United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Daniel Steven Harris, an inmate currently incarcerated at the
Berks County Jail System, has filed this civil action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Berks County
Sheriff Department and Frank Cataldi, a Berks County Sheriff.
He has also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma
Pauperis. (ECF No. 1.) For the following reasons, the
Court will grant Harris leave to proceed in forma
pauperis and dismiss his Complaint.
Complaint, Harris states that on December 8, 2010, officers
from the Berks County Sheriffs Department entered his home
without a warrant. (Compl. at 4.) The next day, they entered
his home again without a warrant, "pointing guns."
(Id.) The officers were led "by a Sgt. Sheriff
Frank Cataldi." (Id.) Harris asked to see a
warrant. (Id.) Instead, he was "grabbed and
violently pushed onto [his] porch" by Cataldi.
(Id.) Harris "lost [his] balance and fell on
[his] stomach," and Cataldi "landed on [his] back
and attempted to push [Harris's] left disabled arm behind
[him]." (Id.) Harris noticed that he had a
"partially broken middle right finger."
alleges that he "screamed as loud as [he] could"
that he was not resisting. (Id. at 5.) An unnamed
sheriff then "put his knee on the back of [Harris's]
head and neck and used his weight to press down."
(Id.) Harris was eventually "handcuffed behind
[his] back, right arm extended to the left to relieve the
pressure on [his] left shoulder because [his] left arm and
shoulder [do not] rotate behind [him] naturally."
(Id.) He heard one of the sheriffs call him
"Jamal." (Id.) To prove his identity,
Harris "directed the sheriff to [his] wallet."
(Id.) Subsequently, Harris "was Tasered and
ask[ed where] Jamal Turner was." (Id.) He
contends that he was Tasered for 28 to 32 seconds.
(Id.) Afterwards, Cataldi "immediately and
painfully lifted" Harris, grabbing his handcuffed hands
and "lifting them skyward." (Id.)
alleges that the sheriffs then "drove and dropped [him]
off at the Reading Hospital," where they left him alone
in the care of the hospital staff. (Id. at 3.) A
week later, on December 16, 2010, Harris was "falsely
accused and charged with" aggravated assault and simple
assault on the sheriffs, "among other charges."
(Id. at 3, 8.) He was taken to see District Justice
Yoch, where he was "given R.O.R. bail."
(Id. at 3.) Public dockets reflect that Harris was
charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count
each of simple assault, disorderly conduct engage in
fighting, hinder apprehension/prosecution-harbor or conceal,
and resisting arrest/other law enforcement. Commonwealth
v. Harris, CP-06-CR-0000166-2011 (Berks Ct. Common
Pleas). He was arraigned on the charges on January 31, 2011.
Id. On January 20, 2012, Harris was found guilty of
resisting arrest and was sentenced to 6-23 months of
incarceration. Id. He was found not guilty of simple
assault, the aggravated assault and disorderly conduct
charges were dismissed, and the hindering
apprehension/prosecution charge was withdrawn. Id.
relief, Harris seeks $500, 000.00 in damages for the
Defendants' actions because they "destroyed the
public trust and illegally use[d] the system to frame and
illegally sentence Mr. Harris." (Compl. at 7-8.) He also
requests that Cataldi and the sheriff who Tasered him be
"fired from their positions," and that all sheriffs
who were present at the time of the incident be "held
accountable for covering up violent illegal behavior of their
peers." (Id. at 8.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Harris leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is not capable of
paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly,
Harris's Complaint is subject to 28 U.S.C §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), 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. 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
Harris is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
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).
Harris's claims fail for the following reasons.
noted above, Harris states that the Defendants
"illegally use[d] the system to frame and illegally
sentence" him. (Compl. at 8.) To the extent that Harris
is challenging his conviction and sentence for resisting
arrest, his claims are not cognizable in this action.
"[T]o recover damages [or other relief] for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other
harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus[.]" Heck v. Humphrey, 512
U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (footnote and citation omitted);
see also Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82
(2005) ("[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is
barred (absent prior invalidation)-no matter the relief
sought (damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of
the prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction
or internal prison proceedings)- - if success in that action
would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement
or its duration." (emphasis omitted)). Therefore, to the
extent Harris seeks to challenge his resisting arrest
conviction and sentence, he may not do so in this § 1983
action because that conviction has not been invalidated.
also appears to raise claims of illegal search and seizure,
false arrest, and excessive force against the Defendants. As
noted above, he contends that the Defendants illegally
entered his home without a warrant on December 8 and 9, 2010,
that they used excessive force against him on December 9,
2010, and that they falsely arrested him on or about December
16, 2010. Pennsylvania's two-year limitations period
applies to these claims. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§ 5524; Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387
(2007). Harris's claims accrued when he "ha[d] a
complete and present cause of action, that is, when [he
could] file suit and obtain relief." Dique v. NJ.
State Police, 603 F.3d 181, 185 (3d Cir. 2010)
(quotations omitted). Pursuant to the prison mailbox rule, a
prisoner's complaint is considered filed at the time he
or she hands it over to prison authorities for forwarding to
the Court. See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276
(1988); Terrell v. Benfer, 429 Fed.Appx. 74, 75 n.l
(3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam).
Harris's illegal search and seizure claims accrued on
December 8 and 9, 2010, when the alleged illegal searches and
seizure occurred. See Woodson v. Payton, 503
Fed.Appx. 110, 112 (3d Cir. 2012) (concluding that statute of
limitations began on date when plaintiff "indisputably
knew about the alleged faults of search and seizure").
His excessive force claim accrued on December 9, 2010, when
the alleged assault occurred. See LeBlanc v.
Snavely,453 Fed.Appx. 140, 142 (3d Cir. 2011) (per
curiam). His false arrest claim accrued on December 16, 2010,
when he was arrested on the charges brought against him.
See Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389-90 & n.3;
Singleton v. DA Philadelphia,411 Fed.Appx. 470, 472
(3d Cir. 2011) (concluding that accrual of a claim for false
arrest occurred on the date that the plaintiff "was
arrested and charges were filed against
him"). Thus, the limitations period applicable to
these claims expired in 2012. Harris, however, did not file
his Complaint ...