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Wanda D. Miller and Wanda D. Miller v. York County

January 9, 2012

WANDA D. MILLER AND WANDA D. MILLER, PLAINTIFFS
v.
YORK COUNTY, PA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



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

(Magistrate Judge Blewitt)

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court is Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt's Report and Recommendation, recommending that Plaintiffs Mrs. Wanda D. Miller and Ms. Wanda D. Miller's complaint be dismissed with prejudice, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), and that her motion for stay pending appeal be denied. (Doc. No. 8.) Plaintiffs have filed objections to the Report and Recommendation. (Doc. No. 9.) For the reasons that follow, the Court will adopt in part the Report and Recommendation.

I. BACKGROUND

On August 8, 2011, Plaintiffs, Wanda D. Miller ("Mrs. Miller") and her daughter, Wanda D. Miller ("Ms. Miller"), filed a complaint alleging state-law claims and federal claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1988 against the following thirteen defendants: County of York, Pennsylvania; Court of Common Pleas of York County, Pennsylvania ("Court of Common Pleas"); Attorney Richard K. Konkel; York County Human Services Division ("YCHSD"); Beverly Mackereth, Executive Director of YCHSD; York County Area Agency on Aging ("YCAAA"); Dianna Benaknin, Director of YCAAA; Susan Gordon, Protective Service Supervisor, YCAAA; Courtney Andreuzzi, Case Manager, YCAAA; Neighborhood Services of Lancaster, Inc. ("Neighborhood Services"); Colonial Manor Nursing & Rehabilitation ("Colonial Manor"); Philip A. Veith, Landlord and Owner of Restless Oaks Trailer Park in Windsor, York County , Pennsylvania; and Lancaster Red Rose Credit Union ("Red Rose"). (Doc. No. 1.) Plaintiffs, litigating pro se, filed a motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. No. 2.) Plaintiffs also filed a motion for stay pending appeal with respect to an order in Ms. Miller's Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. (Doc. No. 6)

Plaintiffs raise a myriad of claims in their voluminous complaint. Plaintiffs allege that on August 6, 2009, Defendant YCAAA illegally entered their home in Windsor, Pennsylvania, to remove Mrs. Miller and take her to the hospital for observation, where she was involuntarily held for twenty-five days. (Doc. No. 1 ¶¶ 22-28.) Plaintiffs allege that on August 26, 2009, YCAA filed a petition for emergency involuntarily protective services, which Defendant Court of Common Pleas granted, appointing Defendant Konkel as Mrs. Miller's attorney, and appointing Defendant Neighborhood Services as Mrs. Miller's guardian ad litem. (Id. ¶¶ 30-41.)

Pursuant to the order of the Court of Common Pleas, Mrs. Miller was taken to Defendant Colonial Manor's facilities, "where she still is confined to this day." (Id. ¶ 42.)

On December 3, 2009, the Court of Common Pleas held a hearing, in which it ordered that Neighborhood Services would continue to be Mrs. Miller's guardian, and that the property located in Lancaster County (the "Lancaster Property"), which Mrs. Miller owned with her late husband, not be sold. (Id. ¶ 49.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants Konkel and Neighborhood Services tried to sell the Lancaster Property "by seeking a real estate agent for that purpose." (Id. ¶ 50.) Plaintiffs further allege that, on or about March 2010, Defendant Red Rose initiated a mortgage foreclosure on the Lancaster Property, "without proper notification, or due process," and in violation of the notice requirements of Pennsylvania's foreclosure laws. (Id. ¶¶ 55-56.) On July 21, 2010, the Court of Common Pleas found that Mrs. Miller was incapacitated, appointed Neighborhood Services as her plenary guardian, and revoked Ms. Miller's power of attorney. (Id. ¶ 57.)

In a seemingly unrelated incident, Plaintiffs allege that in November of 2009, Defendant Philip Veith initiated eviction proceedings against Plaintiffs' trailer home, "without following due process or proper eviction procedure." (Id. ¶¶ 46-47.)

