Corbin v. Newpher et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re: 1 Complaint filed by Jack Allen Corbin. (See memo for complete details.) Signed by Chief Judge Christopher C. Conner on 4/6/17. (ki)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JACK ALLEN CORBIN,
CIVIL NO. 1:17-CV-513
(Chief Judge Conner)
Plaintiff, Jack Allen Corbin (“Corbin”), an inmate currently confined at the
York County Prison, in York, Pennsylvania, commenced this action pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1). Named as defendants are probation officer Heather
Newpher and public defender Ronald Jackson. At the same time he filed the
complaint, Corbin filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2).
An initial screening of the complaint has been conducted, and for the reasons set
forth below, the motion to proceed in forma pauperis will be granted, and the
complaint will be dismissed.
Screening Provisions of the Prison Litigation Reform Act
The Prison Litigation Reform Act, Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321 (April
26, 1996), authorizes a district court to review a complaint in a civil action in which a
prisoner is proceeding in forma pauperis or seeks redress against a governmental
employee or entity. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2),1 28 U.S.C. § 1915A2. The court is
required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is
frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks
monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B), 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). This initial screening is to be done as soon as
practicable and need not await service of process. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a).
Corbin‟s claims are filed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 of Title 42
of the United States Code offers private citizens a cause of action for violations of
federal law by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The statute provides, in
pertinent part, as follows:
Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation,
custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia,
subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or
other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
Section 1915(e)(2) of Title 28 of the United States Code provides:
(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid,
the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) the action or appeal -(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from
Section 1915A(b) of Title 28 of the United States Code provides:
(b) On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or
any portion of the complaint, if the complaint-(1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be
(2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws,
shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or
other proper proceeding for redress. . . .
Id.; see also Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder, 95
F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege
“the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States,
and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). See also Barna v.
City of Perth Amboy, 42 F.3d 809, 815 (3d Cir. 1994).
“As a rule, habeas petitions and § 1983 complaints are not „coextensive either
in purpose or effect.‟ Where a state prisoner seeks to attack the fact or duration of
his conviction or sentence, he must seek relief through a habeas petition, not a §
1983 complaint.” Rushing v. Pennsylvania, 2016 WL 25579, at *2-3 (3d Cir. 2016)
(quoting Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002)); see also Strickland v.
Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). “The underlying purpose of proceedings under
the „Great Writ‟ of habeas corpus has traditionally been to „inquire into the legality
of the detention, and the only judicial relief authorized was the discharge of the
prisoner or his admission to bail, and that only if his detention were found to be
unlawful.‟” Leamer v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Powers of
Congress and the Court Regarding the Availability and Scope of Review, 114
Harv.L.Rev. 1551, 1553 (2001)).
Corbin sets forth claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and challenges his
arrest following a technical violation of probation. Corbin alleges that in November
2016, he presented to the probation office and submitted to a urine test. (Id. at 4).
Corbin tested positive for cocaine and was arrested for a technical violation of
probation. (Id.) Corbin alleges that his due process rights were violated because he
was not afforded a detention hearing. (Id. at 5). Corbin further claims that public
defender Jackson was ineffective for failing to object to his alleged illegal detention.
(Id. at 2). He also states that he attempted to file two habeas petitions, but “counsel
would not let them issue.” (Doc. 1, at 6).
The court finds that Corbin‟s claims must be brought in a petition for writ of
habeas corpus. Corbin‟s allegations of ineffective assistance of counsel and the
challenge to his probation revocation are an attack on the fact of his conviction and
sentence. Consequently, Corbin must raise his claims in a petition for writ of
habeas corpus, not in a § 1983 civil rights complaint.
Moreover, with respect to the claim that defendant Jackson provided
ineffective assistance of counsel, public defenders and court-appointed counsel do
not act under color of law for purposes of federal civil rights litigation when acting
within the scope of their professional duties. See Polk County v. Dodson, 454 U.S.
312, 318 n. 7 (1981); Black v. Bayer, 672 F.2d 309, 320 (3d Cir. 1982), abrogation on
other grounds recognized in D.R. by L .R. v. Middle Bucks Area Vocational
Technical School, 972 F.2d 1364 (3d Cir. 1992). Corbin states that defendant
Jackson was his court-appointed attorney and he “did not ask for his . . .
assistance.” (Doc. 1, at 3). Defendant Jackson was not acting under color of law
and is not a properly named defendant in this civil rights action. See Polk, 454 U.S.
at 318 (“a lawyer representing a client is not, by virtue of being an officer of the
court, a state actor „under color of state law‟ within the meaning of § 1983”).
Based on the foregoing, the court will dismiss Corbin‟s complaint for failure
to state a claim, as his claims must be brought in a separate petition for writ of
habeas corpus.3 An appropriate order will issue.
/S/ CHRISTOPHER C. CONNER
Christopher C. Conner, Chief Judge
United States District Court
Middle District of Pennsylvania
April 6, 2017
Allowing Corbin leave to amend would be futile given that his claims are
not cognizable in a federal civil rights complaint. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178,
182 (1962) (leave to amend under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 may be denied
in cases of undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive, undue prejudice, or futility of
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