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Moore v. Berks County Jail System

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

October 18, 2019

WAYMAN MOORE, Plaintiff,
BERKS COUNTY JAIL SYSTEM, et al., Defendants.


          JEFFREY L. SCHMEHL, J.

         Wayman Moore, who was formerly a prisoner in the Berks County Jail System (“BCJS”), filed this pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (ECF No. 2) along with a Motion to Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1).[1] Because it appears that Moore is unable to afford to pay the filing fee, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Complaint will be dismissed in part with prejudice and in part without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii).

         I. FACTS[2]

         Moore alleges that during some portion of the time that he was in custody at the BCJS from September 18 to October 18, 2018, he was not served meat as part of his meals. Specifically, he alleges that he informed prison officials that he did not drink milk and requested a non-dairy diet. (ECF No. 2 at 7.) His meals thereafter mistakenly did not contain any meats. (Id.) He complained to a prison official who contacted Defendant Kitchen Officer Mata. (Id.) Mata allegedly refused his request for meat meals. (Id.) Moore claims that his body “started to rejecting the food I was being fed, I couldn't hold it down.” (Id.) He claims that he had to eat his meals in his cell near his toilet and speculates that this caused cross-contamination. (Id.)

         Moore alleges that he asked to go to medical about his reaction to his food. His request was denied by Defendant Estes, who told him to return to his cell. (Id.) He filed a grievance about Estes but never received a reply. (Id.) On October 13, 2018, he again complained about his food, but Defendant Mata threatened that he would be placed in administrative segregation if he continued to complain.

         Moore contacted Defendant Jesse Kirsch PA-C in the medical department about his meatless meals, claiming it was causing him to starve and have headaches, but Kirsch would not help. (Id. at 6.) Defendant Nurse Christine Satter told Moore that there was nothing she could do for him. (Id.) Defendant Sergeant Davis “just shrugged his shoulders” and told him to hold on for a few more days when Moore complained to him on October 13, 2018. (Id.) Shortly thereafter he was placed on a normal diet, allegedly after he filed an emergency grievance and addressed a letter to the deputy warden, “[b]ut the damage has been done.” (Id.) He alleges he was “starved” and “force fed.” (Id.) Finally, Moore alleges that Defendant Lt. Weber failed to properly investigate his grievance. (Id.)


         The Court will grant Moore leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action.[3] Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if it is frivolous. A complaint is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact, ” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally baseless if it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995). In addition, § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) 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. As Moore is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).


         A. BCJS is Not a “Person” Subject to Suit Under § 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). At the outset the Court notes that Moore named the BCJS as a Defendant in this action. This § 1983 claim is dismissed as frivolous because a jail is not a “person” under § 1983. Miller v. Curran-Fromhold Corr. Facility, Civ. A. No. 13-7680, 2014 WL 4055846, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 13, 2014) (citing Mitchell v. Chester Cty. Farms Prison, 426 F.Supp. 271 (E.D. Pa. 1976); Lenhart v. Pennsylvania, 528 Fed.Appx. 111, 114 (3d Cir. 2013) (“Westmoreland County Prison is not a person capable of being sued within the meaning of § 1983.”).

         B. Claims Based on Grievances

         Claims based on the handling of prison grievances fail because “[p]rison inmates do not have a constitutionally protected right to a grievance process.” Jackson v. Gordon, 145 Fed.Appx. 774, 777 (3d Cir. 2005) (per curiam); see also Caldwell v. Beard, 324 Fed.Appx. 186, 189 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam). Accordingly, the facts alleged by Moore about grievances do not give rise to a plausible basis for a constitutional claim and will be dismissed with prejudice. Furthermore, “an allegation of a failure to investigate, without another recognizable constitutional right, is not sufficient to sustain a section 1983 claim.” Graw v. Fantasky, 68 Fed.Appx. 378, 383 (3d Cir. 2003) (quotations omitted); see also Boseski v. N. Arlington Municipality, 621 Fed.Appx. 131, 135 (3d Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (“Boseski has no cognizable claim against a government entity for its failure to investigate or bring criminal charges against another individual.”). Accordingly, the claim against Defendant Lt. Weber, based on his failure to investigate Moore's grievance is dismissed for failure to state a plausible claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         C. Claims Based on ...

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