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Regina Mason v. Kevin Stroyan

April 25, 2011

REGINA MASON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
KEVIN STROYAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (judge Caputo)

(MAGISTRATE JUDGE BLEWITT)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Magistrate Judge Blewitt's Report and Recommendation ("R & R") of October 29, 2010 (Doc. 8) and Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's R&R (Doc. 15), as well as two motions by the Plaintiff for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Docs. 2 and 5). Magistrate Judge Blewitt recommended that Plaintiff's Motion to Proceed in forma pauperis be granted solely for the purpose of filing this action but that Plaintiff's federal claims be dismissed with prejudice as to all Defendants and that the Court decline exercising supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiff's state law Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress ("IIED") claim. This Court will adopt Magistrate Judge Blewitt's R & R for the reasons discussed more fully below.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff's pro se Complaint alleges the following.

Plaintiff names the following ten (10) Defendants: Sharon Schroeder, Pike County Register of Wills; Kevin Stroyan, Pike County Coroner; Thomas Farley, Pike County Solicitor; Mark Pizzuti, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper; Brad Beach, Pennsylvania State Police Corporal; Arthur Ridley, Court-appointed Administrator of Kopich's estate; Dave Chuff, Attorney; Joe Kosierowski, Attorney; County of Pike; and Pennsylvania State Police.

Plaintiff rented the property located at 1351 Cambridge Court, Saw Creek Estates, Pike County, Pennsylvania, from Frank Kopich, Jr. in January 2002. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Kopich drafted a Codicil for the property, giving equal shares to Plaintiff's two sons with Plaintiff as trustee until the sons reached age twenty-one (21). Plaintiff was then added to the Deed to the property in May 2005. Plaintiff obtained refinancing on the property in October 2005. In March 2006, Plaintiff transferred her fifty (50) percent share back to Mr. Kopich. Plaintiff's two sons were incarcerated in September of 2006 and 2007, and Plaintiff herself was incarcerated in July 2007. Mr. Kopich died on August 9, 2008, and Plaintiff's husband was evicted from the property a few days later by Pike County Coroner Stroyan and the State Police. Mr. Kopich's siblings were then allowed to enter the property by State Troopers Beach and Pizzuti and removed documents without a court order. Plaintiff's husband then took the original Codicil Mr. Kopich had drafted to the Pike County Register of Wills and Defendant Schroeder, but Defendant Schroeder refused to accept the Codicil for probate. Then, In November 2008, Plaintiff's husband attempted to be appointed administrator of Mr. Kopich's estate with Power of Attorney from Plaintiff and her children. Pike County Solicitor Thomas Farley then sent a letter to Plaintiff's husband requesting he bring the original Will and Codicil to his office because Pike County had decided to probate the estate. Pike County Orphans Court scheduled a hearing for December 18, 2008 and at that hearing appointed Arthur Ridley as Administrator of the estate. Plaintiff's husband was allowed to enter the estate in August 2009, accompanied by Attorneys Chuff and Kosierowski. Plaintiff noticed that the house appeared ransacked and that his computer and his son's laptop were missing and that a vehicle was gone, but Chuff and Kosierowski wouldn't file a police report. Plaintiff then petitioned for permission to re-enter the property. A hearing was scheduled for August 24, 2009, but Plaintiff's husband could not attend for medical reasons. At the hearing, Chuff and Kosierowski told the Orphans Court that Plaintiff's husband had removed all his property from the estate, and the Court granted them the authority to liquidate the estate in order to pay off the banks.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In her Complaint, Plaintiff raised four causes of action. As Count I, Plaintiff raised a Fourth Amendment claim under 28 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Pennsylvania State Police and Troopers Beach and Pizzuti for allowing Kopich's siblings to rummage through her property and for confiscating her property without a warrant. Count II was a Fourteenth Amendment Procedural Due Process claim under § 1983 against Pike County for allowing the property to deteriorate and then selling Plaintiff's property at the estate sale without notice or a hearing, and against Defendant Schroeder for refusing to probate the Codicil and failing to check the validity of the Codicil. As Count III, Plaintiff brought a Conspiracy claim against the Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. As Count IV, Plaintiff brought a state law IIED claim against all Defendants.

After initially filing her pro se Compliant, Plaintiff filed two applications to proceed in forma pauperis. (Docs. 2 and 5.) As a result, the Magistrate Judge screened Plaintiff's Complaint under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), which requires a complaint filed in forma pauperis be dismissed if it fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).

Applying the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) standard to Plaintiff's Complaint, the Magistrate Judge first recommended the dismissal of Defendants Pike County and the Pennsylvania State Police from the action on the grounds that personal liability cannot be imposed under § 1983 on a theory of respondeat superior. Next, the Magistrate Judge recommended the dismissal of the § 1985 Conspiracy claim (Count III) on the grounds that Plaintiff had failed to allege that she fell within a protected class or that the alleged conspiracy was motivated by discriminatory animus against that class. The Magistrate Judge then recommended that Plaintiff's Fourteenth Amendment claim (Count II) be dismissed because Plaintiff's attempt to have a federal court overturn the orders of the Pike County Register of Wills and the Orphan's Court was banned under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, see, e.g., Hansford v. Bank of America, No. 07-4716, 2008 WL 4078460 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 22, 2008), as well as Pennsylvania's preclusion doctrine, see, e.g. Moncrief v. Chase Manhattan Mortgage Corp., 275 Fed. Appx. 149 (3d Cir. 2008). The Magistrate Judge also stated that Plaintiff failed to establish a cognizable property interest protected under the Fourteenth Amendment, since the Orphan's Court found that she had none, and that, even if she did, there were post-deprivation remedies in place that the Plaintiff could have availed herself, specifically the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, regarding her lost property. Further, the Magistrate Judge recommended Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims (Count I) be dismissed because, since Plaintiff was in prison at the time the State Police and Mr. Kopich's children entered the property, she did not have any reasonable expectation of privacy. Finally, having recommended the dismissal of the three federal law claims, the Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court decline from exercising jurisdiction over the state law IIED claim in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §1367(c).

Plaintiff then filed her Objections to the R&R on December 29, 2010.

STANDARDS OF REVIEW

I. Objections to the Magistrate ...


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