JONES v. KANE et al
MEMORANDUM THAT THE COURT WILL DISMISS PLFF'S COMPLAINT WITH PREJUDICE AS LEGALLY FRIVOLOUS. PLFF'S MOTION FOR COUNSEL WILL BE DENIED. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE C. DARNELL JONES, II ON 7/16/14. 7/17/14 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLFF. AND 1 COPY TO LEGAL BIN.(pr, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
MAURICE JONES A/KIA
KELSIE MAURICE JONES
JUL 1 ()
KATHLEEN G. KANE, et al.
JULY/~ , 2014
Plaintiff Maurice Jones, also known as Kelsie Maurice Jones, a prisoner at the State
Correctional Institution at Somerset, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, based on
his allegation that the sentence he is serving is unconstitutional. He seeks to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff leave to proceed informa
pauperis and dismiss his complaint with prejudice as legally frivolous, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
In 1990, plaintiff was convicted of murder and sentenced to mandatory life in prison without
parole. He was seventeen years old at the time. In June of2012, the Supreme Court of the
United States held, in Miller v. Alabama, that "the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing
scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders." 132 S.
Ct. 2455, 2469 (2012). The Pennsylvania Supreme Court subsequently ruled in Commonwealth
v. Cunningham, 81A.2d1 (Pa. 2013), that Miller could not be applied retroactively to cases on
collateral review. In light of Miller, plaintiff sought, and received, permission from the Third
Circuit to file a second or successive habeas petition arguing that his sentence is
unconstitutional. In re Jones, 3d Cir. No. 13-2696. Plaintiffs habeas petition was filed in this
JUL 1 7 2014
district and was stayed pending a decision by the United States Supreme Court on the petition for
certiorari that was filed in Cunningham. Jones v. Rozum, E.D. Pa. Civ. A. No. 13-7192. That
petition was recently denied. Cunningham v. Pennsylvania, 2014 WL 797250 (June 9, 2014).
Instead of petitioning to remove his habeas proceeding from suspense, plaintiff filed the
instant lawsuit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his sentence of mandatory life
imprisonment without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional under Miller. He seeks
declaratory judgment that his continued incarceration under his current sentence violates his
constitutional rights, and essentially seeks resentencing.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court grants plaintiff leave to proceed informapauperis. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) applies, which requires the Court to dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous. A
complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact," Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally baseless if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal
theory." Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995). As plaintiff is proceeding
prose, the Court must construe his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339
(3d Cir. 2011).
Claims that fall within the "core" of habeas, such as those challenging the fact or duration of
a prisoner's confinement, are not cognizable under§ 1983, and must instead be raised in a
habeas proceeding. See Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 484, 500 (1973). Likewise, "a state
prisoner's § 1983 action is barred (absent prior invalidation [of his conviction or sentence]) 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." See
Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) (emphasis omitted); see also Edwards v.
Balisok, 520 U.S. 641, 646-48 (1997) (claim not cognizable under§ 1983 when prisoner sought
declaration that would have necessarily implied invalidity of deprivation of good time credits).
Here, plaintiff is attacking the very fact of his confinement because he claims he is incarcerated
pursuant to an unconstitutional sentence, and seeks invalidation of that sentence. Such a claim
must be raised in a habeas petition, and plaintiff has already filed a habeas petition in this district
attacking his sentence under Miller. To the extent plaintiff seeks a declaration that his sentence
is unconstitutional, his claims are barred because success on such a claim would necessarily
imply the invalidity of his sentence, which has not yet been invalidated.
A district court should generally provide a pro se plaintiff with leave to amend unless
amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 FJd 103,
114 (3d Cir. 2002). Here, amendment would be futile because it is apparent that plaintiffs
claims are not cognizable in a civil rights action. Accordingly, plaintiff may not file an amended
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss plaintiffs complaint with prejudice as
legally frivolous, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i). Plaintiffs motion for counsel will be
denied. See Tabron v. Grace, 6 F.3d 147, 155 (3d Cir. 1993) (in determining whether to grant
counsel, "the district court must consider as a threshold matter the merits of the plaintiffs
claim"). An appropriate order follows.
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