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Levine v. Pennsylvania State Police

October 16, 2007

RICHIE F. LEVINE, PLAINTIFF
v.
PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE, MEGAN'S LAW SECTION, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, NEW YORK DIVISION OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE SERVICES, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge McClure

MEMORANDUM

BACKGROUND

On August 7, 2007, plaintiff Richie F. Levine, pro se, filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against defendants: 1) Pennsylvania State Police, Megan's Law Section; 2) United States Department of Justice; and 3) New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services. Plaintiff has also filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and a motion to appoint counsel. (Rec. Doc. Nos. 2 and 3.)

In his complaint, plaintiff alleges that in 2004, he pled guilty in New York State to one count of attempted dissemination of indecent material to a minor and was sentenced to five years of probation and required to register as a "Level 1" sex offender. (Rec. Doc. No. 1, at 2.) Plaintiff then moved to Pennsylvania in 2007 and was required to register as a sex offender in Pennsylvania. (Id.) Finally, plaintiff alleges that he is required to register under the federal government's Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act ("SORNA"), 42 U.S.C. § 16911. Plaintiff is challenging all three registration statutes and has brought claims based on the Equal Protection Clause, Substantive Due Process, Freedom to Associate, Ex Post Facto Clause , and Interstate Commerce Clause. (Id. at 4-10.)

We will grant plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. After reviewing plaintiff's complaint as required under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), we have determined that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and will dismiss the complaint.

DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), a district court is required to screen complaints that are filed by an individual who is proceeding in forma pauperis. The court must dismiss a complaint 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. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). In performing the court's screening function under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) to determine whether the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the court will apply the standard applicable to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Weiss v. Colley, 230 F.3d 1027, 1029 (7th Cir. 2000). Under this standard, the court must view all allegations stated in the complaint as true and construe all inferences in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Hishon v. King & Spaulding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). Furthermore, the court must consider whether plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support the allegations in the complaint. Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir. 2000). A complaint should be dismissed only if the court, from evaluating the allegations in the complaint, is certain that under any set of facts relief cannot be granted. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957); Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997); Markowitz v. Northeast Land, Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1994). Additionally, a court may dismiss a claim where there is a "dispositive issue of law." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326 (1989).

B. Plaintiff's Complaint Fails to State a Claim

Plaintiff has brought claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In order for plaintiff to prevail under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 he must establish two elements: 1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and 2) that the conduct deprived plaintiff of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 184 (3d Cir. 1993).

As a preliminary matter, we note that plaintiff has sued several organizations, rather than individuals. We note that these organizations are not considered "persons" and are therefore not subject to suit under § 1983. Still, even if plaintiff had sued individuals rather than governmental entities, we have serious concerns regarding the validity of plaintiff's claims and will proceed to an analysis of those claims to determine if they fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.

1. Plaintiff's Equal Protection Claim

Plaintiff has alleged that the registration statutes violate his right to Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment because they create a legal classification to disadvantage a particular group. (Rec. Doc. No. 1, at 4.) The Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that a state shall not "deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

U.S. CONST. amend. XIV, § 1. This clause requires that states not create a classification that disadvantages a suspect class or impinges upon a fundamental right unless their purpose is narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest. Plyler v. Doe, 457 U.S. 202, 216-17 (1982). Similarly, states cannot create a classification that disadvantages a quasi-suspect class unless their purpose is substantially related to an important government interest. United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515, 533 (1996). Finally, if no suspect or quasi-suspect class is involved and no fundamental right is burdened, a state may create a classification so long as it is rationally related to a legitimate state interest. Kimel v. Florida Board of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 83 (2000). Furthermore, we note that the Supreme Court has ...


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