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Ossie Robert Trader v. R.S.

April 29, 2011

OSSIE ROBERT TRADER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
R.S., DEPUTY CLERK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sheridan, District Judge

NOT FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff Ossie Robert Trader, a prisoner currently confined at the United States Pentitentiary, in Atlanta, Georgia, seeks to bring this action in forma pauperis pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388 (1971), alleging violations of his constitutional rights.

On January 11, 2011, this matter was ordered statistically closed, based on Plaintiff's failure to submit a complete application for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Thereafter, Plaintiff corrected the deficiencies and requested to re-open this matter. Based on his affidavit of indigence and the absence of three qualifying dismissals within 28 U.S.C. §1915(g),*fn1 the Court will grant Plaintiff's applications to re-open this matter and to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a) and will order the Clerk of the Court to file the Complaint.

At this time, the Court must review the Complaint to determine whether it should be dismissed as frivolous or malicious, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or because it seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief.

I. BACKGROUND

The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiff's Complaint and from court records of which this Court can take judicial notice.*fn2

Plaintiff Ossie Trader was arrested in 1994 on charges of armed bank robbery, conspiracy, and related crimes. See United States v. Trader, Criminal No. 94-0534 (E.D.Pa.). Plaintiff initially entered a plea of not guilty and through counsel, in preparation for trial, filed several motions, including a motion to dismiss the indictment for violation of his right to a speedy trial.*fn3 See Docket Entries 34, 40, 42.

In June 1995, Plaintiff changed his plea to guilty. After a hearing, the District Court accepted the guilty plea and scheduled a sentencing hearing. See Docket Entries 47, 48.

Plaintiff alleges that, in January 1998, two and a half years after he had entered his guilty plea, the District Court Clerk administratively terminated the pending motions, making an entry to that effect in the criminal docket. In its entirety, the docket entry reads:

(Court only) * * Terminated motion(s) as to OSSIE R. TRADER, CHARMAINE TRADER: MOTION FOR SEVERANCE, MOTION

TO DISMISS FOR VIOLATION OF SPEEDY TRIAL RIGHTS, MOTION TO COMPEL DISCOVERY, MOTION FOR HEARING AND DEFENDANT'S PRETRIAL DETENTION. (Guilty Plea) (rs) (entered: 01/14/1998).

On March 24, 2000, the District Court sentenced Plaintiff to a term of 248 months' imprisonment to be followed by 5 years' supervised release. See Docket Entry 82.

Here, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Deputy Clerk R.S. conspired with the Defendants United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth Weber, Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Carr, Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen L. Corigsby, and United States District Judge Michael M. Baylson, to enter onto the criminal docket in United States v. Trader, Criminal No. 94-0534 (E.D.P.A.), the purportedly "false" entry. Plaintiff alleges that the entry is "false" because there was never any judicial order to terminate this motion. The entry was made in 1998, but Plaintiff alleges a continuing injury, apparently because the entry remains on the criminal docket. Plaintiff alleges that all Defendants mentioned above conspired to falsify and conceal this entry and to deny Plaintiff his constitutional rights.

Plaintiff alleges that making and ignoring this allegedly erroneous entry amounts to a (1) a violation of the civil RICO statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1964, (2) a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1001, (3) a violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 241 and 242, (3) a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1505, (4) a violation of his right to equal protection under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, (5) a violation of his right to due process under the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and (6) a violation of his rights under the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiff also asserts a claim for malicious prosecution against the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the named Defendant Assistant United States Attorneys. Plaintiff also asserts a claim against United States Attorney General Eric Holder (1) for failure to properly supervise and train the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the named Defendant Assistant United States Attorneys and (2) under a theory of "respondeat superior" for the alleged violations of the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the named Defendant Assistant United States Attorneys.*fn4

Plaintiff asks for declaratory relief, injunctive relief in the form of an order to correct the allegedly false docket entry and for all other just and proper relief.,

II. STANDARDS FOR A SUA SPONTE DISMISSAL

This Court must dismiss, at the earliest practicable time, certain in forma pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim, or seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) (in forma pauperis actions); 28 U.S.C. § 1915A (actions in which prisoner seeks redress from a governmental defendant); 42 U.S.C. § 1997e (prisoner actions brought with respect to prison conditions).

In determining the sufficiency of a pro se complaint, the Court must be mindful to construe it liberally in favor of the plaintiff. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972); United States v. Day, 969 F.2d 39, 42 (3d Cir. 1992). The Court must "accept as true all of the allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

A complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989) (interpreting the predecessor of § 1915(e)(2), the former § 1915(d)). The standard for evaluating whether a complaint is "frivolous" is an objective one. Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1086-87 (3d Cir. 1995).

