Guess v. Bureau of Prisons et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable Matthew W. Brann on 3/30/16. (km)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
BUREAU OF PRISONS, ET AL.,
CIVIL NO. 4:CV-16-385
March 30, 2016
Leonard Guess, an inmate presently confined at the Schuylkill Federal
Correctional Institution, Minersville, Pennsylvania (FCI-Schuylkill), filed this pro
se Bivens-type civil rights action.1 The Plaintiff has also submitted an in forma
pauperis application. Service of the Complaint has not yet been ordered.
Named as Defendants are the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and officials
at Plaintiff’s prior place of confinement, the Federal Correctional Institution, Fort
Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S.
388 (1971). Bivens stands for the proposition that "a citizen suffering a compensable
injury to a constitutionally protected interest could invoke the general federal question
jurisdiction of the district co urt to obtain an award of monetary damages against the
responsible federal official." Butz v. Economou, 438 U.S. 478, 504 (1978).
Dix, New Jersey (FCI-Fort Dix). Plaintiff states that he was incarcerated at FCIFort Dix during all events described in this Complaint. Plaintiff alleges that
Defendants subjected him to excessive force and provided him with inadequate
medical care. As relief, Guess seeks compensatory and punitive damages.
As noted above, the Defendants named in this matter are the BOP, a federal
agency located in Washington D.C. and FCI-Fort Dix officials who are also from
outside Pennsylvania. The Complaint generally asserts that jurisdiction and venue
rests with this Court under 28 U.S.C. § 1391. See Doc. 1, pp. 1-2.
In Micklus v. Carlson, 632 F.2d 227, 240-41 (3d Cir. 1980), the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recognized that under Stafford v.
Briggs, 444 U.S. 527 (1980), the provisions of § 1391(e)2 are inapplicable to
§ 1391(e) provides in relevant part:
A civil action in which a defendant is an officer or employee of the
United States or any agency thereof acting in his official capacity
or under color of legal authority, or an agency of the United States,
or the United States, may, except as otherwise provided by law, be
brought in any judicial district in which (A) a defendant in the
action resides, (B) a substantial part of the events or omissions
giving rise to the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property
that is the subject of the action is situated, or (C) the plaintiff
resides if no real property is involved in the action. Additional
persons may be joined as parties to any such action in accordance
with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and with such other
venue requirements as would be applicable if the United States or
one of its officers, employees, or agencies were not a party.
claims for monetary damages against federal officials when the individual
officeholder may be found personally liable.3 See also Robinson v. Weiss, Civ. A.
99-3964, 2000 WL 231905 *2-3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 18, 2000)(venue provisions of §
1391(e) do not apply to actions for money damages against federal officials in their
personal capacities). Under the standards announced in Stafford and Micklus,
Guess cannot employ § 1391(e) to establish venue in this district against the
individual out of state federal officials named as Defendants in this matter. See
Monier v. Watts, 2005 WL 2035607 *2-3 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 18, 2005).
The pertinent statutory provision concerning the proper federal court in
which a Bivens lawsuit may be brought, 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b), provides that “[a]
civil action may be brought in (1) a judicial district in which any defendant resides,
if all defendants are residents of the State in which the district is located; (2) a
judicial district in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to
the claim occurred, or a substantial part of property that is the subject of the action
is situated; or (3) if there is no district in which an action may be otherwise brought
The Court of Appeals in Micklus explained that if § 1391(e) could be
employed in actions for money damages against federal officials individually, such
defendants “solely by reason of their government service” would be placed “in a very
different posture in personal damage suits from that of all other persons.” Id. at 491.
as provided in this section, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to
the court’s personal jurisdiction with respect to such action.
This action is not based upon diversity of citizenship jurisdiction, and it is
apparent that none of the FCI-Fort Dix officials named as Defendants in the
Complaint reside within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. There is nothing to
indicate that the FCI-Fort Dix Defendants purposefully directed their activities to
Pennsylvania or can otherwise be found in Pennsylvania as contemplated under §
1391(b)(3). Moreover, none of the events giving rise to Plaintiffs’ claims against
those Defendants occurred in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
There are also no facts from which it can be inferred that those Defendants
are subject to personal jurisdiction in Pennsylvania. As explained in Trujillo v.
Williams, 465 F.3d 1210, 1217-18 (10th Cir. 2006):
The exercise of jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant comports with due
process “‘so long as there exists minimum contacts between the defendant
and the forum State.’” The minimum contacts necessary for specific
personal jurisdiction may ne established where the “defendant has
‘purposefully directed’ its activities toward the forum jurisdiction and where
the underlying action is based upon activities that arise out of or relate to the
defendant’s contacts with the forum.”
According to the Complaint, the Defendants are all located in New Jersey or
Washington D.C. and Plaintiff raises claims challenging conduct which occurred
in New Jersey. There is nothing to indicate that any of the FCI-Fort Dix
Defendants purposefully directed their activities to Pennsylvania or can otherwise
be found in Pennsylvania. There is also no suggestion that Plaintiff’s claims are
based upon activities that arise out of or are related to those Defendants’ contacts
Since Plaintiff’s pending action seeks compensatory damages against the
Defendants in their individual capacities, under the requirements of § 1391(b),
Plaintiff cannot maintain an action against those officials in this Court. See Greer
v. Safeway, 317 Fed. Appx. 838, 842 (10th Cir. 2009) (affirming sua sponte
dismissal of in forma pauperis action where it was clear that defendants were not
subject to personal jurisdiction in Utah); Trujillo, 465 F.3d at 1217 (affirming
authority of court to dismiss action where absence of personal jurisdiction is
While improper venue may be waived, judges in this Circuit have repeatedly
concluded that venue considerations may be raised sua sponte. See Garcia v. Pugh,
948 F. Supp. 20, 23 n.5 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (Pollack, S.J .); DiFilippo v. Sherenian,
No. Civ. A. 95- 4445, 1996 WL 58255, at *2 -*3 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 9, 1996) (Reed,
J.); Neptune v. Burlington County College, Civ. A. No. 92-5989, 1993 WL
406330, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Oct. 4, 1993) (Weiner, J.); QRG, Ltd. v. Nartron Corp.,
Civ. Act. No. 06-500, 2006 WL 2583626, at *3 n.4 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 7, 2006)
It is equally well settled that a court may transfer any civil action for the
convenience of the parties or witnesses, or in the interest of justice, to any district
where the action might have been brought. 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). The United States
Supreme Court in Hoffman v, Blaski, 363 U.S. 335, 343 (1960), recognized that
under § 1404(a), a civil action may be transferred by a district court to another
district court where that action may have been brought by the plaintiff.
As noted above, Guess acknowledges that the events giving rise to the filing
of this action all occurred at FCI-Fort Dix. With the exception of the BOP, the
Defendants are also located at FCI-Fort Dix which is located within the confines of
the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. See 28 U.S.C. §
Based on the location of the named individual Defendants and the nature of
Plaintiff’s allegations, it is apparent that the convenience of the parties and the
interests of justice would be best served by transferring this matter to the judicial
district wherein the underlying events transpired.
Since the District of New Jersey is a more convenient forum, this matter
will be transferred to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a). An appropriate Order will enter.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge
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