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Scarbrough v. Department of Corrections NCP

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 7, 2018

TAVON PAUL SCARBROUGH, Plaintiff,
v.
Department Of Corrections NCP, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM

          QUINONES ALEJANDRO, J.

         Plaintiff Tavon Paul Scarbrough, an inmate currently incarcerated at the Northampton County Jail, has filed this pro se action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He has also filed two motions to proceed in forma pauperis (ECF Nos. 5, 8), as well as a motion for the appointment of counsel (ECF No. 10). For the following reasons, this Court will grant Scarbrough leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismiss his complaint with leave to amend, and deny his request for counsel at this time.

         I. FACTS

         In the caption of his complaint, Scarbrough names "Department of Corrections NCP" as the sole defendant. On the second page of the complaint, however, Scarbrough mentions as defendants (1) John Harmon, a classification official at the Northampton County Jail, and (2) "All members of Classification, Lieutenants @ NCP." His claims are based on conditions at the Northampton County Jail during his incarceration there.

         Scarbrough alleges that he has been "deprived of safety and also deprived medically, and denied recreation 30 days." (Compl. at 4.) He contends that he told Mr. Harmon, the head of classification, that he was a "gang dropout and had enemies on the gallery and was purposely with the intent to potentially harm me, he still put [him] there and [Scarbrough] was assaulted and placed in the hole 3/23/18." (Id. at 5.) About a month prior to this incident, Scarbrough was on work release "and there [were] claims [he] was under the influence and put in the hole, [he] was urine screened and was negative for all substances, and still was given 30 days hole time with no recreation." (Id.) As for injuries, Scarbrough lists: "1. Major migraines/headaches 2. CO footprint on back 3. Bruises on both ankles and feet 4. Bruise behind ear 5. Forehead bruise 6. Loss of memory 7. Pain in all mentioned areas 8. Old hernia injury aggravated 9. Scratches and bruised miscellaneously." (Id.) He states that the only medical treatment he received was "triple antibiotic ointment 0.9 gram package to be exact." (Id.) As relief, Scarbrough requests damages as well as "reform as much as humanly possible." (Id.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         This Court will grant Scarbrough leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is not capable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[1] Accordingly, Scarbrough's complaint is subject to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) review, which 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). "[M]ere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. As Scarbrough is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         In additipon, Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain "a short a 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). This Court has noted that Rule 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." Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. Ctr., No. Civ. A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. The Complaint Fails to State a Claim as Pled

         It is difficult to determine whether Scarbrough has a basis for a plausible claim due to the generalized manner in which the complaint is pled. As noted above, Scarbrough names "Department of Corrections NCP" in the caption of his complaint, but names John Harmon and "All members of Classification, Lieutenants @ NCP" on the second page of his complaint. Accordingly, it is difficult to determine who the Defendants are in this case, making it difficult to assess the validity of Scarbrough's claims.

         Although it is appropriate for Scarbrough to identify defendants as "John Doe" or "Jane Doe" if he does not know their names, he is still obligated to explain how each individual named in the complaint was personally involved in the violation of his constitutional rights, whether due to the prison official's own misconduct or the official's deliberate indifference to known deficiencies in a policy or procedure that violated Scarbrough's rights. See Barkes v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 320 (3d Cir. 2014), reversed on other grounds, Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015). It is not proper for Scarbrough to sue the entire Classification staff at the Northampton County Jail based on allege failures by that department unless each and every staff member was personally involved in violating his rights. In other words, it is insufficient to pin liability on every staff member based solely on the fact that those staff members are part of a flawed system, if that is what Scarbrough is trying to do. Instead, Scarbrough must limit his claims to those individuals and entities who played a role-whether through acts or inaction-in violating his rights. With the exception of Scarbrough's claims against Harmon, his allegations are insufficient to state a claim without any reference to which specific individual engaged in what conduct. See Lawal v. McDonald, 546 Fed.Appx. 107, 113 (3d Cir. 2014).

         In sum, Scarbrough cannot move forward on his current complaint as pled because it is not clear who he named as Defendants or what each individual did to violate his rights. Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the complaint with leave to amend so that Scarbrough can clarify and narrow his claims where appropriate. Some of Scarbrough's claims also suffer from other deficiencies, which the Court will address below.

         B. ...


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