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Mull v. Harmon

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 14, 2019

SETH R. MULL, Plaintiff,
JOHN HARMON, et al., Defendants.


          PETRESE B. TUCKER, J.

         Pro se Plaintiff Seth R. Mull, a convicted prisoner currently confined at Northampton County Prison, has filed a Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging constitutional claims. He has also filed a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. Because it appears that Mull is unable to afford to pay the filing fee, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Complaint will be dismissed in part with prejudice and in part without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Mull will be granted leave to file an amended complaint if he can cure the defects identified in the claims dismissed without prejudice.

         I. FACTS

         Mull alleges that Northampton County Prison has placed him in a "no communications" status. (ECF No. 2 at 7.)[1] He contends that his legal mail does not reach his attorney (id), that he has filed grievances about this with no solution (id. at 9), and that his court appointed attorney in his criminal cases has attempted to call the prison but has been harassed. (Id.) Mull asserts that for months prior to his criminal trial he needed to speak with his attorney and potential witnesses, but when he asked to call his attorney prison officials told him to write to her even though his legal mail was not being forwarded. (Id.) He was only able to get messages to his attorney by giving them to other inmates who were being discharged from the Prison and have them send the messages on. (Id. at 9-10.) When he complained to Defendant Charles Horvath of the prison's internal affairs unit that his mail was being destroyed, Horvath responded by denying that his mail was being destroyed. (Id. at 10.) Finally, Mull asserts his rights are being violated because he is currently in administrative segregation on a 23 hour lockdown status that does not give him time to go to the prison law library since he has less than one hour to shower, clean his cell and use the library. (Id.)


         The Court will grant Mull leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[2] Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if, among other things, 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). Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. As Mull is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain "a short a lain 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. Or., No. Civ. A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).


         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code provides in part:

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.

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).

         A. Claims Involving Grievances

         Mull alleges that Defendant Horvath responded to his grievance by denying that his legal mail was being destroyed. He also makes other general allegations that grievances were not properly addressed without naming any specific Defendant. Claims based on the handling of prison grievances fail because "[p]rison inmates do not have a constitutionally protected right to a grievance process." Jackson v. Gordon, 145 Fed.Appx. 774, 777 (3d Cir. 2005) (per curiam); see also Caldwell v. Beard, 324 Fed.Appx. 186, 189 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam). Accordingly, the facts alleged by Mull about the manner in which Defendant Horvath and other unspecified Defendants addressed his grievances do not give rise to a plausible basis for a constitutional claim and will be dismissed with prejudice.

         B. Claims ...

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