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Talley v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 2, 2019



          TIMOTHY J. SAVAGE J.

         Quintez Talley, an inmate at SCI-Fayette, brings this 42 U.S.C. § 1983 action against the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, “Inmate Accounting, ” and Cynthia Link, the Warden at SCI Graterford. He also seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, we will grant Talley leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his Complaint for failure to state a claim.


         Talley is a prolific litigator in the federal courts. On March 8, 2017, while incarcerated at SCI Graterford, $15, 000 was placed in his prison account. At that time, he owed filing fees pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act in connection with three cases he had filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.[1] Proceeding pro se and in forma pauperis, he had consented to the deduction of those filing fees from his prison account. Accordingly, on the day that the money was deposited into his prison account, a total of $950.20 was deducted to cover outstanding fees Talley owed in those cases.

         Talley alleges that Inmate Accounting, which appears to be a department at SCI Graterford, was responsible for ensuring that the payments were delivered to the Middle District of Pennsylvania. On December 20, 2018, Talley wrote to the Clerk of Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to inquire about the status of his payments. He received letters in response informing him that the money deducted from his prison account had not been delivered to the court. He also claims that a deduction of $3.50 taken for satisfaction of a filing fee was never delivered to the Court. Talley separately alleges that $1, 123.31 was deducted from his account for “institutional fines, ” and that he had not “consented to nor been given notice nor an opportunity to appeal.”[2]

         Talley alleges that the above deductions violated his Fourth Amendment and due process rights, constituted an unconstitutional taking, and violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). He claims that the $1, 123.31 deduction constitutes an excessive fine. Talley brings state law tort claims.


         We shall grant Talley leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[3] Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) apply, which requires us to dismiss the Complaint if it is frivolous or fails to state a claim. A complaint is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact, ” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally baseless if it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995).

         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 allegations do not suffice. Id. Furthermore, “[i]f the court determines at any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). As Talley is proceeding pro se, we construe his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).


         Claims Under § 1983

         Talley brings his constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “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). Talley's constitutional claims fail for the following reasons.

         Liability of the Named Defendants

         Talley named the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Inmate Accounting, and Link as the defendants in this case. However, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from suit under § 1983 and, in any event, is not a “person” for purposes of § 1983. See Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 71 (1989); Lavia v. Pa. Dep't of Corr., 224 F.3d 190, 195 (3d Cir. 2000). Likewise, Inmate Accounting, as a department of a state prison, is not a person subject to suit under § 1983. Fischer v. Cahill, 474 F.2d 991, 992 (3d Cir. 1973) (concluding ...

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