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Marc Antwain X. Rivers Muhammad, Sr v. Yvette Davis; the Luzerne County Department of Public Welfare; the

November 29, 2010

MARC ANTWAIN X. RIVERS MUHAMMAD, SR., PLAINTIFF,
v.
YVETTE DAVIS; THE LUZERNE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE; THE LUZERNE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS DOMESTIC RELATIONS SECTION; PAULA C. DEJOSEPH, ESQUIRE; JOHN LEIGHTON AND DONALD T. ROGERS, ESQUIRE, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

(MAGISTRATE JUDGE SMYSER)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Smyser's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") and Plaintiff's Objections. Magistrate Judge Smyser recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed without leave to amend pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Because Mr. Muhammad fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, Magistrate Judge Smyser's R & R to dismiss the complaint will be adopted.

I. Background

The facts as stated in Mr. Muhammad's complaint are as follows: Plaintiff Marc Antwain Rivers Muhammad Sr. and Defendant Yvette Davis had a son on February 4, 2009. On July 10, 2009, Ms. Davis filed a complaint requesting child support from Mr. Muhammad. The Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Section, also a Defendant, ordered Mr. Muhammad to make monthly payments to support his and Ms. Davis's son. Mr. Muhammad challenged this order on the grounds that it was unconstitutional and was given a new trial. Defendant Hearing Officer Paula DeJoseph adjusted Mr. Muhammad's monthly payments but refused to address his constitutional objections, determining that it was beyond the scope of her jurisdiction. Mr. Muhammad again challenged the decision; his appeal was denied by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Muhammad filed a complaint with the Middle District of Pennsylvania on July 12, 2011 asserting claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985(2)-(3). He alleges that all Defendants engaged in a conspiracy to deprive him of his right to privacy in matters of child rearing. As relief, Muhammad seeks a declaratory judgment that the child support orders are unconstitutional. He further seeks nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages.

Magistrate Judge Smyser reviewed the claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) which provides that for proceedings in forma pauperis:

[T]he court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that-- (A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or (B) the action or appeal-- (I) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief." Magistrate Judge Smyser filed his R & R on July 20, 2011 and Muhammad responded with objections on August 2, 2011.

II. Standards of Review

A. Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report

Where objections to the magistrate judge's report are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998).

B. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The pleading standard of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 does not require "detailed factual allegations," but "[a] pleading that offers 'labels and conclusions' or a 'formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1959 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009). Although the standards of pleading are more liberal for pro se litigants like Mr. Muhammad, "pro se litigants are not relieved of their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a cognizable legal claim." Ireland v. McDaniel, No. 10-387, 2011 WL 860390, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jan. 27, 2011) (citing Taylor v. Books A Million, Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002); Riddle v. Mondragon, 83 F.3d 1197, 2102 (10th Cir. 1996).

Thus, when determining the sufficiency of a complaint, a court must undertake a three-part inquiry. See Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011). The inquiry involves: "(1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating ...


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