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Benton Colvin v. Connie Mikolic

April 5, 2011

BENTON COLVIN
PLAINTIFF,
v.
CONNIE MIKOLIC, PAUL D. STRAKA, KATHY GRIMM AND LUANN YOHN, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Conner)

MEMORANDUM

This is a civil rights action filed by plaintiff Benton Colvin ("Colvin") alleging that employees of the Lycoming County Probation and Parole Office violated his rights under the Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution and Sections 1, 6, 8, 10, 13, and 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Presently before the court is a motion (Doc. 12) to dismiss filed by defendant Luann Yohn. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.

I. Background*fn1

Colvin's complaint arises from his recent incarceration at Lycoming County Prison ("LCP") from July 1, 2009 to August 21, 2009. He contends that his confinement during this period was unlawful. Colvin alleges that Yohn, an employee of the Lycoming County Probation Office, falsely imprisoned or conspired to falsely imprison him in the LCP during these dates. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 13, 18, 36, 37, 43, 59, 68).

Colvin was incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Laurel Highlands prior the date of the alleged unlawful confinement at LCP. He asserts that his maximum sentence was to expire on July 1, 2009. In anticipation of his release, Colvin alleges that between June 3 and June 6, 2009, he submitted his home plan for approval to defendant Connie Mikolic. (Id. ¶ 9). He contends that other named defendants refused to submit his home plan, falsely stated the plan was rejected, and falsely reported to the court the alleged rejection of the plan. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11). On the basis of these allegedly false assertions, and allegations that Colvin violated the terms of his probation, on June 15, 2009, at the request of the Lycoming County Probation Office, Lycoming County Court of Common Pleas Judge Nancy Butts issued a detainer for Colvin. (Id. ¶ 16). Thereafter, on July 1, 2009, Colvin was transported to the LCP where he was held on the detainer. (Id. ¶¶ 59, 60). The court held the initial probation violation hearing on July 8, 2009, but determined that, due to Colvin's pending lawsuit against the Public Defender's Office, the court was required to appoint alternative counsel and reschedule the hearing. (Doc. 18, Ex. E). The second hearing, scheduled for July 24, 2009, was continued to August 21, 2009, over the objection of the Lycoming County Adult Probation Office, upon motion by Colvin's counsel. (Id. Ex. G). At the August 21, 2009 hearing Lycoming County Judge Craig Miller, found Colvin had not violated his probation and released Colvin. (Id. Ex. D, H).

Colvin makes additional allegations that, on or about January 21, 2009, Yohn altered his sentence in the underlying criminal matter by making additions to his sentence. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 29, 63). Specifically, he asserts that Yohn altered his probation from regular to special. (Id. ¶ 12, 63, 71). Colvin alleges that the defendants have continued to harass him and pursue efforts to have the court place more conditions on his probation. (Id. ¶ 19, 20, 27). Colvin also asserts that he suffered attacks and abuse, and that defendants "knew or should have known that plaintiff was particularly vulnerable to a[]ttacks and abuse." (Id. ¶¶ 38, 39). As result of defendants' actions Colvin claims he suffered "gross injury of his psyche" a permanent personality disorder requiring psychological intervention and treatment, and "severe grievous mental anguish." (Id. ¶¶ 40-41).

Colvin initiated the instant action on August 30, 2010. (Doc. 1). Colvin contends that Yohn violated his Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution and Sections 1, 6, 8, 10, 13, and 14 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Id. at 8-9). Colvin seeks compensatory and punitive damages, as well as declaratory relief. (Id. at 10). On December 21, 2010, Yohn filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 12). Yohn filed her brief in support on January 21, 2011. (Doc. 18). Thereafter, Colvin filed a brief in opposition on February 4, 2011. (Doc. 19). The matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)); see also Kanter v. Barella, 489 F.3d 170, 177 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 350 (3d Cir. 2005)). Although the court is generally limited in its review to the facts contained in the complaint, it "may also consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997).

Federal notice and pleading rules require the complaint to provide "the defendant notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). To test the sufficiency of the complaint in the face of a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the court must conduct a three-step inquiry. See Santiago, 629 F.3d at 130. In the first step, "the court must 'tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.'" Id. (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1947, 173 L. Ed. 2d 868 (2009)). Next, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated; well-pleaded facts must be accepted as true, while mere legal conclusions may be disregarded. Id.; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). Once the well pleaded factual allegations have been isolated, the court must determine whether they are sufficient to show a "plausible claim for relief." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, U.S. , 129 S. Ct. at 1950 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (requiring plaintiffs to allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level"). A claim "has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, --- U.S. at ---, 129 S. Ct. at 1949. When the complaint fails to present a prima facie case of liability, however, courts should generally grant leave to amend before dismissing a complaint. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 108 (3d Cir. 2002); Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Cir. 2000).

III. Discussion

Yohn asserts two grounds for the dismissal of the complaint against her: (1) the action is barred by the Younger abstention doctrine, and (2) Colvin fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

A. Younger Abstention Doctrine

The abstention doctrine, stemming from the United States Supreme Court's opinion in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), dictates that federal courts abstain from adjudicating matters before the court when such adjudication would disrupt an ongoing state criminal proceeding. Yi Yang v. Tsui, 416 F.3d 199, 202 (3d Cir. 2005). The doctrine is rooted in the principles of comity and "the longstanding public policy against federal court interference in state court proceedings." Younger, 401 U.S. at 43. Younger abstention applies when the following three requirements are met: "(1) there are ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal claims." Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 ...


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