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Trageser v. Stanley

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 18, 2018


v.
JENNIFER STANLEY, FRANKLIN COUNTY PRISON, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Plaintiff Brett Michael Trageser ("Trageser" or "Plaintiff), an inmate presently incarcerated at the Franklin County Jail, Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, commenced this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on April 4, 2018. (Doc. 1). Named as Defendants are Jennifer Stanley ("Stanley") and the Franklin County Prison.

         Trageser seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 6). For the reasons set forth below, the complaint against the Franklin County Prison will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The matter will proceed as to Defendant Stanley.

         I. Standard of Review

         Section 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), which pertains to in forma pauperis proceedings states, in pertinent part, "the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that.. .the action or appeal.. .fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." 28 U.S.C. §1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The applicable standard of review for is the same as the standard for a motion pursuant to 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

         In rendering a decision on a motion to dismiss, a court should not inquire "whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 66 (3d Cir. 1996). The court must accept as true the factual allegations in the complaint and draw all reasonable inferences from them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Phillips v. Cntv of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2008)). A district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may consider the facts alleged on the face of the complaint, as well as "documents incorporated into the complaint by reference, and matters of which a court may take judicial notice." Tellabs, Inc. v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322 (2007).

         However, "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions." Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) ("Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice."). Under the pleading regime established by [Bell Atl. Corp. v.] Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) and Iqbal, a court reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint must take three steps. First, it must "tak[e] note of the elements [the] plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 129 S.Ct. 1937. Second, it should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id., at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937. See also Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 224 (3d Cir. 2011) ("Mere restatements of the elements of a claim are not entitled to the assumption of truth." (citation and editorial marks omitted)). Finally, "[w]hen there are well-pleaded factual allegations, [the] court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief." Iqbal 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct. 1937. Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 787-88 (3d Cir. 2016) (internal citations, quotations and footnote omitted). Elements are sufficiently alleged when the facts in the complaint "show" that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (quoting FED. R. CIV. P. 8(a)(2)). At the second step, the Court identities those allegations that, being merely conclusory, are not entitled to the presumption of truth. Twombly and Iqbal distinguish between legal conclusions, which are discounted in the analysis, and allegations of historical fact, which are assumed to be true even if "unrealistic or nonsensical, " "chimerical, " or "extravagantly fanciful." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 681. Deciding whether a claim is plausible is a "context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id.

         II. Allegations of the complaint

         Trageser alleges that in "late Maye [sic] or early June 2017" Defendant Stanley, a correctional officer at the Franklin County Prison, began conversing with him and playing with his hair, in exchange for various goods. (Doc. 1, pp. 3, 5). On one evening, she entered his cell, got him "high off the marijuana" and sexually assaulted him. (Id. at 5). He states that he feels that the jail handled the matter "with negligence." (Id.)

         III. Discussion

         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress....

Id; see also Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder. 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins. 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). Thus, § 1983 limits liability to persons who violate constitutional rights.

         It is well-settled that neither a state nor its agencies, are considered a "person" as that term is defined under § 1983 and, therefore, are not subject to a § 1983 suit. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25-27 (1991). Similarly, neither a prison nor a department within a prison is a person subject to suit under § 1983. Fischer v. Cahill. 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973). Franklin County Prison is not a person capable of being sued within the meaning of § 1983. Se ...


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