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Banks v. Director, Office of Science and Technology

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 6, 2014

FREDERICK BANKS, Plaintiff
v.
DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, BEHAVIORAL MODIFICATION UNIT, et al., Defendants

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

Albert Einstein once stated that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the highest form of folly. We are reminded of Einstein's wisdom as we consider the instant civil lawsuit filed by Frederick Banks. In his current complaint, Banks identifies hundreds of named and unnamed federal officials and agencies as defendants, alleging that these officials and agencies have engaged in "Voice to skull" electronic harassment of Banks, beaming harassing messages into Bank's skull. (Doc. 1) As relief, Banks seeks $800, 000, 000 in damages, and a writ of mandamus forbidding future use of "Voice to skull" technology by the United States government. (Id.) This claim is virtually identical to complaints filed by Banks in August of 2013 and October 2013, and dismissed by this Court as frivolous in September and December, 2013. Banks v. Unknown Federal Judges, 1:13-CV-2095; Banks v. CIA, 1:13-2664. Therefore, we find that Banks is now engaging in Einstein's folly, doing the same thing over again and expecting a different result.

Along with this complaint, Banks has filed a motion seeking leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2) Upon an initial screening of the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915, we will GRANT plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis, but recommend that the Court DISMISS this complaint as frivolous and because it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(I) and (ii).

II. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards Governing Sufficiency of Civil Complaints

This Court has an ongoing statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by plaintiffs given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). Specifically, the Court must assess whether a pro se complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, since Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). In addition, when reviewing in forma pauperis complaints, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) enjoins us to "dismiss the complaint at any time if the court determines that... the action... fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted."

With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)]and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal ___ U.S. ___ , 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside , 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc. , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "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 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally a court need not "assume that a... plaintiff can prove facts that the... plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters , 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. According to the Supreme Court, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678. Rather, in conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must:

[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their ...

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