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TRAVIS v. MILLER

September 27, 2002

ONZIE TRAVIS
V.
VIVIAN T. MILLER, SUSAN CARMODY, (INDIVIDUALLY AND IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITY), HON. ARNOLD NEW, HON. BARBARA JOSEPH, HON. TAMA MYERS-CLARK, HON. BONAVITACOLA, ESQ., CATHERINE MARSHALL, ESQ., LEON O. DARK, JANET FASY DOWDS, JAY PENSAK, CARMEN LINEBERGER, ESQ., GERALD M. ALSTON, ESQ.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Anita B. Brody, United States District Judge

EXPLANATION AND ORDER

On February 25, 1999, the plaintiff Onzie Travis ("Travis") commenced this action and filed an application to this court to proceed in this action in forma pauperis. On July 19, 2001 Travis filed an Amended Supplemental Complaint against: the Honorable Barbara A. Josephs, the Honorable Arnold L. New, the Honorable Alex Bonavitacola, and the Honorable Tama Myers-Clark ("the Judicial Defendants"); Assistant District Attorney Catherine Marshall and Assistant District Attorney Carmen Lineberger ("the ADA Defendants"); Vivian T. Miller and Susan Carmody ("the Court Defendants"); Janet Fasy Dowds, Leon O. Dark, and Jay Pensak ("the Reporter Defendants"); and Gerald M. Alston, the attorney who represented Travis in his criminal trial. Travis' Amended Supplemental Complaint claims that the defendants engaged in misconduct relating to the handling of transcripts from his criminal drug trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, precluding an effective appeal of his conviction. Am. Supp. Comp. at ¶¶ 90-102.

Before me are the motions of the defendants to dismiss Travis' pro se Amended Supplemental Complaint pursuant to Rules 12(b)(1) and (6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.*fn1 I will dismiss Travis' claims for money damages against the Judicial Defendants as barred by the doctrine of absolute judicial immunity. I will dismiss Travis' federal claims against all of the defendants for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Because the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Travis' federal claims, I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims and remand the state law claims to the state court.

I. Background

The following facts are taken from Travis' Amended Supplemental Complaint and from the relevant court proceedings of which I take judicial notice.*fn2 They are presented in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the non-moving party.

In November of 1995, a jury of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas convicted Travis for delivery of a controlled substance. Id. at ¶ 11. On December 14, 1995, Travis requested the transcripts of his trial in the Court of Common Pleas. Id. at ¶ 14. Travis filed a 1925(b) statement,*fn3 claiming that the jurors in his trial were biased and that corrective instructions given to the jurors were inadequate to cure the prejudice because the witnesses involved were all policemen. Id. at ¶ 15. In the same statement, Travis reiterated his request for transcripts. Id. On December 18, 1995, Travis filed a timely pro se notice of appeal with the Pennsylvania Superior Court. On May 15, 1996, Travis supplemented his 1925(b) statement, reserving the right to raise further issues after his transcripts were made available to him. Id. at ¶ 16. Shortly thereafter, Travis informed the Superior Court that he had not received the requested transcripts. Id. at ¶ 17. Nevertheless, on August 27, 1996 the Superior Court dismissed Travis' appeal for failure to file a brief. Id. at ¶ 19. The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied allocatur on April 28, 1997. Id. at ¶ 22. On July 7, 1997, Travis' habeas corpus petition to this court was dismissed for his failure to exhaust his state remedies.*fn4 Id. at ¶ 23. On January 26, 1998, the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Travis' certificate of appealability. Id. at ¶ 24.

On March 17, 1998, Travis filed a pro se petition in the Court of Common Pleas for relief under the Post Conviction Relief Act, 42 Pa.C.S. § 9541 et. seq. ("PCRA"). Id. at ¶ 25. On June 22, 1998, Travis wrote to Judge Alex Bonavitacola, claiming that the transcripts of his plea withdrawal and voir dire were being deliberately withheld.*fn5 Id. at ¶ 27. From July 1, 1998 through June 1999 Travis made repeated requests for his transcripts to the Judicial Defendants, the ADA Defendants, the Court Defendants, and the Reporter Defendants. Id. ¶¶ 28-70. On April 13, 1999, the PCRA court reinstated Travis' direct appeal rights nunc pro tunc.

