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Thomas v. Frasch

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 11, 2017

FRANKIE THOMAS, Plaintiff
v.
R. FRASCH Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         I. Background

         Presently before the Court is a civil action filed by pro se Plaintiff, Frankie Thomas, on May 26, 2017, pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1977). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiff is currently housed at the Federal Correctional Institute, Cumberland, Maryland. Plaintiff's allegations are against Defendant R. Frasch, a counselor at the United States Penitentiary at Canaan, Pennsylvania (“USP-Canaan”). Plaintiff alleges, inter alia, that the District Court impermissibly delegated to the Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) its duty to set the manner and schedule of restitution payments during Plaintiff's imprisonment in violation of the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act of 1996 (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3664(f). (Id. at 6.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Frasch unlawfully removed monetary funds from Plaintiff's institution account and coerced Plaintiff to sign-up for the BOP's Inmate Financial Responsibility Program (“IFRP”). (Id. at 7.) Plaintiff alleges that although the IFRP is voluntary, if he does not agree to participate in it, then he will be placed in “Refusal Status” and sanctioned. (Id. at 2.) As Plaintiff has filed an application to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, the Court will engage in screening of Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         II. Standard of Review

         In reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint, the Court is guided by § 1915(e)(2) of the PLRA which provides:

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.

         In performing this mandatory screening function, a district court applies the same standard applied to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. See In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court's inquiry is guided by the standards of Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009). Under Twombly and Iqbal, pleading requirements have shifted to a “more heightened form of pleading.” See Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must set out “sufficient factual matter” to show that the claim is facially plausible. Id. The plausibility standard requires more than a mere possibility that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

         Accordingly, to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has identified the following steps a district court must take when determining the sufficiency of a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6): (1) identify the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any conclusory allegations contained in the complaint “not entitled” to the assumption of truth; and (3) determine whether any “well-pleaded factual allegations” contained in the complaint “plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.” See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (citation and quotation marks omitted).

         In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, “a court must consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). A court may also consider “any ‘matters incorporated by reference or integral to the claim, items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, [and] items appearing in the record of the case.'” Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006) (quoting 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure § 1357 (3d Ed. 2004)).

         In conducting its screening review of a complaint, the court must be mindful that a document filed pro se is “to be liberally construed.” Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976). A pro se complaint, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         III. Discussion

         “A Bivens action, which is the federal equivalent of the § 1983 cause of action against state actors, will lie where the defendant has violated the plaintiff's rights under color of federal law.” Brown v. Philip Morris Inc., 250 F.3d 789, 800 (3d Cir. 2001). Specifically,

Bivens creates no substantive rights, but rather allows “a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest [to] invoke the general federal-question jurisdiction of the district court to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official.” . . . To state a claim under Bivens, the plaintiff must show that the defendant, acting under color of ...

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