KEEL et al v. CHUNG et al
MEMORANDUM. AN APPROPRIATE ORDER FOLLOWS.. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GENE E.K. PRATTER ON 1/26/17. 1/26/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PRO SE PLFF., 1 COPY TO LEGAL BIN. (pr, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JESSEE LEE KEEL, Ill
JAN 26 2017
KATE BAAKMAN Clerk
A.D.A. JESSICA CHUNG, et aBy
Plaintiff Jesse Lee Keel, III, who is proceeding informa pauperis in this civil action, has
submitted several documents to this Court. Although unclear, it appears that Mr. Keel seeks
reconsideration of the Court's order docketed on December 27, 2016 (ECF No. 11), which
closed this case, and that he intends some of the documents he filed to constitute an amended
complaint. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Keel's request for reconsideration
for purposes of considering his filing, which the Court will construe as an amended complaint.
However, the Court will dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Mr. Keel filed this case against several defendants, including an Assistant District
Attorney who successfully prosecuted him for criminal violations in state court. He appears to
be raising a host of claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In an order dated October 11, 2016
(ECF No. 6), the Court granted Mr. Keel leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for failure to state a claim.
The order explained that the Court was unsure of the factual basis for Mr. Keel's claims,
in part because he "relie[d] heavily on exhibits that [did] not clearly relate to the facts alleged in
the complaint." (Oct. 11, 2016 Order at 3.) The order also explained that Mr. Keel could not
challenge his prosecution or convictions in a civil rights action, that prosecutors have immunity
from liability based on their prosecution of a criminal case, and that court-appointed counsel are
not state actors for purposes of§ 1983. The Court gave Mr. Keel thirty days to file an amended
complaint and explained that any amended complaint must "clearly describe how each named
defendant was responsible for violating [Mr. Keel's] rights" and must not "rely on exhibits or
other filings in this matter to articulate the factual basis for Mr. Keel's claims." (Id. at 4.)
In an October 26, 2016 order (ECF No. 8), the Court informed Mr. Keel that any papers
he sought to file on the public docket would have to be in the form of a motion, petition, or legal
brief, as opposed to a letter. Mr. Keel subsequently filed numerous exhibits. In an order
docketed December 27, 2016 (ECF No. 11), the Court closed this case due to Mr. Keel's failure
to file an amended complaint. The Court explained that, having reviewed the documents that
Mr. Keel sent to the Court-including a copy of his social security card, a copy of his driver's
license, copies of his bank account statements, his correspondence with several administrative
agencies, and a copy of the docket for his criminal proceeding-none of those items responded
to the Court's October 11, 2016 order giving him leave to file an amended complaint.
Mr. Keel returned with a filing in which he asks the Court to reopen his case, apparently
so that the Court can charge the defendants with federal crimes. (See ECF No. 12.) The filing
also includes a document titled "Amended Complaint," in which Mr. Keel appears to be claiming
that his girlfriend, with the assistance of A.D.A. Chung, had him falsely prosecuted so she could
steal his social security benefits while he was incarcerated. Mr. Keel attached to his filing copies
of his social security card, his birth certificate, a medical device ID, and letters concerning a
grievance about his medical care. The public dockets for the criminal cases Mr. Keel references
in his filing reflect that he pied guilty to certain criminal violations, and that those convictions
have not been invalidated. See Commonwealth v. Keel, Docket Nos. CP-51-CR-0011256-2015
& CP-51-CR-0011257-2015 (Phila. Ct. of Common Pleas).
Mr. Keel also filed a host of papers on which he wrote "as my complaint." (ECF No. 13.)
The filing includes documents related to Mr. Keel's incarceration, documents related to Mr.
Keel's medical issues, and documents related to his criminal prosecution, including the docket
for his criminal case. The filing also includes a letter that Mr. Keel appears to have sent to the
state court, in which he alleges that he has been falsely prosecuted and that his girlfriend set him
up to rob him of government benefits.
The Court will construe Mr. Keel's filings as a motion for reconsideration of the Court's
order closing this case, and an amended complaint. The Court will grant the motion for
reconsideration to consider Mr. Keel's filings, and dismiss the amended complaint for the
reasons discussed below.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
As Mr. Keel is proceeding informapauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the
Court to dismiss his amended complaint if it fails to state a claim. To survive dismissal for
failure to state a claim, the amended complaint must contain "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). "[M]ere conclusory statements do not suffice." Id. The
Court may also consider exhibits attached to the complaint. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist.,
452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). As Mr. Keel is proceeding prose, the Court construes his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
"[T]o recover damages [or other relief] 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[.]" Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477, 486-87 (1994) (footnote and citation
omitted); see also Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005) ("[A] state prisoner's§ 1983
action is barred (absent prior invalidation)-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." (emphasis omitted)). Here, it is apparent that the vast majority of
Mr. Keel's claims are premised on an allegedly wrongful criminal prosecution that led to his
conviction. However, the dockets for his criminal cases reflect that his convictions have not
been overturned or otherwise invalidated. Accordingly, any claims challenging those
convictions and Mr. Keel's related imprisonment are not cognizable at this time.
To the extent Mr. Keel is raising claims that are not barred by the principle announced in
Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the facts underlying those claims are unclear. Having
reviewed the documents in this case, the Court cannot discern a clear basis for a plausible claim
against any of the defendants within the Court's jurisdiction. Furthermore, this Court lacks the
authority to direct a criminal prosecution, to the extent Mr. Keel is asking for one. See Mikhail v.
Kahn, 991 F. Supp. 2d 596, 636 (E.D. Pa. 2014) ("[I]t is today beyond all reasonable doubt that
the prosecution of violations of federal criminal law in federal court is a function of the federal
government, not private parties, and federal courts lack the power to direct the filing of criminal
charges[.]" (citations, quotations, and alteration omitted)), aff'd, 572 F. App'x 68 (3d Cir. 2014)
A district court should generally provide a prose plaintiff with leave to amend unless
amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103,
114 (3d Cir. 2002). Mr. Keel was given instructions that he may not rely on letters and exhibits
to state his claims, but he has continued to file documents and exhibits rather than filing an
amended pleading that clearly sets forth his factual allegations against each defendant.
Furthermore, despite having reviewed the numerous documents that Mr. Keel has filed, the Court
cannot discern a plausible basis for a cognizable claim against the defendants within the Court's
jurisdiction. Accordingly, the Court concludes that further efforts at amendment would be futile.
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Keel's motion for reconsideration for
the purpose of considering his amended complaint, and dismiss the amended complaint for
failure to state a claim. Mr. Keel will not be given leave to amend because amendment would be
futile. However, any claims that the Court dismissed as barred by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S.
477 (1994), are dismissed without prejudice to Mr. Keel reasserting those claims in the event his
convictions are reversed or otherwise invalidated. An appropriate order follows, which shall be
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