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Johnny B. Showers v. Erie County Court of Common Pleas

August 21, 2012

JOHNNY B. SHOWERS, PLAINTIFF
v.
ERIE COUNTY COURT OF COMMON PLEAS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Baxter

OPINION AND ORDER

United States Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Relevant Procedural History

On January 20, 2012, Plaintiff Johnny B. Showers, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania (ASCI-Albion@), filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. Named as Defendants are the Erie County Court of Common Pleas (AErie County Court@) and Jack Daneri, Erie County District Attorney (ADaneri@).

In his complaint, Plaintiff alleges generally that on July 1, 2007, he was given a twenty year jail sentence by Defendant Erie County Court at the recommendation of Defendant Daneri. Plaintiff claims that this sentence was excessive and violated his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks immediate release from prison and damages in the amount of $200.00 per day for each day he claims he has been wrongfully imprisoned since July 1, 2007.

On April 10, 2012, Defendant Daneri filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 12] arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff=s claims against him are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and by the doctrine of absolute prosecutorial immunity. On April 23, 2012, Defendant Erie County Court filed its own motion to dismiss [ECF No. 17] arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff=s claims against it are barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity and the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine. Plaintiff has since filed briefs in opposition to these motions. [ECF Nos. 20, 21]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Standards of Review

1. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege Aenough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.@ Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).

The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). AFactual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.@ Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does Anot require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.@ Id. at 570.

In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is Arequired to make a >showing= rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief.@ Smith v. Sullivan, 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). AThis >does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,= but instead >simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of= the necessary element.@ Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556.

Recently, the Third Circuit Court prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal:

First, the court must >tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.= Second, the court should identify allegations that, >because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.= Finally, >where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their ...


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