United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
KEAYMON D. GARRIS, Plaintiff,
SEAN T. POLL, Defendant.
F. LEESON, JR., UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court by way of a Complaint submitted
by Keaymon D. Garris, proceeding pro se. (ECF No.
2.) Also before the Court is Garris's Motion for Leave to
Proceed In Forma Pauperis (ECF No. 1), and his
Motion for Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 4). Because it
appears that Garris 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 with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim on which
relief may be granted.
an inmate currently incarcerated at the Lehigh County Jail,
brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
alleged violations of his constitutional rights. He seeks to
assert a First Amendment access to courts claim and a
Fourteenth Amendment due process claim against his former
public defender, Sean T. Poll. (ECF No. 2 at
4-5.) Garris attached a copy of his state court
criminal docket from the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas
to his Complaint. The criminal docket reflects that Garris
was arrested on or about October 1, 2018 on a series of gun
and drug related charges, as well as a charge of receiving
stolen property. Commonwealth v. Garris,
CP-39-CR-0004995-2018 (C.P. Lehigh Cty.) (ECF No. 2 at
16-17). Poll was appointed to represent Garris on these
criminal charges on or about October 10, 2018, and it appears
that a trial date is set for January 21, 2020. (Id.
at 15, 17). In May 2019, however, Garris filed a motion to
remove Poll as counsel, and the trial court granted his
request on or about May 31, 2019. (Id. at 20-21).
With respect to Poll's representation in the criminal
matter, Garris alleges that he was “represented by a
public defendant for the County of Lehigh, thus making him a
state actor.” (Compl. ECF No. 2 at 6.) Garris claims,
however, that Poll “was not on the bar
association” and that Poll “tried hiding this
fact” from Garris which “severely hindered
[Garris's] ability to defend” himself.
(Id.) Garris also asserts that Poll was
“holding [his] discovery” and alleges that Poll
improperly “tried convincing [Garris] to plea[d] out
even though [Poll] had knowledge there [was] not enough
evidence to convict” Garris at trial. (Id.)
Garris seeks punitive and compensatory damages based on his
contention that Poll was not qualified to represent him in
the criminal case. (Id. at 7.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Garris 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) requires the Court to dismiss the
Complaint if, among other things, the Complaint 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 and
generalized statements do not suffice to state a claim.
See Id. As Garris is proceeding pro se, the
Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v.
Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
seeks to bring claims for violations of his civil rights
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the vehicle by which
federal constitutional claims may be brought in federal
court. “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).
Garris cannot maintain a constitutional claim against Poll
because Poll is not a state actor for purposes of §
1983. See Polk Cty. v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325
(1981) (“[A] public defender does not act under color
of state law when performing a lawyer's traditional
functions as counsel to a defendant in a criminal
proceeding.”) (footnote omitted); Clark v.
Punshon, 516 Fed.Appx. 97, 99 (3d Cir. 2013) (per
curiam) (noting that a court-appointed attorney is not a
state actor for purposes of § 1983); Angelico v.
Lehigh Valley Hosp., Inc., 184 F.3d 268, 277 (3d Cir.
1999) (“Attorneys performing their traditional
functions will not be considered state actors solely on the
basis of their position as officers of the court.”).
Thus, the Court must dismiss Garris's claims against Poll
with prejudice as amendment would be futile. See Grayson
v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114 (3d Cir. 2002)
(stating a court must grant a plaintiff leave to amend their
complaint unless amendment would be inequitable or futile).
foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Garris leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his Complaint
with prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)
for failure to state a claim. In light of the dismissal of
the Complaint, the Court will deny Garris's Motion for
Appointment of Counsel (ECF No. 4) as moot. The Clerk will be
directed to close this case. An appropriate Order follows.
 The facts set forth in this Memorandum
are taken from Garris's Complaint and the documents and