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Bennie Barnes v. Pa Board of Probation and Parole

September 11, 2012

BENNIE BARNES, PLAINTIFF
v.
PA BOARD OF PROBATION AND PAROLE, MEMBERS, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: United States Magistrate Judge Susan Paradise Baxter

Magistrate Judge Baxter

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History

On January 26, 2012, Plaintiff Bennie Barnes, an inmate incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Albion, Pennsylvania, presented this pro se civil rights complaint against Defendant PA Board of Probation and Parole, Members, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. Plaintiff claims that Defendant Aw/o jurisdiction or >cause= re-sentenced [him]Y absent >new crime= required by 42 Pa.C.S. ' 9771(c),@ in violation of his rights under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments. (ECF No. 6, Complaint, at Sections III and IV.C). In particular, Plaintiff alleges that at the time of his sentencing on November 1, 1999, he was a first time offender, yet was given a sentence of 96 months confinement, which allegedly exceeded the statutory maximum sentence of 48 to 66 months for first offenders. (ECF No. 21, Plaintiff=s opposition brief, at p. 2).*fn1 Thus, Plaintiff claims that the judgment of sentence was A>void= at its inception, having no legal force or effect, absolutely null and incapable of being confirmed, ratified, or enforced in any manner or to any degree, not authorizing detention therewith or thereon.@ (Id.). As a result, Plaintiff claims that Defendant illegally Are-sentenced@ him on five occasions by denying him release and continuing his confinement. As relief, Plaintiff seeks discharge from false detention, as well as monetary damages equal to $200.00 for each day he claims to have been illegally detained. (Id. at Section VI).

On June 25, 2012, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 17] arguing that (i) Plaintiff=s damage claim must be dismissed because it is barred by the Eleventh Amendment and Defendant is not a Aperson@ under ' 1983, and (ii) Plaintiff=s illegal detention claim must be dismissed because it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Plaintiff has since filed an Aobjection@ to Defendant=s motion, which includes a motion to amend the complaint to include the individual members of the Board of Probation and Parole as defendants in this case. [ECF No. 21]. Both parties have consented to the jurisdiction of the United States Magistrate Judge. [ECF Nos. 3, 20]. 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 veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.=

Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), citing Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947, 1950); see also Great Western Mining & Min. ...


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