On June 25, 1999, Travis submitted motions to the Superior Court to "remand for correction of the certified record, furnish his transcripts, and defer the briefing schedule." Id. at ¶ 50. On July 20, 1999 the Superior Court ordered the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to provide Travis with copies of the requested documents relevant to his appeal. Id. at ¶ 51. On July 26, 1999, Travis claims that he received partial transcripts, but that they had been falsified. Id. at ¶ 52. On July 29, 1999, Travis filed objections with the Superior Court regarding the alleged inaccuracy of his transcripts. Id. at ¶ 53. On August 20, 1999, Travis filed a motion with the Superior Court requesting that it enforce its previous order to the Commonwealth to provide Travis with his remaining transcripts. Id. at ¶ 58.

Travis continued his efforts to obtain his transcripts from August of 1999 through March of 2001. Id. at ¶¶ 59-77. For example, on November 9, 2000, he wrote to the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts to complain about the defendants' refusal to furnish his transcripts. Id. at ¶ 72. On February 27, 2001, Travis received a reply from the Administrative Office of the Pennsylvania Courts, informing him that his transcripts were being reconstructed. Id. at ¶ 77. On March 2, 2001, the Superior Court issued another order directing the trial court to advise it regarding whether Travis had received his transcripts or whether they were even available. Id. at ¶ 78.

By order dated March 12, 2001, the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County determined that while transcripts of the plea withdrawal proceedings were made available to Travis, the voir dire transcripts from Travis' trial were not transcribed. (Order of March 12, 2001). On April 3, 2001, the Court of Common Pleas denied the plaintiff's outstanding motion to correct the record, stating that: "Defendants' [sic] motion is based upon inconsistencies of the testimony and not upon any valid claims of deliberate or accidental omission or addition. A fair reading of the transcript indicates defendants' [sic] arguments are inconsistent with the entire transcript." (Order of April 3, 2001). In a footnote, the court added that: "Even if this court found error in the transcript as alleged by defendant, those errors would not be material to the outcome of this case or any issues alleged by defendant in his brief." Id.

On January 3, 2002 the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed the judgment of Travis' sentence entered by the trial court. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Travis, 797 A.2d 377 (Pa.Super. 2002). Among others, the Superior Court reviewed a number of issues concerning the transcripts relevant to Travis' appeal. See 797 A.2d at 4-5. The Superior Court determined that the issues raised by Travis stemming from the unavailability of the relevant transcripts "are without merit and Appellant therefore has not been prejudiced by the delay in this matter." Id. at 7-8. Moreover, the court upheld the trial court's finding that Travis' objections to the alleged falsifications and inaccuracies in the transcripts "were not valid" and "would not be material to the outcome of this case or any issues alleged by the defendant." Id. On July 2, 2002 the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied allocatur. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Travis, 2002 WL 1426570 (Pa. July 2, 2002).

Travis brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 1985(2), (3), and § 1986 on February 25, 1999 and filed his Amended Supplemental Complaint on July 19, 2001. The crux of Travis' allegations is that the defendants conspired to violate his constitutional rights by deliberately denying him access to his transcripts and falsifying the transcripts, thus precluding effective appellate review of his conviction for delivery of a controlled substance. More specifically, Travis alleges that the actions and inactions of the Judicial Defendants, the ADA Defendants, the Court Defendants, the Reporter Defendants, and Gerald Alston deprived him of his rights to due process, equal protection, compulsory process, and access to the courts under the First, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Am. Supp. Comp. at ¶¶ 90-102. Based on the same facts, Travis also advances state claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress and malicious abuse of process against all of the defendants. Id. In addition, he alleges false imprisonment against Fasy Dowds and the Court Defendants. Id. Travis also seeks declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages for both the alleged constitutional violations and the state law tort claims. Am. Supp. Comp. at 15-17.

II. Discussion

A. Absolute Immunity for the Judicial ...


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