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Padgett v. Wetzel

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 12, 2019

LYNN A. PADGETT, Plaintiff
v.
JOHN WETZEL, SHIRLEY MOORE-SMEAL, JON LOGAN, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge.

         Plaintiff Lynn Padgett (“Padgett”), an inmate confined at the State Correctional Institution, Mahanoy, in Frackville, Pennsylvania, (“SCI-Mahanoy”), initiated this action against John Wetzel, Shirley Moore-Smeal, and Jon Logan. (Doc. 1). Presently pending before the court is a Rule 12(b) motion (Doc. 10) to dismiss filed by defendants Wetzel and Moore-Smeal. For the reasons set forth below, the court will grant the motion. The court will also dismiss the action against Jon Logan pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m).

         I. Allegations of the Complaint

         Padgett accuses defendants of committing twenty-three (23) separate offenses. (Doc. 1, ¶ 5). He alleges that the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) has a policy that prevents him from filing complaints on behalf of other inmates. (Id. at ¶ 6). He further avers that he is “currently exhausting administrative remedies” through the DOC's inmate grievance process. (Id. at ¶ 9). For relief, Padgett requests that the court issue “warrants of arrest or summons” and that the “accused” be required to answer the charges he has lodged against them. (Id. at ¶ 10).

         II. Legal Standard

         Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept as true all [factual] allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.” Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it “may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n. 2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

         Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide “the defendant notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130-31 (3d Cir. 2010). In the first step, “the court must ‘tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'” Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 675 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id.; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well-pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a “plausible claim for relief.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to “raise a right to relief above the speculative level”). A claim “has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

         III. Discussion

         Padgett seeks to bring criminal charges against the defendants and explains that the instant action “was intended to be a ‘private criminal complaint.'” (Doc. 12). He acknowledges that the nature of his allegations are not proper § 1983 claims. (Id.) Padgett further concedes that he did not exhaust the available administrative remedies prior to initiating this action. (Id.)

         42 U.S.C. § 1983 creates a cause of action against any person who, acting under color of state law, deprives an individual of rights secured by the Constitution or by federal statute. See Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995); Shaw by Strain v. Strackhouse, 920 F.2d 1135, 1141-42 (3d Cir. 1990). Padgett may not use this civil lawsuit as a vehicle for instituting a criminal prosecution against the named defendants. As a private citizen, Padgett lacks standing to bring criminal charges. See Johnson v. U.S. Dept. of Justice, 541 Fed.Appx. 160, 161-62 (3d Cir. 2013) (“‘a private citizen lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution . . . of another.'”) (ellipsis in original) (quoting Linda R.S. v. Richard D., 410 U.S. 614, 619, (1973)). Furthermore, the court has no authority to grant, as relief, the initiation of any criminal prosecution against defendants. It is well-established that decisions regarding the filing of criminal charges are the prerogative of the executive branch of government and are assigned to the sound discretion of prosecutors. See Wayte v. United States, 470 U.S. 598, 607, 105 S.Ct. 1524, 84 L.Ed.2d 547 (1985) (recognizing that the exercise of prosecutorial discretion is a matter “particularly ill-suited to judicial review”). As such, Padgett may not seek relief in the form of an order directing the criminal prosecution of defendants. See Sanders v. Downs, 420 Fed.Appx. 175, 180 (3d Cir. 2011) (“[T]he District Court correctly reasoned that there is no constitutional right to the investigation or prosecution of another.”). For these reasons, the complaint will be dismissed.

         IV. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(m)

         Rule 4(m) sets forth the following time frame a plaintiff has to serve a defendant with the summons and copy of the complaint:

If a defendant is not served within 90 days after the complaint is filed, the court -- on motion or on its own after notice to the plaintiff -- must dismiss the action without prejudice against that defendant or order that service be made within a specified time. But if the plaintiff shows good cause for the ...

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