United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
J. PAPPERT, J.
Rodney Shelton brings this action based on his allegation
that officials at SCI-Graterford lost or destroyed his
property. He seeks leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. The Court will grant Shelton leave to proceed
in forma pauperis, dismiss his complaint, and grant
him leave to amend his access to court claim.
was an inmate at SCI - Graterford on June 29, 2018. He
alleges that on that date, Defendant Martin disposed of items
including “case discovery, testimony notes, exhibits,
personal hand-written notes and 5 post dated pictures,
” and that defendant John Doe spoke in a manner
suggesting that inmates' property would be sold at
auction. (ECF No. 2 at 4.) Shelton claims that, as a result
of the loss of his legal materials, he is unable to pursue
claims seeking to prove his innocence. (Id. at 5.)
Shelton filed a grievance based on the loss of his property,
but the grievance was denied. (Id. at 7.)
Accordingly, he filed this lawsuit against Correction Officer
Martin and a John Doe officer pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging violations of his First Amendment right to
access the court and his Fourteenth Amendment right to due
process. (Id. at 3.)
motion to proceed in forma pauperis is granted
because he has satisfied the requirements set forth in 28
U.S.C. § 1915. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C.
§1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the Court to dismiss the
complaint if it fails to state a claim. To survive dismissal
for failure to state a claim, the complaint must contain
“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). As plaintiff is proceeding pro
se, the Court must construe his allegations liberally.
Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
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).
“[T]he Due Process Clause is simply not implicated by a
negligent act of an official causing unintended loss
of or injury to life, liberty, or property.” See
Daniels v. Wiliams, 474 U.S. 327, 328 (1986).
Accordingly, Shelton cannot sustain a constitutional claim
based on allegations that prison officials acted negligently
in handling or losing his property.
extent prison officials intentionally deprived Shelton of his
property, there is no basis for a due process claim because
the prison grievance system and Pennsylvania law provide him
with adequate state remedies. See Shakur v. Coelho,
421 Fed.Appx. 132, 135 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam)
(explaining that the Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act provides an
adequate remedy for a willful deprivation of property);
Tapp v. Proto, 404 Fed.Appx. 563, 567 (3d Cir. 2010)
(per curiam) (“[D]eprivation of inmate property by
prison officials does not state a cognizable due process
claim if the prisoner has an adequate post-deprivation state
remedy.”). Accordingly, his property loss claim is
dismissed with prejudice.
also alleges that the loss of his property resulted in a
denial of access to the court. (ECF No. 2, at 3.) “A
prisoner making an access-to-the-courts claim is required to
show that the denial of access caused actual injury.”
Jackson v. Whalen, 568 Fed.Appx. 85, 87 (3d Cir.
2014) (per curiam) (quoting Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S.
343, 350 (1996)). In other words, a prisoner claiming that he
was denied access to the courts must allege an injury
traceable to the conditions of which he complains. Diaz
v. Holder, 532 Fed.Appx. 61, 63 (3d Cir. 2013) (per
curiam) (affirming dismissal of denial of access claims where
plaintiff failed to tie alleged deficiencies in library to
harm in underlying action). In general, an actual injury
occurs when a prisoner demonstrates that a
“nonfrivolous” and “arguable” claim
was lost because of the denial of access to the courts.
Christopher v. Harbury, 536 U.S. 403, 415 (2002).
“[T]he underlying cause of action, . . . is an element
that must be described in the complaint.” Id.
Shelton's complaint does not describe the underlying
cause of action and, therefore, he has failed to state a
§ 1983 claim based on denial of access to the court.
However, because the Court cannot state at this time that
Shelton can never state such a claim, his access to the
courts claim will be dismissed without prejudice and Shelton
will be granted leave to file an amended complaint if he is
able to cure the defect identified by the Court.
foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Shelton's
complaint. Plaintiff will be granted 30 days in which to
amend his claim based on denial of access to the courts. An
appropriate order follows, which shall be docketed