United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MARTIN W. JONES, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL KAMINSKI, et al., Defendants.
J. PAPPERT, J.
W. Jones, a prisoner incarcerated at SCI Rockview, brings
this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against
Michael Kaminski (Badge #50) and Tori Adams (Badge #61).
Jones seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For
the following reasons, the Court will grant Jones leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his Complaint
with prejudice for failure to state a claim, pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Complaint alleges constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against Kaminski and Adams in their official and
individual capacities. Jones alleges that at the time of the
incident giving rise to his Complaint, Kaminski and Adams
were police officers with the Upper Southampton Police
Department. (ECF No. 3 at 2, 12.)
claims that on September 1, 2017, he and “co-defendant
Jenny Jones, and others were stopped, their vehicle searched,
and items seized” by Kaminski and Adams. (Id.
at 13.) Specifically, Jones asserts that he was
“detained and his vehicle searched without a valid
arrest or search warrant and without probable cause to
believe that he had committed an offense.”
(Id.) Jones further states that on September 1,
2017, Jenny Jones handed a blue bag to Kaminski and Adams
“which contained 5 ounces of methamphetamine, [and]
stated to Defendants the bag belonged, to her. And she gave
Defendants permission to search the bag [and] there was
methamphetamine in it.” (Id.) Finally, Jones
asserts that he knew nothing about the methamphetamine and
“[t]hey arrested her, let me go.” (Id.)
Notably, Jones does not allege that any of his belongings
were seized, nor does he allege that he was arrested or
prosecuted for any of the events that took place on that day.
seeks, inter alia, punitive damages in the amount of
$750, 000.00 and compensatory damages in the amount of $750,
000.00 against each Defendant. (Id. at 14.) Jones
further demands that Jenny Lynn Jones, with whom he has no
apparent relationship, “be put on the stand, in front
of the Jury.” (Id. at 13, 14.)
Court will grant Jones leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of
paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the
Court to dismiss the Complaint if 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. Additionally, the
Court may dismiss claims based on an affirmative defense if
the affirmative defense is obvious from the face of the
complaint. See Fogle v. Pierson, 435 F.3d 1252, 1258
(10th Cir. 2006); cf. Ball v. Famiglio, 726 F.3d
448, 459 (3d Cir. 2013), abrogated on other grounds
by, Coleman v. Tollefson, 135 S.Ct. 1759, 1763
(2015). As Jones is proceeding pro se, the Court
construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y
Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
claims against Kaminski and Adams in their official
capacities fail because claims against officers named in
their official capacities are indistinguishable from claims
against the township. 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. Dep't of Soc.
Servs. of N.Y., 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.”
Jones has not pled a basis for municipal liability, his
official capacity claims fail. 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
can show that a custom was the proximate cause of his
injuries by demonstrating that the Defendant “had
knowledge of similar unlawful conduct in the past, failed to
take precautions against future violations, and that its
failure, at least in part, led to his injury.”
Id. (internal quotations and alterations omitted).
plaintiff may also state a basis for municipal liability by
“alleging failure-to-supervise, train, or discipline .
. . [and alleging facts showing] that said failure amounts to
deliberate indifference to the constitutional rights of those
affected.” Forrest v. Parry, 930 F.3d 93, 106
(3d Cir. 2019). “This consists of a showing as to
whether (1) municipal policymakers know that employees will
confront a particular situation, (2) the situation involves a
difficult choice or a history of employees mishandling, and
(3) the wrong choice by an employee will frequently cause
deprivation of constitutional rights.” Id.
in Jones's Complaint plausibly suggests that the claimed
constitutional violations stemmed from a municipal policy or
custom, or municipal failures amounting to deliberate
indifference. Accordingly, Jones has not stated a plausible
basis for a claim against any municipal entity. The Court