CHAMBERS v. HUGHES et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GENE E.K. PRATTER ON 4/22/13. 4/22/13 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PETITIONER AND FAXED TO SUPERINTENDENT OF SCI GREENE. (jpd)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JERRY A. CHAMBERS, SR.
RENEE CARDWELL HUGHES, et al.
APRIL 19, 2013
Jerry A. Chambers, Sr., a prisoner incarcerated at the State
Correctional Institution at Greene, brings this pro se civil
rights action primarily based on his allegations that he was
wrongfully arrested and convicted of murder.
He names as
defendants the state judge who presided over his trial, several
lawyers appointed to represent him, and a doctor who testified
He also seeks to proceed in forma pauperis.
the following reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Chambers leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint pursuant to
1915 (e) (2) (B) (i)
Mr. Chambers was arrested on August 17, 2003, and
subsequently charged with murder and related offenses.
preliminary hearing on October 22, 2003, Dr. Ian Hood testified
about the victim's condition.
Mr. Chambers alleges that some or
all of Hood's testimony was fabricated.
Charles P. Mirarchi, III was appointed to represent Mr.
Mr. Chambers alleges that he sought to have Mirarchi
removed as counsel prior to trial, but that Judge Renee Cardwell
Hughes, who presided over his criminal case, would not allow it.
He further alleges that Judge Hughes "[stuck] him in a mental
hospital where they drug[ged]
took [him] to trial."
[him] against [his] will and then
(Compl. ~ II.D.)
Mr. Chambers was tried before a jury in the Philadelphia
Court of Common Pleas.
He was convicted of murder, among other
things, and sentenced to death on May 26, 2005.
v. Chambers, 980 A.2d 35, 39 (Pa. 2009).
Mr. Chambers alleges
that his conviction is based on false evidence because Dr. Hood
and other witnesses testified falsely against him at trial.
also contends that Mirarchi was ineffective.
Mr. Chambers received new counsel on appeal, Jules Epstein.
Mr. Chambers was dissatisfied with Epstein's representation,
apparently because Epstein had testified on behalf of Mirarchi in
connection with disciplinary proceedings brought against
After losing his appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court, Mr. Chambers filed for post-conviction relief.
point, Earl G. Kauffman was appointed to represent him in
connection with those proceedings, which appear to be ongoing.
Mr. Chambers is also dissatisfied
with Kauffman's representation.
Mr. Chambers filed this action against Judge Hughes,
Mirarchi, Epstein, Kauffman, Dr. Hood, and an attorney named
Norman Scott, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his
constitutional rights were violated in various respects in the
course of his arrest, prosecution, and conviction.
millions of dollars in damages, primarily based on his allegedly
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Mr. Chambers is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis
because he has satisfied the criteria set forth in 28 U.S.C. §
§ 1915(e) (2) (B) applies.
provision requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it is
frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune.
A complaint is frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory."
1085 (3d Cir. 1995).
Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080,
Whether a complaint fails to state a claim
under§ 1915(e) 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. Igbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
The Court may also consider matters of public record.
Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006).
affirmative defense is obvious from the face of the complaint,
and if no development of the record is necessary, the Court may
dismiss any facially invalid claims sua sponte.
Kertes, 285 F.3d 287, 297
(3d Cir. 2002).
See Ray v.
As Mr. Chambers is
proceeding pro se, the Court must construe his allegations
Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
"[T]o recover damages 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[.]"
477, 486-87 (1994)
Heck v. Humphrey, 512
(footnote and citation omitted).
extent that Mr. Chamber's claims are predicated on alleged
constitutional deficiencies in his prosecution and/or
convictions, his claims are not cognizable under § 1983, because
the complaint reflects, and publicly available dockets confirm,
that those convictions have not been reversed or otherwise
Accordingly, Mr. Chambers's claims based on his
allegedly wrongful conviction are legally baseless and must be
Mr. Chambers's claims are legally frivolous for the
alternative reasons that (1) Judge Hughes is entitled to absolute
judicial immunity for acts taken in her judicial capacity, see
Gallas v. Supreme Court of Pa., 211 F.3d 760, 768 (3d Cir. 2000)
("[J]udges are immune from suit under section 1983 for monetary
damages arising from their judicial acts."); (2) Mr. Chambers's
attorneys are not state actors for purpose of § 1983, See Polk
Cnty. 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); and (3) witnesses are entitled
to absolute immunity from liability under § 1983 based on their
Mr. Chambers's false arrest and any related false
imprisonment claims also fail.
Mr. Chambers has failed to
describe how any of the named defendants are responsible for his
alleged false arrest and related detention.
claims are clearly time-barred.
In any event, his
1983 actions, federal
courts apply the statute of limitations governing personal injury
claims in the state where the cause of action arose.
Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 387 (2007).
In Pennsylvania, where Mr.
Chambers's claims arose, the relevant statute of limitations is
See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat.
Pursuant to the
prison mailbox rule, a prisoner's complaint is considered filed
at the time he or she hands it over to prison authorities for
forwarding to the Court.
See Houston v. Lack, 487 U.S. 266, 276
( 1988) .
Mr. Chambers's claims based on his false arrest accrued on
August 17, 2003, when the arrest occurred, see Montgomery v. De
Simone, 159 F.3d 120, 126 (3d Cir. 1998), and his false
imprisonment claims accrued by October 22, 2003, when he received
a preliminary hearing in state court, if not earlier.
Wallace, 549 U.S. at 389 ("[A] false imprisonment ends once the
testimony in court, see Rehberg v. Paulk, 132 s. Ct. 1497, 1505
(2012) ("[A] trial witness has absolute immunity [from suit under
§ 1983] with respect to any claim based on the witness'
testimony."); McArdle v. Tronetti, 961 F.2d 1083, 1085 (3d Cir.
1992) ("[W]itness immunity applies to testimony given at pretrial
hearings as well as to trial testimony . . . . ") (footnote
omitted), abrogated on other grounds by, Leatherman v. Tarrant
Cnty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, ·507 U.S. 163
victim becomes held pursuant to [legal] process - when, for
example, he is bound over by a magistrate or arraigned on
As Mr. Chambers did not file this
action until April 11, 2013, when he handed his complaint over to
prison authorities for mailing, his claims are clearly timebarred.2
A district court should generally provide a pro se plaintiff
with leave to amend unless amendment would be inequitable or
See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 114
(3d Cir. 2002).
Here, amendment would be futile because it is
apparent that Mr. Chambers's claims are barred by Heck and the
statute of limitations.
Accordingly, he will not be permitted to
file an amended complaint.
For the foregoing reasons, the complaint is dismissed as
frivolous and for failure to state a claim.
An appropriate order
Nothing in the complaint suggests a basis for tolling.
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