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Mitchell v. Quinn

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

November 30, 2017

PAUL F. MITCHELL, Plaintiff,
v.
PATRICK QUINN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          SLOMSKY, J.

         Paul Mitchell, a State prisoner currently incarcerated at SCI Huntington, filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against various defendants including police officers, prison employees and officials, and other individuals who had varying degrees of involvement in his state criminal case. By Order entered on August 29, 2017, the Court granted Mitchell leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismissed his initial Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), and provided leave to file an amended complaint within thirty (30) days. (ECF No. 4.) Subsequently, Mitchell filed numerous documents, some of which were entitled "Amended Complaint, " including copies of prison grievances and his correspondence with various municipal and state agencies. (ECF Nos. 5 through 15.) By Memorandum and Order entered on October 11, 2017, the Court treated those documents as Mitchell's single Amended Complaint, dismissed the Amended Complaint, and provided Mitchell another opportunity to amend. (ECF Nos. 16, 17.)

         Again, rather than filing a single document as his Second Amended Complaint, Mitchell has submitted numerous documents and exhibits, two of which are entitled "Amended Complaint, " in piecemeal fashion. (ECF Nos. 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25.) The Court previously advised Mitchell that "by presenting his claims in this manner, [Mitchell] has made it difficult to understand the basis of his lawsuit and the nature of his claims against each defendant." (ECF No. 16 at 4.) Nevertheless, the Court will treat Mitchell's newest submissions as a single Second Amended Complaint and will dismiss the Second Amended Complaint.

         I. FACTS

         Mitchell was arrested on June 16, 2015. A review of the docket from his criminal proceeding reflects that Mitchell was convicted of unlawful sexual contact with a minor, assault, and criminal trespass in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, and was sentenced to seventeen (17) to forty (40) months in prison. See Commonwealth v. Mitchell, Docket No. CP-51-CR-0008193-2015 (Phila. Ct. Common Pleas). Mitchell's appeal is pending before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. See Commonwealth v. Mitchell, Docket No. 2787 EDA 2016 (Pa. Super. Ct.). As noted above, Mitchell is currently incarcerated at SCI Huntington, where he is participating in the sex offender program. In his Second Amended Complaint, Mitchell again raises claims concerning the constitutionality of his arrest, conviction, and imprisonment. He seeks unspecified declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As the Court previously informed Mitchell, Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 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).

         Moreover, because the Court previously granted Mitchell leave to proceed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies. That statute requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it fails to state a claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains "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. The Court may also dismiss claims based on an affirmative defense if the affirmative defense is obvious from the face of the complaint. See Ray v. Kertes, 285 F.3d 287, 297 (3d Cir. 2002); see also McPherson v. United States, 392 Fed.Appx. 938, 943 (3d Cir. 2010). The Court may also consider matters of public record. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). As Mitchell is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Continued Failure to Comply with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8 and 10

         Over the course of approximately six (6) weeks, Mitchell submitted six documents which he relies upon to set forth his claims. Although the Court has treated those documents collectively as Mitchell's Second Amended Complaint in light of his pro se status, Mitchell's filings again do not comply with Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. As the Court previously informed Mitchell, 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).

         Once again, rather than raising his allegations in a pleading with a caption and numbered paragraphs that conforms with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Mitchell has submitted several documents and exhibits in piecemeal fashion. This means that he has once again 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 Mitchell's filings without having to guess at his claims. Although the Second Amended Complaint could be dismissed on that basis alone, the Court has done its best to understand the gist of Mitchell's allegations and will address his claims below.

         B. Claims Against the Arresting Officers

         Mitchell has again named Officers Patrick Quinn, Gerald Rahill, and Thomas Martinka as defendants, and also names Officer Maureen Carroll for the first time in his Second Amended Complaint. Throughout his Second Amended Complaint, Mitchell appears to assert that these officers wrongfully or falsely arrested him. As the Court previously informed Mitchell, however, any claims based upon his arrest are time-barred. (ECF No. 16 at 4 ...


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