In their complaint, Plaintiffs allege a wide range of constitutional violations against thirteen defendants. Specifically, Plaintiffs allege the following causes of action: (1) Count I, a First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment claim brought by Mrs. Miller pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants YCHSD, YCAAA, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Red Rose, Mackereth, Benaknin, Gordon, Andreuzzi, Veith, and Konkel; (2) Count II, a First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendment claim brought by Ms. Miller pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants YCHSD, YCAAA, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Red Rose, Mackereth, Benaknin, Gordon, Andreuzzi, Veith, and Konkel; (3) Count III, a civil rights conspiracy claim brought pursuant 42 U.S.C. § 1985 against Defendants York County, YCHSD, YCAAA, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Red Rose, Mackereth, Benaknin, Gordon, Andreuzzi, Veith, and Konkel; (4) Count IV, a claim for declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants Court of Common Pleas, York County, YCHSD, YCAAA, Colonial Manor, and Konkel; (5) Count V, a substantive due process claim brought against Defendants York County, YCHSD, YCAAA, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Red Rose, Mackereth, Benaknin, Gordon, Andreuzzi, Veith, and Konkel; (6) Count VI, a procedural due process claim against Defendants York County, YCHSD, YCAAA, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Red Rose, Mackereth, Benaknin, Gordon, Andreuzzi, Veith, and Konkel; (7) Count VII, a constitutional claim brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants York County, YCHSD, and YCAAA; (8) Count VIII, a multitude of state-law claims; (9) Count IX, a conspiracy claim against Defendants York County, YCAAA, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Red Rose, Mackereth, Benaknin, Gordon, Andreuzzi, Veith, and Konkel.

As relief, Plaintiffs seek injunctive and declaratory relief, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Plaintiffs ask the Court to allow Mrs. Miller to be released from Colonial Manor, to require instruction and supervision of Defendant YCAAA in following Pennsylvania law with respect to care of older adults, to declare that the policies and procedures followed by Defendants are unconstitutional.

On October 21, 2011, Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued a Report and Recommendation, recommending that Ms. Miller's motion for stay pending appeal be denied and that Plaintiffs' complaint be dismissed with prejudice. (Doc. No. 8.)

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The Magistrate Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), provide that any party may file written objections to a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations. In deciding whether to accept, reject, or modify the Report and Recommendation, the Court is to make a de novo determination of those portions of the Report and Recommendation to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

A court must review the complaint of a plaintiff seeking to proceed in forma pauperis prior to service of process under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). If the court determines that an action fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, dismissal of that claim is required. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (ii); see also id. § 1915A(b)(1). The standard of review for failure to state a claim in this context is the same as the standard governing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 110 (3d Cir. 2002). Thus, dismissal is proper when the defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Markowitz v. Ne. Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). To avoid dismissal, the complaint must contain allegations sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact)." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Essentially, a plaintiff must "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that those elements exist." Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Put otherwise, a civil complaint must "set out 'sufficient factual matter' to show that the claim is facially plausible." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1955 (2009)). A court, however, "need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906, 908 (3d Cir. 1997).

III. DISCUSSION

On October 21, 2011, Magistrate Judge Blewitt issued a Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 8), recommending: (1) that Ms. Miller's motion for stay pending appeal (Doc. No. 6) be denied; (2) that Plaintiffs' claims regarding Defendant YCAAA's forcible removal of Mrs. Miller from her house be dismissed as time barred; (3) that Plaintiffs' section 1983 claims be dismissed as against Defendants Konkel, Neighborhood Services, Colonial Manor, Veith, and Red Rose, as they are not state actors; (4) that Plaintiffs' section 1983 conspiracy claim raised in Count IX be dismissed for failure to state a claim; (5) that Plaintiffs' section 1985 conspiracy claim in Count III be dismissed for failure to state a claim; (6) that Defendant Court of Common Pleas be dismissed as an improper defendant, both under the Eleventh Amendment, and section 1983 precedent; (7) that the entire complaint be dismissed with prejudice, as the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over all of Plaintiffs' claims under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine and the claims are barred by Pennsylvania's claim preclusion doctrine; and (8) that the Court decline to exercise pendent jurisdiction over Plaintiffs' state-law claims.

On November 7, 2011, Plaintiffs filed a number of objections to Magistrate Judge Blewitt's Report and Recommendation. (Doc. No. 9.) Specifically, Plaintiffs: (1) request that the Court treat their objections as timely; (2) ask the Court to appoint counsel; (3) ask the Court to schedule a hearing; (4) express their intent to file a petition for habeas corpus relief; (5) ask the Court to hold their pro se pleadings to a less stringent standard than those drafted by attorneys; (6) argue that their complaint was filed within the two year statute of limitations; (7) argue that dismissal with prejudice would violate their constitutional rights; (8) argue that a conspiracy claim is appropriate; (9) argue that guardianship is equivalent to ...


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