United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
THOMAS M. BLEWITT United States Magistrate Judge
On September 30 2013, Plaintiff Antonello Boldrini, a citizen of Italy and a permanent resident alien of the United States, living at 81 Frothingham Street, Pittston Township, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, filed, pro se, another civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 and § 1985. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff also included state law claims as well as RICO claims and federal criminal violations.Plaintiff’s original Complaint consisted of 15 typed pages with an attached Declaration under penalty of perjury. Plaintiff paid the filing fee. (Doc. 2).
In his original Complaint, Plaintiff named at least 35 Defendants, including John Doe Defendants. On October 3, 2013, the Clerk of Court issued the Summons as to all Defendants and provided the Summons to Plaintiff to serve his original Complaint on Defendants. (Doc. 3). However, since it was apparent on the face of Plaintiff’s original Complaint that it was not a proper pleading and that jurisdiction of this Court may be lacking over several Defendants, we issued a Memorandum and Order on October 4, 2013, directing Plaintiff to file an Amended Complaint. (Docs. 4 & 5). See Ruddy v. Mastercard, Civil No. 12-2376, M.D. Pa. In our 9-page Memorandum, we detailed several deficiencies with respect to Plaintiff‘s original Complaint.
After we granted Plaintiff three extensions of time, Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint on January 9, 2014. (Doc. 11). Plaintiff names at least twenty eight (28) Defendants, some of whom are John Does and the number of Doe Defendants is not specified. To date, Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint has not been served on Defendants. We find that Plaintiff’s 19-page typed Amended Complaint is not a proper pleading and that it is subject to dismissal. Also, in his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff largely names Defendants who are entitled to judicial immunity, who are entitled to prosecutorial immunity, and who are not state actors. We also find that Plaintiff’s action with respect to his claims about the death of his wife on July 28, 2009, are clearly time barred.
Federal courts have an obligation to address issues of subject matter jurisdiction sua sponte. See Shaffer v. GTE North, Inc., 284 F.3d 500, 502 (3d Cir. 2002)(citing Club Comanche, Inc. v. Gov’t of the Virgin Islands, 278 F.3d 250, 255 (3d Cir. 2002)); see also Nesbit v. Gears Unlimited, Inc., 347 F.3d 72, 77 (3d Cir. 2003); Williams v. Chatman, 510 F.3d 1290, 1293 (11th Cir. 2004)(“Federal courts are ‘obligated to inquire into subject-matter jurisdiction sua sponte whenever it may be lacking.’”).
Furthermore, federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C § 1331. However, “federal courts have federal question jurisdiction only when a federal claim appears in the complaint.” Turner v. Spaley, WL 4842256, (3d. Cir 2012)(citing Levine v. United Healthcare Corp., 402 F.3d 156, 162 (3d Cir. 2005)); see also Gonzalez v. Thaler, U.S., 132 S.Ct. 641, 648 181 L.Ed.2d 619 (2012)(“Subject-matter jurisdiction can never be waived or forfeited. The objections may be resurrected at any point in the litigation[.]”) Additionally, “a district court has a continuing obligation to satisfy itself of its jurisdiction and authority to hear and determine every matter.” Id.
Moreover, the Court can sua sponte dismiss Plaintiff‘s constitutional and state law claims which are time barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations since his allegations make clear that these claims are time barred. See McPherson v. U.S., 2010 WL 3446879, *3-*4 (3d Cir. 9-2-10).
Additionally, to the extent Plaintiff challenges the alleged “wrongful” decisions and orders of the state court judges and court personnel, i.e., the Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas, and claims that non-state actors Defendants conspired with the judicial officials regarding the handling of his wife’s estate and property and, the handling of his wrongful death suit involving his deceased wife against doctors, medical offices and medical personnel who treated his wife, we find that this Court is barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine from considering Plaintiff‘s constitutional claims against the state court officials, the attorneys, the doctors and the defense counsel who represented the doctors. We find that Plaintiff‘s numerous constitutional claims attacking the Luzerne County Court’s Judgments and Orders, and attacking the decisions of the state court and seeking this federal Court to overturn and reverse them are barred by the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. See Jacobowitz v. M&T Mortgage Corporation, Civil No. 09-1332, M.D. Pa. 10-5-09, aff’d. 372 Fed.Appx. 225 (3d Cir. 3-24-10).
Thus, we will recommend that Plaintiff ‘s Amended Complaint (Doc. 11) be dismissed entirely with prejudice.
II. STANDARDS OF REVIEW.
A. 42 U.S.C. § 1983
In a § 1983 civil rights action, the Plaintiff must prove the following two essential elements: (1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law; and (2) that the conduct complained of deprived the Plaintiff of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the law or the Constitution of the United States. Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981); Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 184 (3d Cir. 1993). Further, Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights. Rather, it is a means to redress violations of federal law by state actors. Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); see also Holocheck v. Luzerne County Head Start, Inc., 385 F.Supp.2d 491, 498-499 (M. D. Pa. 2005); Slater v.Susquehanna County, 613 F.Supp.2d 653, 660 (M.D. Pa. 2009) (citations omitted); Stankowski v. Farley, 487 F.Supp.2d 543, 550 (M.D. Pa. 2007) (“only those who act under color of state law are liable to suit under section 1983.”). “In order to satisfy the second prong [of a §1983 civil rights action], a Defendant does not have to be a state official, but can also be held liable as a state actor.” Slater v. Susquehanna County, 613 F.Supp.2d at 660(citations omitted).
