United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
LEWIS L. JONES, Plaintiff,
JOSEPH KELLY, et al., Defendants.
D. WOLSON, J.
Lewis L. Jones, a convicted prisoner currently incarcerated
at SCI Frackville, has filed a civil rights complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an Application for
Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. For the
following reasons, the Court will permit Mr. Jones to proceed
without immediately paying the filing fees, meaning the Court
will grant the application to proceed in forma
pauperis. However, for the reasons stated below, the
Court will dismiss this case pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) because Mr. Jones has not stated a claim on
which relief can be granted.
Court accepts the facts in Mr. Jones's Complaint as true
and construes them liberally in recognition of his status as
a pro se plaintiff. The Complaint in this case is
quite brief. Mr. Jones alleges that he was arrested on March
9, 2018. (ECF No. 2 at 2.) From there, he was transported to the
Norristown police station and placed in a cell.
(Id.) He was later interrogated by unspecified
police officers without counsel and without being given
Miranda warnings. (Id.) Mr. Jones asserts
that he falsely confessed under duress to unspecified crimes
that he did not commit and for which he was later convicted.
(Id.) He seeks $20 million as a result of the stress
he and his family have suffered. (Id. at 3.)
review of public dockets reflects that Mr. Jones was
convicted on May 7, 2019 in the Montgomery County Court of
Common Pleas on numerous charges of aggravated indecent
assault of a child, rape of a child, and related offenses.
See Commonwealth v. Jones, CP-46-CR-2333-2018 (C.P.
Montgomery Cty.) He was sentenced on August 16, 2019 to a
prison term of ten to twenty years on the most serious
charges. (Id.) Defendant Douglas Dolfman is listed
on the state court docket as Mr. Jones's defense
attorney, Defendants Lauren Marvel and Matthew Brittenburg of
the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office are
listed as prosecutors, Defendant Todd Eisenburg is listed as
the trial judge, and Defendant Nicholas Dumas is identified
as the arresting officer. (Id.) Mr. Jones's
appeal of his conviction is currently pending. (Id.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
plaintiff seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis
must establish that he is unable to pay for the costs of his
suit. See Walker v. People Express Airlines, Inc.,
886 F.2d 598, 601 (3d Cir. 1989). Where, as here, a court
grants a plaintiff leave to proceed in forma
pauperis, the Court must determine whether the complaint
states a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). That inquiry requires the court to
apply the standard for a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P.
12(b)(6). Under that standard, the court must take all
well-pleaded allegations as true, interpret them in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff, and draw all inferences in
his favor. See Kokinda v. Pa. Dept. of Corrections,
779 Fed. App'x 938, 941 (3d Cir. 2019). Moreover, because
Mr. Jones is proceeding pro se, the Court must
construe his pleadings liberally. See Higgs v. Att'y
Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Leave To Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Jones provided information demonstrating that he lacks the
income or assets to pay the required filing fees. Therefore,
the Court will grant him leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. However, as a prisoner, under 28 U.S.C. §
1915(b), Mr. Jones must nonetheless pay the filing fee in
installments. This requirement will be set forth in the
Plausibility Of Claims In The Complaint
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).
Mr. Jones has not stated a plausible claim here, for several
the Supreme Court's decision in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), bars Mr. Jones's
claims. In that case, the Supreme Court held that to
“recover damages [or other relief] for allegedly
unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment, or for other
harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would render a
conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must
prove that the conviction or sentence has been reversed on
direct appeal, expunged by executive order, declared invalid
by a state tribunal authorized to make such determination, or
called into question by a federal court's issuance of a
writ of habeas corpus[.]” Heck, 512 U.S. at
486-87 (footnote and citation omitted); see also
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005)
(“[A] state prisoner's § 1983 action is barred
(absent prior invalidation) - no matter the relief sought
(damages or equitable relief), no matter the target of the
prisoner's suit (state conduct leading to conviction or
internal prison proceedings) - if success in that action
would necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of confinement
or its duration.” (emphasis omitted)).
Mr. Jones's allegations-that he was arrested improperly
and forced to give a confession-would ultimately render his
conviction invalid. Thus, under Heck, he must
demonstrate that the conviction has been reversed or set
aside. It has not. To the contrary, the state court docket
reflects that Mr. Jones is still pursuing a direct appeal. ...