United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
SEAN E. JELEN, Plaintiff,
LACKAWANNA STATE PRISON, et al., Defendants.
Richard Caputo United States District Judge
Sean Jelen’s Complaint (Docs. 1, 8, 9) is before me for
preliminary screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A and
28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
Screening Pro Se In Forma Pauperis
litigant seeks to proceed in forma pauperis, without
payment of fees, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 requires the court to
screen the complaint. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B). Likewise, when a prisoner seeks redress from a
government defendant in a civil action, whether proceeding
in forma pauperis or not, the court must screen the
complaint. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). Both 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and § 1915(A) give the court
the authority to dismiss a complaint if it is frivolous,
malicious, fails to state a claim on which relief may be
granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1)-(2);
Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d 448, 452 (3d Cir. 2013).
complaint is frivolous if it lacks an arguable basis either
in law or in fact. See Mitchell v. Horn, 318 F.3d
523, 530 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 327-28, 109 S.Ct. 1827, 104 L.Ed.2d 338
(1989)). When deciding whether the complaint fails to state a
claim for which relief may be granted, the court employs the
standard used to analyze motions to dismiss under
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). See Allah v. Seiverling, 229
F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), the court
“must accept all of the complaint’s well-pleaded
facts as true, but may disregard any legal
conclusions.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578
F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678-79, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d
complaint must contain “a short and plain statement of
the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief . .
.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). A complaint is required to
provide “the defendant fair 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)).
the sufficiency of the complaint, the court “must take
three steps.” Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp.,
809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016). First, a court must
“take note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to
state a claim.” Id. (internal quotations and
brackets omitted). Second, the court must identify
allegations that are merely legal conclusions “because
they . . . are not entitled to the assumption of
truth.” Id. While detailed factual allegations
are not required, “[t]hreadbare recitals of the
elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Iqbal, 556 U.S.
at 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at
555, 127 S.Ct. 1955). Third, a court should assume the
veracity of all well-pleaded factual allegations and
“then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an
entitlement to relief.” Connelly, 809 F.3d at
787 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679, 129 S.Ct.
Court must liberally construe a complaint filed by a pro
se plaintiff and hold it “‘to less stringent
standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.’” Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d
184 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404
U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972));
see also Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127
S.Ct. 2197, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Yet, even pro
se plaintiffs “must allege sufficient facts in
their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown
Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013)
(citation omitted). Courts should allow pro se
litigants leave to file a curative amended complaint even
when a plaintiff does not seek leave to amend, unless such an
amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate of
Lagano v. Bergen Cty. Prosecutor’s Office, 769
F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014).
and his minor daughter MMJ commenced this action on August
30, 2018 against Defendants Lackawanna County State Prison
(the “Prison”) and the Warden of that facility.
(See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 3-4). Jelen subsequently
supplemented his Complaint to name the United States of
America, Lackawanna County (the “County”), the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Department
of Corrections as Defendants. (See Doc. 8,
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that on January 31, 2018, he was
sentenced in this Court and immediately taken into custody by
the United States Marshals Service and transported to the
Prison. (See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 11-13). Plaintiff
was at the Prison from that day until February 22, 2018.
(See Doc. 9, ¶ 28). Jelen suffers from a severe
form of Chron’s disease, which requires strict diet
controls and medications. (See Doc. 1, ¶¶
14-17). His disease also requires frequent bandage changes.
(See id. at ¶ 24).
arrival at the Prison, Plaintiff met with a medical
practitioner and provided the contact information for his
pharmacy. (See id. at ¶ 21). Nevertheless,
despite his constant pleas over the next three weeks, medical
and correctional staff provided him a single bandage.
(See id. at ¶ 26). Plaintiff was also denied
all of his prescribed medications during this time. (See
id. at ¶ 27). Plaintiff was also given food that he
was unable to consume based on his medical condition.
(See id. at ¶ 38-40). His request for a liquid
diet was ignored. (See id.). Plaintiff lost fourteen
pounds in three weeks as a result. (See Doc. 9,
¶ 13(f)(1)). Plaintiff was also subjected to poor
hygiene conditions at the Prison. (See Doc. 1,
requested a visit with MMJ during his stay at the Prison
through the written request system. (See id. at
¶ 49). He was advised that his wife and daughter could
only visit during normal hours and that contact visits were
prohibited. (See id. at ¶ 50). He was only
permitted to see his daughter through glass. (See
id. at ¶ 52).
on February 1, 2018, Plaintiff’s commissary account was
funded by outside family members. (See id. at ¶
55). Once he was taken from the Prison by U.S. Marshals,
however, the balance in that account was not returned.
(See id. at ¶ 57).
while he was in the Prison, Plaintiff was denied access to
counsel and he was not provided any recreation time.
(See Doc. 9, ¶¶ 13(e)-(f)).
on the foregoing, Plaintiff commenced this action asserting
claims against the Prison, the Warden, the United States of
America, the County, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and
the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. Specifically,
Plaintiff appears to assert constitutional claims for the
denial of medical care/medical diet, denial of contact visits
with his wife and daughter, denial of legal calls with his
counsel, deprivation of access to the law library, refusal to
refund the balance of his commissary account, denial of
recreation time, and violations of his equal protection
rights. In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendants
violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
minor child’s purported claims will be dismissed
without prejudice. As a non-attorney proceeding pro
se, Plaintiff cannot represent his daughter in this
matter or raise claims on her behalf. See Twp. of
Lyndhurst, N.J. v. Priceline.com, Inc., 657 F.3d 148,
154 (3d Cir. 2011) (“[A] plaintiff must assert his or
her own legal interests rather than those of a third
party” to have standing to bring a claim);
Osei-Afriyie ex rel. Osei-Afriyie v. Med. Coll. of
Pa., 937 F.2d 876, 882-83 (3d Cir. 1991) (holding that a
non-attorney parent could not proceed pro se on
behalf of his children in federal court); People ex rel.
Snead v. Kirkland, 462 F.Supp. 914, 917-18 (E.D. Pa.
1978) (pro se plaintiff may represent himself with
respect to his individual claims, but cannot act as an
attorney for others in a federal court). In other words,
“[a]s a non-attorney, [Plaintiff] is permitted to
represent [him]self in federal court, but [ ]he cannot act as