PARNELL v. WETZEL
MEMORANDUM OPINION granting 3 Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim. Signed by Magistrate Judge Cynthia Reed Eddy on 2/9/2017. (bsc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE WESTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
Civil Action No. 2: 16-cv-1761
United States Magistrate Judge
Cynthia Reed Eddy
Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss For Failure to State A Claim (ECF
No. 3), with brief in support thereof (ECF No. 4) filed by Defendant John Wetzel. Plaintiff,
Brian Parnell, filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 12) and a brief in support of his response
(ECF No. 13). The matter is ripe for resolution.
Plaintiff, Brian Parnell (“Plaintiff” or “Parnell”) is a pro se inmate currently housed at
the SCI-Greene. He commenced this case by filing a Civil Complaint in the Court of Common
Pleas of Greene County on or about September 14, 2016. The Complaint was mailed certified
mail to defendant and service was effectuated on November 4, 2016. Defendant then timely
removed the case to this Court.
Distilled to its essence, the Complaint alleges that Plaintiff is being held illegally and in
a condition of involuntary servitude in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution and two Pennsylvania criminal statutes, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2902 and 2903,
In accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1), all parties have voluntarily
consented to have a United States Magistrate Judge conduct proceedings in this case, including
trial and the entry of a final judgment. See ECF Nos. 11 and 17.
because the Department of Corrections (“DOC”) is not in possession of a Judgment of
Sentencing Order and/or such document was never generated. Plaintiff seeks $15,000,000.00,
plus an additional $1,000,000.00 for every additional year as of the date of the filing of his
Complaint that he is held unlawfully.
Standard of Review
The applicable inquiry under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is well settled. A
motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
When reviewing a motion to dismiss, the Court must accept all well-pleaded facts and
allegations, and must draw all reasonable inferences therefrom in favor of the plaintiff. Burtch v.
Milberg Factors, Inc., 62 F.3d 212, 220 (3d Cir. 2011), cert. denied, -- U.S. --, 131 S. Ct. 1861
(2012) (citing In re Ins. Brokerage Antitrust Litig., 618 F.3d 300, 314 (3d Cir. 2010)). However,
as the Supreme Court of the United States made clear in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, such
“[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” 550
U.S. 554, 555 (2007). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (holding that, while
the Complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations, it must contain more than a
“formulaic recitation of the elements” of a constitutional claim and must state a claim that is
plausible on its face) (quoting Twombly, and providing further guidance on the standard set
To determine the legal sufficiency of a complaint after Twombly and Iqbal, the United
States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit instructs that a district court must conduct a threestep analysis when considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. Santiago v.
Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 n.7 (3d Cir. 2010) (noting that although Iqbal describes
the process as a “two-pronged approach,” it views the case as outlining three steps) (citing
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675). First, “the court must ‘tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead
to state a claim.’” Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675) (alteration in original). Second, the
court “should identify allegations that, ‘because they are no more than conclusions, are not
entitled to the assumption of truth.’” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679). Third, ‘“where there
are well- pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine
whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.’” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that, in civil rights
cases, a court must give a plaintiff the opportunity to amend a deficient complaint - regardless
of whether the plaintiff requests to do so - when dismissing a case for failure to state a claim,
unless doing so would be inequitable or futile. See Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v. Pote Concrete
Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007).
As noted, supra, Plaintiff challenges his confinement arguing that a written Sentencing
Order does not exist rendering his confinement illegal as a matter of law. He claims that he
learned that the Order was “non-existent” when the Records Supervisor of SCI-Greene signed
an Affidavit which stated that “[a]fter a reasonable search, I have determined that the abovementioned sentencing orders do not exist within my custody, possession or control.”
Complaint, Exhibit A - Attestation / Affidavit from Rebekah Filitsky (ECF No. 1.)
Notably, though, the docket for his criminal case, CP-15-CR-0004554-2001, reflects that
on July 11, 2002, a jury in the Court of Common Pleas of Chester County convicted Plaintiff of
Second Degree Murder and Burglary. Further, the docket reflects that he was “Sentenced to
Life Imprisonment” on July 15, 2002 by Judge Juan R. Sanchez.
(Exh. 1.) Further, the
Department of Corrections has in its possession the authorized court commitment (DC-300B)
(Exh. 2), which by itself is sufficient legal justification for Plaintiff’s custody,2 and his
Sentencing Sheet certified by the Deputy Clerk of Courts.
circumstances, Plaintiff’s Thirteenth Amendment claim fails as a matter of law. Jackson v.
Sec’y Pennsylvania Dep’t of Corr., 598 F. App’x 815, 816 (3d Cir. 2015).
Similarly, Plaintiff’s state “intentional tort claims” also fail as a matter of law. He
alleges violations of two Pennsylvania criminal statutes, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2902 (unlawful restraint)
and 18 Pa.C.S. § 2903 (false imprisonment). These criminal statutes do not create civil causes
of action. To the extent that Plaintiff is attempting to sue in tort, and assuming that he could
even do so under either or both of these criminal statutes, both statutes would create, if
anything, statutory intentional torts for unlawful restraint and false imprisonment, both of which
would be intentional torts, and Secretary Wetzel would be entitled to sovereign immunity on
such a claim.
Accordingly, the motion to dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff’s complaint will be
dismissed with prejudice. Further, Plaintiff will not be given an opportunity to amend, as
amendment would be futile.
Evans v. Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 645 F.3d 650 (3d Cir.
2011) (that the commitment sheet was not signed by the sentencing judge did not deprive the
document of legal effect); Dumas v. Arnold, Civ. No. 1:cv-10-2152, 2011 WL 1790060
(M.D.Pa. May 9, 2011) (commitment form does not require signature of sentencing judge).
Moreover, although the current version of 42 Pa.C.S. § 9764(a)(8) requires that a copy of the
sentencing order be provided to the DOC upon commitment of an inmate to its custody, it does
not create any remedy or cause of action for a prisoner based upon the failure to provide a copy
to the DOC. Travis v. Giroux, No. 489 C.D. 2013, 2013 WL 6710773 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec.
For the reasons stated above, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted and Plaintiff’s
complaint will be dismissed with prejudice. A separate order follows.
DATED: February 9, 2017
BY THE COURT:
s/Cynthia Reed Eddy
Cynthia Reed Eddy
United States Magistrate Judge
175 Progress Dr.
Waynesburg, PA 15370
(via U.S. First Class Mail)
Office of Attorney General
(via ECF electronic notification)
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