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Harris v. Corbett

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

February 12, 2014

COREY L. HARRIS, Plaintiff,
TOM CORBETT, et al., Defendants.


JOY FLOWERS CONTI, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Presently pending before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) filed by Defendants Barry Grossman, Mark Causgrove and Larie Zack ("Defendants"). (ECF No. 76).[1] Plaintiff Corey L. Harris ("Plaintiff") filed a Response and Brief in Opposition (ECF Nos. 80, 81), and the matter is now ripe for disposition.

II. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed his original complaint on January 5, 2012 against Tom Corbett, Gary D. Alexander, Eric Rollins, Mark Causgrove (misidentified as Mark Causgroce), Barry Grossman, Larie Zack (misidentified as Larry Zack), and Daniel N. Richard. (ECF No. 3). Defendants Corbett, Alexander, Rollins and Richard are or were employees of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Defendants Causgrove and Zack are or were employees of the Domestic Relations Section of the Court of Common Pleas of Erie County, and Defendant Grossman was the Erie County Executive.

In his original complaint, Plaintiff alleged that he was subject to a child support order which required him to make payments, that he failed to make payments, and that he was subsequently incarcerated in 2004 and 2007 for failing to comply with the court order. (ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 1-3). Plaintiff contends that the defendants violated his constitutional rights in the assessment and the enforcement of his child support obligations. (ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 5; 40; 47). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the defendants failed to take into consideration that he was indigent and continued to bill him while he was incarcerated. (ECF No. 3 ¶ 5). He alleged that in 2004, the Domestic Relations Section falsified or inflated his yearly income and caused him to spend eighteen months in jail. (ECF No. 3 ¶¶ 40, 47). Plaintiff alleged that Defendant Zack violated his constitutional rights by threatening to have him arrested on October 4, 2011. (ECF No. 3 ¶ 60(B)). In addition to his constitutional claims, Plaintiff alleged that he "did not receive a free public [d]efender as appropriate for contempt[ ] hearings as guaranteed by the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act[.]" (ECF No. 3 ¶ 194).

The defendants filed motions to dismiss (ECF Nos. 18, 32, 34), and following oral argument held on February 28, 2013, the court entered the following order dismissing certain defendants and claims:

Presently pending before the court is Document 18, motion to dismiss plaintiff's complaint as to defendants Mark Causgrove and Larie [Z]ack in their official capacities. The court finds that the motion is well-taken to this extent. That any constitutional claims against any of these individuals in their official capacities is barred under the Eleventh Amendment. Any claims against the Probation Department or Domestic Relations would be barred under the Chilcott case, 283 F.Appx. 8, 10 (3rd Cir. 2008) [a]nd Haybarger v. Lawrence County Adult Probation and Parole , 551 F.3d 193 (3rd Cir. 2008). I also find, quite independent of official capacity, that this issue applies to these defendants in their individual capacities as well. Any claim here that predates January 2, 2010, is barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations, both under 1983, the Rehabilitation Act, and the ADA, now that the plaintiff has articulated more clearly the three distinct time periods he's complaining about.
With respect to the motion to dismiss filed by Causgrove and Zack in their individual capacity, and Grossman in his individual and official capacity. As I said before, any claim that arose, based on conduct prior to January 2, 2010, is time-barred based upon the applicable two-year statute of limitations. Secondly, it does appear to me - actually let me clarify it this way. With respect to the earlier incarceration in '04 or '07, it does appear to me that that claim arguably, quite independent of the statute of limitations, may be independently dismissible on the basis of either collateral estoppel and/or the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.
Then with respect to the motion to dismiss, Docket No. 32, filed on behalf of Corbett, Alexander, Richard and Rollins. Not only would the limitations issue and the official capacity issue apply there, but with respect to their individual capacity, I simply see, based upon the articulation by plaintiff, including a review of his pleading, I see no personal involvement here sufficient to impose liability under any theory.
Now, let me backtrack, and this is for your benefit, Mr. Harris. With respect to the motion filed by the state defendants, Corbett, Alexander, Richard and Rollins, I am granting that motion to dismiss with prejudice. Those defendants are dismissed from the case with prejudice. I see absolutely no possibility that any amendment would cure the deficiencies.

(ECF No. 66 at 23-25). The court granted the motions (ECF Nos. 18, 34) without prejudice, and ordered Plaintiff to file an amended complaint by March 20, 2013. Id. at 25.

With regard to the amended complaint, Plaintiff was instructed as follows:

THE COURT: [I]n that amended complaint, number one, you can only tell me about events that you're complaining about that occurred after January 2nd of 2010, ok, that's number one. Which I presume is going to involve you telling me about this 2011 matter and whatnot. That's number one.
Then, number two, with respect to Mr. Causgrove, Mr. Zack and Mr. Grossman, and I do not want another 225 paragraph complaint, you ought to be able to give this complaint to me in seven or eight pages. Because if a lawyer filed a complaint like that, I'd throw it right out, that's way too much information, so I'm making it easier for you. With respect to each of those three individuals, I want you to tell me as clearly and succinctly as you can, what it was they did to you, what it is you ...

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