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Chambers v. Hathaway

July 14, 2010

ROBERT E. CHAMBERS, II, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JUDGE RITA HATHAWAY, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter.

OPINION AND ORDER

On December 16, 2008, Plaintiff Robert E. Chambers, II, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania, filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Named as Defendants are: Judge Rita Hathaway ("Judge Hathaway"); Officer Gary Schubert ("Schubert"); Officer Wagner ("Wagner"); and Sergeant LaPorte ("LaPorte").

In his complaint, Plaintiff claims that, on August 28, 2007, Defendant Judge Hathaway "violated [his] due process by putting a stay out of New Ken., Arnold, and Lower Burrell order on [his] sentencing paperwork.... " (Complaint at Section IV.C). Plaintiff claims further that, on July 3, 2006, Defendants Schubert, Wagner, and LaPorte violated his Fourth Amendment rights by allegedly conducting an illegal search and seizure, which led to the discovery of "two pieces of paper towel containing drugs that had four individually wrapped plastic baggies containing a controlled substance that didn't have [his] fingerprints or DNA on them." (Id.). As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary relief and "immediate relief or re-sentencing based on evidence." (Complaint at Section VI).

On September 28, 2009, Defendant Judge Hathaway filed a motion to dismiss the complaint citing, inter alia, absolute judicial immunity. [Document # 32]. Defendant Schubert, Wagner, and LaPorte subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings arguing that Plaintiff's claims against them are barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations. [Document # 36]. Despite being given ample time to do so, Plaintiff has failed to file a response to either motion. Instead, Plaintiff has filed his own motion for summary judgment, which attempts to raise additional factual and legal issues regarding his conviction that have little relevance to the issue at hand. [Document # 38]. The parties have consented to having a United States Magistrate Judge exercise jurisdiction over this matter. [Document ## 2, 25, 26]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (May 18, 2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.

In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a 'showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan, 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 22, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This 'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556 n.3.

Recently, the Third Circuit expounded on the Twombly/Iqbal/Phillips line of cases:

To prevent dismissal, all civil complaints must now set out "sufficient factual matter" to show that the claim is facially plausible. This then "allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the alleged misconduct."

[A]fter Iqbal, when presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has "a plausible claim for relief." In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, "[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not 'show[n] - that the pleader is entitled to relief." This "plausibility" requirement will be "a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense."

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009)(emphasis added)(citations omitted).

In addition, pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded," must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers" Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-521(1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Bierley, 141 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969)(petition prepared by a prisoner may be inartfully drawn and should be read "with a measure of tolerance"); Freeman v. Department of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir.1997)(overruled on other grounds). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996)(discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Company, 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990)(same). Because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court will consider facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.

Discussion

1. Defendant Judge ...


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