Kaplan v. Ebert, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14-0605

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtJUDGE MANNION
Docket NumberCIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14-0605
PartiesRICHARD P. KAPLAN, Plaintiff v. MR. EBERT, et al., Defendants
Decision Date30 September 2015

RICHARD P. KAPLAN, Plaintiff
v.
MR. EBERT, et al., Defendants

CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14-0605

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

September 30, 2015


( JUDGE MANNION )

MEMORANDUM

I. Background

Plaintiff, Richard P. Kaplan, an inmate confined in the Federal Correctional Institution, Otisville, New York, filed the above captioned action pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act ("FTCA") and Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). (Doc. 1, complaint). He also requests relief pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, 5 U.S.C. §552(a)(4)(B). Specifically, Kaplan alleges that: (1) his due process rights under the 14th Amendment were violated when he was denied an attorney visit in August 2010; (2) his 5th, 6th, and 8th Amendment rights were violated when documents were concealed from him after filing a FOIA request, and; (3) he was "set-up" on murder for hire charges, falsely imprisoned for the set-up, and Defendants conspired against him to deprive him of an attorney visit. (Doc. 1, complaint). The named Defendants are Mr. Ebert, FCI-Allenwood Warden; Mr. Schrader, FCI-Allenwood Counselor; and John Doe,

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FCI-Allenwood Visitation Officer.

Presently before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss and/or for summary judgment. (Doc. 28). The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's motion to dismiss and for summary judgment will be granted.

Also before the Court is Plaintiff's motion for an "emergency injunction forcing Defendants to cease all constitutional violations such as withholding discovery/interference with access to the courts and fraudulent concealing the fact that they conspired to set Mr. Kaplan up before his arrest and during his incarceration" (Doc. 38) and Plaintiff's motion for a hearing on his motion for injunctive relief. (Doc. 39). Based on the Court's decision infra, Plaintiff's motions will be denied.

II. Standards of Review

A. Bivens Standard

Plaintiff's claims are filed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331, in accordance with Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, (1971). Under Bivens, the District Court has federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §1331 to entertain an action brought to redress alleged federal constitutional or statutory violations by a federal actor.

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Bivens, supra. Pursuant to Bivens, "a citizen suffering a compensable injury to a constitutionally protected interest could invoke the general federal question jurisdiction of the district court to obtain an award of monetary damages against the responsible federal official." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504 (1978). A Bivens-style civil rights claim is the federal equivalent of an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and the same legal principles have been held to apply. See, Paton v. LaPrade, 524 F.2d 862, 871 (3d Cir. 1975); Veteto v. Miller, 829 F.Supp. 1486, 1492 (M.D.Pa. 1992); Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1200 n. 16 (M.D.Pa. 1992). In order to state an actionable Bivens claim, a plaintiff must allege that a person has deprived him of a federal right, and that the person who caused the deprivation acted under color of federal law. See West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988); Young v. Keohane, 809 F.Supp. 1185, 1199 (M.D.Pa. 1992).

B. Motion to Dismiss

Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v.

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UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, and a court "is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id. (quoted case omitted). Thus, "a judicial conspiracy claim must include at least a discernible factual basis to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal." Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009) (per curiam).

In resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, supra, 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, we "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief". Id. at 211

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(quoted case omitted).

In addition, because Plaintiff complains about "prison conditions," the screening provisions of 42 U.S.C. §1997e apply, as do the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. §1915(e), given that he was granted in forma pauperis status to pursue this suit. The court's obligation to dismiss a complaint under the PLRA screening provisions for complaints that fail to state a claim is not excused even after defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. See, e.g., Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1126 n. 6 (9th Cir. 2000). Hence, if there is a ground for dismissal which was not relied upon by a defendant in a motion to dismiss, the court may nonetheless sua sponte rest its dismissal upon such ground pursuant to the screening provisions of the PLRA. See Lopez; Dare v. U.S., Civil No. 06-115E, 2007 WL 1811198, at *4 (W.D. Pa. June 21, 2007), aff'd, 264 Fed App'x. 183 (3d Cir. 2008).

C. Summary Judgment

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) "[t]he court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged

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factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

A disputed fact is "material" if proof of its existence or nonexistence would affect the outcome of the case under applicable substantive law. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248; Gray v. York Newspapers, Inc., 957 F.2d 1070, 1078 (3d Cir. 1992). An issue of material fact is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 257; Brenner v. Local 514, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, 927 F.2d 1283, 1287-88 (3d Cir. 1991).

When determining whether there is a genuine issue of material fact, the court must view the facts and all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party. Moore v. Tartler, 986 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1993); Clement v. Consolidated Rail Corporation, 963 F.2d 599, 600 (3d Cir. 1992); White v. Westinghouse Electric Company, 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988). In order to avoid summary judgment, however, parties may not rely on unsubstantiated allegations. Parties seeking to establish that a fact is or is not genuinely disputed must support such an assertion by "citing to particular parts of materials in the record," by showing that an adverse party's factual assertion

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lacks support from cited materials, or demonstrating that a factual assertion is unsupportable by admissible evidence. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1); see Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324 (requiring evidentiary support for factual assertions made in response to summary judgment). The party opposing the motion "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts." Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio, 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Parties must produce evidence to show the existence of every element essential to its case that they bear the burden of proving at trial, for "a complete failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Celotex, 477 U .S. at 323; see Harter v. G.A.F. Corp., 967 F.2d 846, 851 (3d Cir.1992). Failure to properly support or contest an assertion of fact may result in the fact being considered undisputed for the purpose of the motion, although a court may also give parties an opportunity to properly provide support or opposition. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(e).

III. Statement of Facts 1

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