United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
BARTLE, III, J.
Brandon Howard, formerly a pretrial detainee housed at the
Bucks County Prison (“BCP”), has filed a civil
rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and an
Application for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.
Named as Defendants are Michael Rihl, a Bensalem police
officer; Ted Krimmel, the Bensalem Chief of Police; the
Bensalem Police Department; the “Bensalem Police
Comm.;” Brian Hessenthaler, identified as the Chief
Operating Officer of Bucks County; Paul K. Lagana, Warden of
BCP; the Bucks County District Attorney's Office; and
David Heckler, a former District Attorney of Bucks County.
For the following reasons, Howard will be permitted to
proceed without the payment of filing fees and the Complaint
will be dismissed in part with prejudice and in part without
prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii),
with the exception of one claim against Defendant Rihl that
will be permitted to proceed.
alleges that he was arrested by Rihl in the summer of 2019
after being harassed by Rihl for several years. (ECF No. 3 at
Rihl threatened to “make Howard's life miserable
while he was ‘locked up' because of a physical
altercation that occurred at the time of arrest and the
hostile exchange of words.” (Id.) Howard was
detained at the BCP where he was approached by another inmate
named Spade who told Howard he was in possession of a form
generated by Rihl allegedly listing Howard as a confidential
informant for the Bensalem Police Department. (Id.
at 3-4.) The form was allegedly provided to a criminal
defendant as part of criminal discovery in that
defendant's case. (Id.) Howard asserts that the
form became the source of several fights and assaults he
sustained while detained at BCP, resulting in his placement
in punitive segregation. (Id. at 4.) He was later
transferred to the Philadelphia Prison System, but the
allegation that he was a confidential informant
“followed him” resulting in several more fights,
assaults and his placement in punitive segregation.
(Id.) He alleges that Defendant David Heckler, as
the Bucks County District Attorney, had an obligation to
ensure Howard's alleged status as a confidential
informant was not released to the public or included in
discovery material provided to a criminal defendant.
alleges claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on a
Fourteenth Amendment state-created danger theory, as well as
on theories of intentional infliction of emotional distress,
abuse of process, intentional infliction of a hostile and
dangerous atmosphere. (Id. at 3, 7.) He seeks as
relief that Rihl be removed as a police officer, the Bensalem
Police Department “be sanctioned, ” and money
damages. (Id. at 7.) Although listed in the caption
of the Complaint, Howard makes no substantive allegations
against Defendants Krimmel, “Bensalem Police Comm.,
” Hessenthaler, or Lagana.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Howard appears to be unable to pay the filing fee in this
matter, the Court will grant him leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. 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. As Howard is
proceeding pro se, the Court construes his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
a complaint may be dismissed for failing to comply with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Garrett v. Wexford
Health, 938 F.3d 69, 91 (3d Cir. 2019). To conform to
Rule 8, a pleading must contain a short and plain statement
showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See
Travaline v. U.S. Supreme Court, 424 Fed.Appx. 78, 79
(3d Cir. 2011). The Third Circuit recently explained that in
determining whether a pleading meets Rule 8's
“plain” statement requirement, the Court should
“ask whether, liberally construed, a pleading
‘identifies discrete defendants and the actions taken
by these defendants' in regard to the plaintiff's
claims.” Garrett, 938 F.3d at 93 (citation
omitted). A pleading may still satisfy the
“plain” statement requirement “even if it
is vague, repetitious, or contains extraneous
information” and “even if it does not include
every name, date, and location of the incidents at
issue.” Id. at 93-94. The important
consideration for the Court is whether, “a pro se
complaint's language . . . presents cognizable legal
claims to which a defendant can respond on the merits.”
Id. at 94.
“a pleading that is so ‘vague or ambiguous'
that a defendant cannot reasonably be expected to respond to
it will not satisfy Rule 8.” Id. at 93;
see also Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. Ctr., Civ. A.
No. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017).
Dismissals under Rule 8 are “‘reserved for those
cases in which the complaint so confused, ambiguous, vague,
or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any,
is well disguised.'” Garrett, 938 F.3d at
94 (quoting Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d
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).
Claims Against Defendants Krimmel, “Bensalem Police
Comm., ” Hessenthaler, or Lagana
listed in the caption of the Complaint, Howard makes no
factual allegations concerning Defendants Krimmel,
“Bensalem Police Comm., ” Hessenthaler, or
Lagana. Because Howard presents no cognizable legal claims to
which a defendant can respond on the merits, the Complaint
will be dismissed as to these Defendants. However, because
the Court cannot say at this time that Howard can never
assert plausible claims, these Defendants will be dismissed
without prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) and Howard will be granted leave to file an
amended complaint to attempt to state plausible claims.
Claims Against the ...