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Pope v. Public Defender Office In Crawford County Courthouse

United States District Court, Third Circuit

November 6, 2013

LAMONE R. POPE, Plaintiff,
v.
PUBLIC DEFENDER OFFICE IN CRAWFORD COUNTY COURTHOUSE, Defendant.

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that Defendant's motion to dismiss [ECF No. 8], be granted and this case be dismissed.

II. REPORT

A. Relevant Procedural History

On January 14, 2013, Plaintiff Lamone R. Pope filed this pro se civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Public Defender Office in Crawford County Courthouse. In his complaint, Plaintiff claims that Defendant violated his constitutional right to a fair trial regarding a charge of criminal trespass that he received on January 5, 2012 in Crawford County, Pennsylvania. In particular, Plaintiff claims that the Crawford County Assistant Public Defender assigned to represent him did not have a stenographer at his preliminary hearing, which allegedly prevented him from taking his case to trial because the prosecution's conflicting statements at the hearing were not recorded. As a result, Plaintiff claims he was forced to enter a guilty plea. (ECF No. 3, Complaint, at Section IV.C). As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks to recover monetary damages.

On June 7, 2013, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 8], arguing, inter alia , that Plaintiff's claims are barred because Defendant, and its representatives, are not state actors subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has since filed a brief response to Defendant's motion [ECF No. 11]. 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 "enough 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). "Factual 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 "not 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 "required 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). "This 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.

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 ...

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