A complaint is "malicious" when it contains allegations which the plaintiff knows to be false, it is a part of a longstanding pattern of abusive and repetitious lawsuits, or it contains disrespectful or abusive language. See, e.g., In re Tyler, 839 F.2d 1290, 1293 (8th Cir. 1988); Crisafi v. Holland, 655 F.2d 1305, 1309 (D.C. Cir. 1981); Phillips v. Carey, 638 F.2d 207 (10th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 985 (1981). Thus, a complaint is malicious under the referenced statutes if it is repetitive or evidences an intent to vex the defendants or abuse the judicial process by relitigating claims decided in prior cases.

Moreover, it is well established that a court may dismiss a complaint as "malicious" if it seeks to relitigate a previously-litigated claim or if the complaint contains misrepresentations about the plaintiff's other litigation. See, e.g., Nelson v. Paine Webber Corp., Civil No. 09-315, 2010 WL 1028724 (N.D. Fla. March 18, 2010); Hall v. Rahangdale, Civil No. 09-283, 2009 WL 3028219 (N.D. Fla. Sept. 15, 2009); Marshall v. Florida Dept. of Corrections, Civil No. 08-417, 2009 WL 2351723 (N.D. Fla. July 29, 2009); Williams v. Baxter, Civil No. 08-93, 2008 WL 3049995 (N.D. Fla. July 30, 2008); Starks v. Tanner, Civil No. 06-699, 2006 WL 3210147 (S.D. Ill. 2006); Marshall v. City of Mesquite, Civil No. 03-1508, 2003 WL 21673655 (N.D. Texas 2003)(Report and Recommendation adopted and case dismissed as malicious); Pittman v. Moore, 980 F.2d 994 (5th Cir. 1993) Wilson v. Lynaugh, 878 F.2d 846 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 493 U.S. 969 (1989).

In addition, any complaint must comply with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Rule 8(a)(2) requires that a complaint contain "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." A complaint must plead facts sufficient at least to "suggest" a basis for liability. Spruill v. Gillis, 372 F.3d 218, 236 n.12 (3d Cir. 2004). "Specific facts are not necessary; the statement need only 'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (citations omitted). While a complaint ... does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the "grounds" of his "entitle[ment] to relief" requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do, see Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286, 106 S.Ct. 2932, 92 L.Ed.2d 209 (1986) (on a motion to dismiss, courts "are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation"). Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level ... .

Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations omitted).

The Supreme Court has demonstrated the application of these general standards to a Sherman Act conspiracy claim.

In applying these general standards to a § 1 [conspiracy] claim, we hold that stating such a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest that an agreement was made. Asking for plausible grounds to infer an agreement does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage; it simply calls for enough fact to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of illegal agreement. And, of course, a well-pleaded complaint may proceed even if it strikes a savvy judge that actual proof of those facts is improbable, and "that a recovery is very remote and unlikely." ... It makes sense to say, therefore, that an allegation of parallel conduct and a bare assertion of conspiracy will not suffice. Without more, parallel conduct does not suggest conspiracy, and a conclusory allegation of agreement at some unidentified point does not supply facts adequate to show illegality. Hence, when allegations of parallel conduct are set out in order to make a § 1 claim, they must be placed in a context that raises a suggestion of a preceding agreement, not merely parallel conduct that could just as well be independent action.

The need at the pleading stage for allegations plausibly suggesting (not merely consistent with) agreement reflects the threshold requirement of Rule 8(a)(2) that the "plain statement" possess enough heft to "sho[w] that the pleader is entitled to relief." A statement of parallel conduct, even conduct consciously undertaken, needs some setting suggesting the agreement necessary to make out a § 1 claim; without that further circumstance pointing toward a meeting of the minds, an account of a defendant's commercial efforts stays in neutral territory. ...

Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556-57 (citations and footnotes omitted).*fn5

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held, in the context of a § 1983 civil rights action, that the Twombly pleading standard applies outside the § 1 antitrust context in which it was decided. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) ("we decline at this point to read Twombly so narrowly as to limit its holding on plausibility to the antitrust context").

Context matters in notice pleading. Fair notice under Rule 8(a)(2) depends on the type of case -- some complaints will require at least some factual allegations to make out a "showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, in order to give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Indeed, taking Twombly and the Court's contemporaneous opinion in Erickson v. Pardus, 127 S.Ct. 2197 (2007), together, we understand the Court to instruct that a situation may arise where, at some point, the factual detail in a complaint is so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8. Put another way, in light of Twombly, Rule 8(a)(2) requires a "showing" rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief. We caution that without some factual allegation in the complaint, a claimant cannot satisfy the requirement that he or she provide not only "fair notice," but also the "grounds" on which the claim rests.

Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232 (citations omitted).

More recently, the Supreme Court has emphasized that, when assessing the sufficiency of any civil complaint, a court must distinguish factual contentions -- which allege behavior on the part of the defendant that, if true, would satisfy one or more elements of the claim asserted -- and "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009). Although the Court must assume the veracity of the facts asserted in the complaint, it is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id. at 1950. Thus, "a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id.

Therefore, after 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. See Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234-35. 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 ...


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