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Feldser v. Miranda

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2019

THOMAS FELDSER, Plaintiff,
v.
MAJOR MIRANDA, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          CYNTHIA M. RUFE, J.

         Pro se Plaintiff Thomas Feldser, a pretrial detainee currently confined at Curran Fromhold Correctional Facility (“CFCF”), 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 Feldser is unable to afford to pay the filing fee, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, certain claims in the Complaint will be dismissed with prejudice, certain claims will be dismissed without prejudice, certain claims will be permitted to proceed as alleged, and Feldser will be granted leave to file an amended complaint to attempt to cure the defects noted by the Court concerning the claims dismissed without prejudice.

         I. FACTS

         Feldser alleges that, during a cell transfer following his completion of a disciplinary sentence, Defendant Correctional Officers Boone and Sullivan threw multiple punches at his face and lower body when he protested to them that the cell to which he was moved was not in compliance with his medical requirement to be housed in a lower bunk on a lower tier. (ECF No. 1 at 4.)[1] He was treated in the medical unit for a bruised lip, bruised ribs, an abrasion on his ear, and swelling above his eye. (Id.) Felder asserts that he filed grievances about the incident, but received no reply. (Id.) Feldser also asserts that Defendant Major Miranda did not convene an administrative segregation hearing until Feldser had already been in administrative segregation for 45 days, even though he made verbal requests and filed a grievance. (Id.) He alleges that Miranda and Defendant Delaney, the Warden of CFCF, caused him to remain in special housing for more than six months without due process because Feldser spoke out against Boone and Sullivan. (Id. at 3, 5.) Feldser names each Defendant in their individual and official capacities. (Id. at 3.)

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The Court will grant Feldser 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 Feldser 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 plain 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. Ctr., No. Civ. A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).

         III. DISCUSSION

         Section 1983 of Title 42 of the United States Code[3] 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. Official Capacity Claims

         Feldser has sued each Defendant in their official as well as individual capacities. Official capacity claims are indistinguishable from claims against the entity that employs the officials. See Kentucky v. Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 165-66 (1985) (“Official-capacity suits . . . ‘generally represent only another way of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer is an agent.'”) (quoting Monell v. N.Y.C. Dept. of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55 (1978)). “[A]n official-capacity suit is, in all respects other than name, to be treated as a suit against the entity.” Id. Accordingly, the official capacity claims against the named Defendants must be construed as claims against the City of Philadelphia.

         To plead a basis for municipal liability under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the municipality's policy or custom caused the violation of his constitutional rights. See Monell, 436 U.S. at 694. “To satisfy the pleading standard, [the plaintiff] must . . . specify what exactly that custom or policy was.” McTernan v. City of York, PA, 564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d Cir. 2009). “‘Policy is made when a decisionmaker possess[ing] final authority to establish municipal policy with respect to the action issues an official proclamation, policy, or edict.'” Estate of Roman v. City of Newark, 914 F.3d 789, 798 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting Andrews v. City of Philadelphia, 895 F.2d 1469, 1480 (3d Cir. 1990)). “‘Custom, on the other hand, can be proven by showing that a given course of conduct, although not specifically endorsed or authorized by law, is so well-settled and permanent as virtually to constitute law.'” Id. (quoting Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845, 850 (3d Cir. 1990)). A plaintiff illustrates that a custom was the proximate ...


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