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White v. Green

August 4, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'Neill, J.


On April 3, 2009, plaintiff Karl E. White, acting pro se, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against fifteen Delaware County defendants, including four judges from the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, President Judge Joseph P. Cronin, Jr. and Judges William R. Toal, Jr., Barry C. Dozor and Michael F.D. Coll (collectively, the judicial defendants); six past or present Delaware County prosecutors, G. Michael Green, Chris D. Rosato, Ian McCurdy, Lori Anderson, Sue Williams and Mary Mann (collectively, the prosecutor defendants); two directors of the Delaware County PA Bail Agency, Phil Pisani and Charlene LaPreste (collectively, the bail agency defendants); three employees of the Delaware County Domestic Relations office, Mimi Bradley Walker, Debra Schilling and Kathleen Connor (collectively domestic relations defendants), and the George Hill Correctional Facility for false imprisonment. I have before me motions to dismiss from judicial defendants (D. No. 24), prosecutor defendants (D. No. 13), bail agency defendants (D. No. 32) and domestic relations defendants (D. No. 23) and plaintiff's responses thereto; plaintiff's motions for leave to file an amended complaint (D. No. 14 and 39); plaintiff's "motion to join" this civil action to "the ongoing pending lawsuit concerning plaintiffs Penny Allison of Media and Zoran Hocevar of Upper Darby named in the Delaware County Daily Times, April 1, 2009" currently pending before my colleague Judge DuBois, Allison v. The Geo Group, Inc, No. 08-0467 (E.D. Pa.) (D. No. 15); plaintiff's motions for summary judgment (D. No. 18, 29, 36 and 38) on which discovery is currently stayed pursuant to my Order of July 13, 2009 and plaintiff's motions to stay defendants' motions to dismiss (D. No. 20 and 28).


Plaintiff alleges that he was falsely imprisoned on April 7, 2007 until his case was nolle prosequi on January 8, 2008. He was detained in the George W. Hill Correctional Facility for 10 months.*fn1 He alleges that prosecutorial defendants "were not privilege by law to prosecute and or had they the legal authority to prolong detainment for in or around 10 months [sic]." Plaintiff asserts that Judges Cronin and Toal "presided over the case in question and were not privilege by law and or had the legal authority to do so [sic]." He alleges that bail agency defendants "denied plaintiff bails in said case and were not privileged by law to do so thereby prolonging said false imprisonment [sic]."

Plaintiff alleges that the Correctional Facility placed plaintiff in harms way of serious injury and/or death when they require plaintiff to sleep on a top bunks which are 5 feet in the air in or around that has no ladders and guardrails. OSHA claims 100 lb. Drop from just 3 feet generates 1,800 lbs of pressure capable of killing. All day every day plaintiff was placed in harms way rather than in spite of the harm with full knowledge of these facts. In additionally, it was a policy of the jail to strip search every one sent to jail awaiting trial even if there was no reason to think the suspects were hiding contraband on their body. They routinely do block searches whereby everyone on the block are routed in the shower while their cells are being searched and once that search is complete, the inmates are then strip searched while in the presents of other genders. Also, most people who are arrested on charges as minor as misdemeanors are held at least till the next business day after they have been released from the court and that the prison can get paid another full day from the Government [sic].

Additionally, plaintiff alleges that on May 9, 2008 Judges Dozer and Coll*fn2 "seized plaintiff's stimulus payment from the United States Treasury Department and federal income tax for in or around $350 and were not privileged by law to do so [sic]." He asserts that domestic relations defendants "are the motivating force behind the seizure of plaintiff assets described herein [sic]." He alleges that defendant Williams "was not privileged by law to seize $491.30 of plaintiff's stimulus payment from the U.S. Treasury Department and Federal income Tax for in or around $350 [sic]."


Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) permits a court to dismiss all or part of an action for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). In ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, I must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations of fact, and any reasonable inferences that may be drawn therefrom, in plaintiff's complaint and must determine whether "under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff[] may be entitled to relief." Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (citations omitted). Typically, "a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations," though plaintiffs' obligation to state the grounds of entitlement to relief "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964-65 (2007). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level on the assumption that all of the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Id. (citations omitted). A well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it appears "that recovery is very remote and unlikely." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, I do not "inquire whether the plaintiff[] will ultimately prevail, only whether [he is] entitled to offer evidence to support [his] claims." Nami, 82 F.3d at 65, citing Scheuer, 416 U.S. at 236.

Additionally, plaintiff is proceeding without counsel. Pleadings that are pro se must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Dickerson v. Brooks, 2007 WL 4689001, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Oct. 31, 2007), citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Under our liberal pleading rules, a district court should construe all allegations in a pro se complaint in favor of the plaintiff. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997). Because plaintiff is a pro se litigant, I will consider his allegations of fact and make inferences where it is necessary and appropriate.


I. Judicial Defendants

Plaintiff alleges that judicial defendants did not have the "legal authority" to preside over an underlying state court criminal case in which he was a defendant. Judges are immune from liability when (1) the judge has jurisdiction over the subject matter before him and (2) he is preforming a judicial act. Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978). Immunity applies even if the actions complained of are alleged to have been in error, performed with malice, or in excess of the judge's authority, id., or if the judges' actions are claimed to have been performed as a result of an alleged conspiracy with others. Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 30(1980).

As this dispute was properly brought in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, see 42 Pa. C.S.A. ยง 931, the actions taken in ruling in criminal matters before them were unquestionably judicial acts, Mireles v. Waco, 502 U.S. 9, 14 (1991), and the motives of the judicial officer are irrelevant for purposes of determining whether judicial immunity is applicable, id. at 11, judicial defendants are ...

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