United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
PAUL F. MITCHELL, Plaintiff
PATRICK QUINN #1652, et al., Defendants
Paul F. Mitchell, a prisoner at SCI Huntingdon, filed this
action against various defendants including police officers,
prison employees and officials, and other individuals who had
varying degrees of involvement in his state criminal case.
The Court dismissed plaintiffs complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e) with leave to file an amended
complaint.Subsequently, plaintiff filed numerous
documents-some of which are entitled "Amended
Complaint"-including copies of prison grievances and his
correspondence with various municipal and state agencies. The
Court will treat these documents as a single amended
complaint, dismiss the amended complaint, and provide
plaintiff another opportunity to amend.
was arrested on June 16, 2015. A review of the docket from
his criminal proceeding reflects that plaintiff was convicted
of unlawful sexual contact with a minor, assault, and
criminal trespass in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas
and sentenced to seventeen to forty months in prison, as well
as terms of probation of up to seven years. See
Commonwealth v. Mitchell, Docket No.
CP-51-CR-0008193-2015 (Phila. Ct. Common Pleas). Plaintiff
has an appeal pending before the Superior Court of
Pennsylvania. See Commonwealth v. Mitchell, Docket
No. 2787 EDA 2016 (Pa. Super. Ct.). He is serving his
sentence at SCI Huntingdon, where he is enrolled in the sex
offender program. The Court understands plaintiff to be
raising claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 challenging
the constitutionality of his arrest, conviction, and
imprisonment. He seeks release from imprisonment and damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) requires a complaint to contain
"a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief." A district court may
sua sponte dismiss a complaint that does not comply
with Rule 8 if "the complaint is so confused, ambiguous,
vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance,
if any, is well disguised." Simmons v. Abruzzo,
49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 1995) (quotations omitted).
as plaintiff is proceeding in forma pauperis, the
Court must dismiss his complaint if it fails to state a
claim. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). 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). Conclusory statements and naked
assertions will not suffice. Id. 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).
submitted eleven filings over the course of three weeks,
which he relies on in setting forth his claims. Although the
Court has treated those documents collectively as an amended
complaint in light of plaintiff s pro se status, those
filings do not comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8
and 10. The purpose of these rules is to make clear to the
Court and the defendants the factual basis for a plaintiffs
claims so that the defendants can meaningfully respond to
those claims. See, e.g., Fabian v. St. Mary's Med.
Ctr., No. Civ.A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D.
Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) ("Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8
requires that pleadings provide enough information to put a
defendant on sufficient notice to prepare their defense and
also ensure that the Court is sufficiently informed to
determine the issue.") (quotations omitted); Young
v. Centerville Clinic, Inc., No. Civ.A. 09-325, 2009 WL
4722820, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 2, 2009) ("The purpose of
Rule 10 is to create clarity in pleadings, which allows a
defendant and the Court to determine whether there are
sufficient facts to support a claim entitling a plaintiff to
relief."). To conform to Rule 8, a pleading must contain
a short and plain statement showing that the plaintiff is
entitled to relief. See Travaline v. U.S. Supreme
Court, 424 Fed.Appx. 78, 79 (3d Cir. 2011) ("Rule 8
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a
complaint contain 'a short and plain statement of the
claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, '
and 'a demand for the relief sought.'") (quoting
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), (3)); see also Id. ("Each
averment must be 'simple, concise, and
direct.'") (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(d)(1)).
"This standard operates in tandem with that of Rule 10,
" which requires that a pleading contain a caption with
the Court's name and the names of the parties, and that
claims be listed in numbered paragraphs. Fabian,
2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 10).
than raising his allegations in a pleading with a caption and
numbered paragraphs that conform to the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure, plaintiff has submitted numerous documents
and exhibits in piecemeal fashion. By presenting his claims
in this manner, plaintiff has made it difficult to understand
the basis for his lawsuit and the nature of his claims
against each defendant. No defendant could be expected to
meaningfully respond to plaintiffs filings without having to
guess at his claims. Although the complaint could be
dismissed on that basis alone, the Court has done its best to
understand the gist of plaintiff s allegations and will
address his claims below.
Statute of Limitations
extent that plaintiff is asserting claims of a wrongful or
false arrest, those claims are time-barred. Plaintiff was
arrested on June 16, 2015. He filed his complaint on August
15, 2017. "In determining the length of the
statute of limitations for a claim arising under § 1983,
courts must apply the limitations period applicable to
personal-injury torts in the State in which the cause of
action arose." Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cty.
Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 859 (3d Cir.
2014) (citing Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387
(2007)). A two-year statute of limitations applies to
personal injury claims in Pennsylvania. See 42 Pa.
C.S. § 5524; Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176,
190 (3d Cir. 1993). Thus, any claims based on the arrest are
time-barred because the arrest occurred more than two years
before plaintiff filed his complaint, and plaintiff knew or
should have known of the basis for his claims at that time.
Judicial and Prosecutorial Immunity
listed both the judge and the prosecutor in his state
criminal case as defendants, neither of whom can be sued by
plaintiff. "It is a well-settled principle of law that
judges are generally 'immune from a [§ 1983] suit
for money damages.'" Figueroa v. Blackburn,208 F.3d 435, 440 (3d Cir. 2000) (quoting Mireles v.
Waco,502 U.S. 9, 9 (1991) (per curiam)). "[A]
judge's immunity from civil liability 'is overcome in
only two sets of circumstances. First, a judge is not immune
from liability for nonjudicial acts, i.e., actions
not taken in the judge's judicial capacity. Second, a
judge is not immune for actions, though judicial in nature,
taken in the complete absence of all jurisdiction.'"
Id. (quoting Mireles, 502 U.S. at ...