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Marc Antwain X. Rivers Muhammad, Sr v. Vincent

March 27, 2013

MARC ANTWAIN X. RIVERS MUHAMMAD, SR.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
VINCENT CAPPELLINI, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

(MAGISTRATE JUDGE SMYSER)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a "Motion for Federal Injunctive Relief & Damages Pursuant to § 1983" filed by Plaintiff Marc Antwain X. Rivers Muhammad, Sr. (Doc. 24.) The Court will construe the motion, which raises new claims against new individuals under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,*fn1 as a complaint and review it pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).*fn2 The Court will deny the motion and dismiss all claims raised therein on immunity grounds.

BACKGROUND

This case stems from a state court parental termination action involving Mr. Muhammad and his minor son, Alonzo Allen. In 2002, while Mr. Muahmmad was incarcerated, Luzerne County Children and Youth Services ("LCCYS") took custody of Alonzo and placed him in foster care. Mr. Muhammad sought contact with Alonzo and underwent drug and alcohol education and violence prevention training, as recommended by LCCYS. In March 2006, LCCYS filed a petition in the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas Orphan's Court Division ("LCCCP") for involuntary termination of Mr. Muhammad's

parental rights to Alonzo. Vincent Cappellini, Esq. was appointed as counsel to represent Mr. Muhammad during the termination of parental rights proceedings. John Bellino, Esq. was appointed as Alonzo's guardian ad litem. On June 21, 2007, the LCCCP entered a final decree terminating Mr. Muhammad's parental rights. Mr. Muhammad unsuccessfully appealed the order to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and then to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Alonzo was subsequently adopted by his foster parents.

On November 17, 2010, Mr. Muhammad commenced this action by filing a pro se Complaint against Mr. Cappelini, Mr. Bellino, LCCYS, the LCCCP, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, and the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. (Doc. 1.) He asserted claims under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985(2)--(3) and the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id.) As relief, he sought: a judgment declaring that Mr. Cappelini provided ineffective assistance of counsel during the state court termination of parental rights proceedings; an order vacating the termination of his parental rights, vacating the adoption of Alonzo, and granting him physical and legal custody of Alonzo; and nominal, compensatory, and punitive damages. (Id.)

In a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") dated December 8, 2010, Magistrate Judge J. Andrew Smyser reviewed the Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) and recommended that it be dismissed. (Doc. 6.) In a Memorandum and Order dated July 25, 2011, the Court adopted the R&R in part and rejected it in part. (Doc. 9.) The Court dismissed all of Mr. Muhammad's claims on grounds of immunity*fn3 and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.*fn4 The Court granted Mr. Muhammad leave to amend his Complaint because his claims under § 1983, § 1985(2), and § 1985(3) could be amended so that they state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Id. at 10.)

Mr. Muhammad filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court's July 25, 2011 Order on August 4, 2011. (Doc. 12.) He also filed his Amended Complaint on August 16, 2011, which brought claims against LCCYS caseworker Gerry Lynn Butler, Mr. Cappellini, LCCYS, the LCCCP, and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. §§1985(2) and 1985(3) and claims against the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania under 42 U.S.C. § 1986. (Doc. 14.) On September 29, 2011, the Court denied the Motion for Reconsideration and dismissed the Amended Complaint with prejudice on grounds of immunity and failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. (Doc. 15.) The Court's decision to dismiss Mr. Muhammad's Amended Complaint was upheld on appeal. See Muhammad v. Cappellini, 477 F. App'x 935 (3d Cir.), cert. denied, 133 S.Ct. 478 (2012).

Mr. Muhammad filed his "Motion for Federal Injunctive Relief & Damages Pursuant to § 1983" on March 20, 2013. (Doc. 24.) He alleges in his motion that the LCCCP and former LCCCP judge Michael Conahan, who presided over the termination of parental rights proceedings, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn5 by depriving him of his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights and First Amendment rights of free speech, access to the courts, and petitioning the government for redress of grievances while acting under color of state law. (Id. at 9--14.) He also alleges that the Superior Court of Pennsylvania and its judges who reviewed the termination of his parental rights on direct appeal-the Honorable Kate Ford Elliott, the Honorable Jacqueline O. Shogan, and the Honorable Robert E. Colville-violated § 1983 by depriving him of his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process rights while acting under color of state law by failing to address the merits of his ineffective assistance of counsel claim. (Id. at 4--8.) Mr. Muhammad seeks "injunctive relief" that would vacate LCCCP's order terminating his parental rights and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania order affirming that decision. (Id. at 15.) He also seeks "injunctive relief" that would vacate the sealed adoption proceedings in which Alonzo Allen was adopted and immediately give him primary physical and legal custody of Alonzo. (Id.) Finally, Mr. Muhammad seeks damages of $50 million from the Defendants. (Id. at 16.)

DISCUSSION

I. Eleventh Amendment Immunity

In his motion, Mr. Muhammad alleges that the LCCCP and the Superior Court of Pennsylvania violated his constitutional rights while acting under color of state law. These § 1983 claims, like the § 1983 claims that he has previously raised against these entities in this action, must be dismissed. The Supreme Court of the United States has interpreted the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution as precluding suits by citizens against a state government. See, e.g., Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 662--63 (1974); see also U.S. Const. amend. XI. The Eleventh Amendment also bars suits against state entities, including Pennsylvania state courts. Benn v. First Jud. Dist. Of Pa., 426 F.3d 233, 241 (3d Cir. 2005). The Supreme Court has rejected the idea that the Eleventh Amendment does not apply to § 1983 suits. Quern v. ...


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