It is well-established that personal liability under section 1983 cannot be imposed upon a state official based on a theory of respondeat superior. See, e.g., Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362 (1976); Hampton v. Holmesburg Prison Officials, 1546 F.2d 1077, 1082 (3d Cir. 1976); Parratt, supra. It is also well-settled in the Third Circuit that personal involvement of defendants in alleged constitutional deprivations is a requirement in a § 1983 case and that a complaint must allege such personal involvement. Id. Each named defendant must be shown, through the complaint’s allegations, to have been personally involved in the events or occurrences upon which Plaintiff’s claims are based. Id. As the Court stated in Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1998):
A defendant in a civil rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs . . . . [P]ersonal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence. Allegations of participation or actual knowledge and acquiescence, however, must be made with appropriate particularity. (Citations omitted).
A civil rights complaint must state time, place, and responsible persons. Id. Courts have also held that an allegation seeking to impose liability on a defendant based on supervisory status, without more, will not subject the official to section 1983 liability. See Rode, 845 F.2d at 1208.
B. Motion to Dismiss
In Reisinger v. Luzerne County, 712 F.Supp.2d 332, 343-344 (M.D. Pa. 2010), the Court stated:
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently set out the appropriate standard applicable to a motion to dismiss in light of the United States Supreme Court's decisions Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 433 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009). “[T]o survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true to ‘state a claim that relief is plausible on its face.’ “ Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The Court emphasized that “only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.” Id. at 1950. Moreover, it continued, “[d]etermining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will ... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. (citation omitted). McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530 (3d Cir.2009). The Circuit Court discussed the effects of Twombly and Iqbal in detail and provided a road map for district courts presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim in a case filed just a week before McTernan, Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir.2009).
[D]istrict courts should conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. [ Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949.] Second, a District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. at 1950. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to “show” such an entitlement with its facts. See Philips [v. Co. of Allegheny], 515 F.3d [224, ] 234-35 [ (3d Cir.2008) ]. As the Supreme Court instructed in Iqbal, “[w]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]’-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.’ “ Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949. This “plausibility” determination will be “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id. Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11.
The Circuit Court's guidance makes clear that legal conclusions are not entitled to the same deference as well-pled facts. In other words, “the court is ‘not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.’ “ Guirguis v. Movers Specialty Services, Inc., No. 09-1104, 2009 WL 3041992, at *2 (3d Cir. Sept. 24, 2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (not precedential).
Plaintiff states that his instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1983 against his numerous Defendants, including state court judicial officers and their staff, is based on Defendants’ vast and far-reaching conspiracy to deprive him of his constitutional rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the extent that Defendants caused the death of his wife on July 28, 2009. (Doc. 11, p. 2). Plaintiff avers that the state court also illegally handled the estate and property of his deceased wife and that the Defendant Luzerne County Judges conspired with the Defendant attorneys who represented the private party Defendants in the proceedings. (Doc. 11, p. 13).
Plaintiff also states that he filed a wrongful death action against many of his instant Defendants in Luzerne County Court, Civil No. 2011-4655, but that the Defendant Judges and Court personnel conspired, under 42 U.S.C. §1985(2) and (3), with Defendants’ attorneys and the medical Defendants to violate his constitutional rights by issuing “fraudulent” orders and decisions in his case and, by designating the orders as non-appealable. Plaintiff also states that “Defendants violated 18 U.S.C. §1506" and “committed fraud upon the court and a crime against the U.S. Constitution to enforce his rights to the equal protection of the laws by bring[ing] an action for wrongful death.” (Doc. 11, p. 12). Plaintiff also indicates that Defendants violated 18 U.S.C. §241 and §242. As such, Plaintiff requests this federal Court to void and/or reverse the orders issued by the state court judges in his Luzerne County Court wrongful death action. Plaintiff also requests monetary damages against Defendants for their alleged unconstitutional conduct.
As noted above, we find that to the extent that Plaintiff is seeking this Court to Order the arrest and prosecution of Defendants for violating federal criminal statutes, this Court cannot grant as relief in the present civil rights case the initiation of any criminal prosecution. See Concert v. Luzerne County Children and Youth Services, 2008 WL 4753709, *3 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 29, 2008)(“Criminal statutes do not generally provide a private cause of action nor basis for civil liability.”)(citations omitted). Thus, “[t]his Court cannot compel either state or federal prosecuting authorities to file criminal charges against the named Defendant[s]” Id.
The Third Circuit has also held that a private person in a federal civil action could not impose criminal liability on a defendant because he lacked standing to do so. See Conception v. Resnik, 2005 WL 1791699, *2, 143 Fed.Appx. 422, 425-26 (3d Cir. 2005) (Non-Precedential). This Court has no authority to grant Plaintiff relief for the arrest of Defendants and their employees as well as government officials with respect to any alleged criminal conduct, in this federal civil action. See Matthews v. Villella, 2009 WL 311177, *2 (M.D. Pa.) aff’d., in relevant part, C.A. No. 09-1486 (3d Cir. 5-21-10); Banks v. U.S. Attorney, 2008 WL 3853307, *2. Thus, insofar as Plaintiff is seeking this Court to have Defendants arrested for their alleged illegal behavior, this request is subject to dismissal with prejudice. See Ross v. Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole, 2012 WL 3560819, *5 n. 3 (M.D. Pa August 16, 2012). Based on the foregoing, we find futility for the Court to allow Plaintiff to amend his Amended Complaint with respect to any request to have Defendants criminally prosecuted. See Concert, supra.
Since Plaintiff has filed a pro se Amended Complaint raising, in part, constitutional claims, the Court is required to hold it to a less stringent standard. See Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594 (1972). As mentioned, Plaintiff claims, in part, that his rights under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments have been violated to the extent that Defendants caused, and conspired to cause, the death of his wife. (Doc. 11, p. 2).
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2) requires that, in order to state a claim, a pleading must contain “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” which “give[s] the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. at 1959(citing Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). Thus, “[a] party must state its claims ... in numbered paragraphs, each limited to a single set of circumstances” and, “if doing so would ...