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Burns v. Erie County Prison

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 3, 2019

WILLIE J. BURNS, Plaintiff
v.
ERIE COUNTY PRISON, et al., Defendants

          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          RICHARD A. LANZILLO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         It is hereby recommended that the motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis [ECF No. 1] be GRANTED.

         It is further recommended that this action be dismissed as legally frivolous in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).

         II. REPORT

         A. Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis

         Plaintiff Willie J. Burns (“Plaintiff”) initiated this pro se civil rights action by filing a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. In his motion, Plaintiff states that he is unable to pay the filing fee associated with this case. Based upon this averment, it appears that Plaintiff is without sufficient funds to pay the costs and fees of the proceedings. Accordingly, his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis should be granted.

         B. Assessment of Plaintiff's Complaint

         Having been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, Plaintiff is subject to the screening provisions in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).[1] Among other things, that statute requires the Court to dismiss any action in which the Court determines that the action is “frivolous or malicious; fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); Muchler v. Greenwald, 624 Fed.Appx. 794, 796-97 (3d Cir. 2015). A frivolous complaint is one which is either based upon an indisputably meritless legal theory (such as when a defendant enjoys immunity from suit) or based upon factual contentions which are clearly baseless (such as when the factual scenario described is fanciful or delusional). Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). The determination as to whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. D'Agostino v. CECOM RDEC, 436 Fed.Appx. 70, 72 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999)).

         In his complaint, Plaintiff, a pre-trial detainee confined at the Erie County Prison, alleges that the Pennsylvania Superior Court mailed him an order related to an ongoing criminal appeal on May 21, 2019, but he did not receive the order until June 5, 2019. ECF No. 1-2 at 2. Because the order directed him to file something within ten days, this delay could “possibly” have jeopardized his appeal. Id. at 6. Plaintiff implies that Defendant Gregory Little, the corrections officer who received the mail in question, may have intentionally withheld his mail, although no substantive allegations to this effect appear in the complaint. Id. at 2.

         On June 7, 2009, Plaintiff filed a grievance concerning the mail delay. ECF No. 6. Defendant Michael Holman denied the grievance, issuing the following response:

We have no control over when the mail arrives and you were told this by your counselor, therefore, this is nothing more than a harassing communication. Any further harassing communications [] may result in a misconduct. The item arrived on the 5th of June and that is when you ...

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