statute of
limitations applies to those claims. See 42 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 5524; Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S.
384, 387 (2007). The limitations period began to run from the
time plaintiff “knew or should have known of the injury
upon which [his] action is based.” Sameric Corp. of
Del., Inc. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir.
1998). Plaintiff was aware of the seizure of his property
when his mail was taken from his cell on January 5, 2010, but
he did not file this case until April of 2017, more than two
years after his claims accrued. Accordingly, any claims based
on the seizure of plaintiff's mail are time-barred.
Eighth Amendment Claims
Eight Amendment precludes the imposition of cruel and unusual
punishments on those convicted of crimes. Rhodes v.
Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 345 (1981). To violate the Eighth
Amendment, the challenged conduct must be “objectively,
sufficiently serious” such that it “result[s] in
the denial of the minimal civilized measure of life's
necessities.” Farmer v. Brennan, 511 U.S. 825,
834 (1994) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted).
Although the Court is sympathetic to the fact that the
destroyed pictures were valuable to plaintiff, the conduct at
issue here is not objectively sufficiently serious by Eighth
Amendment standards to state a plausible claim. See
Atwell v. Metterau, 255 F.App'x 655, 658 (3d Cir.
2007) (per curiam) (“[Plaintiff's] allegations
regarding the deprivation of his property did not state an
Eighth Amendment claim because he was not deprived of the
minimal civilized measure of life's necessities.”).