United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
THOMAS M. BLEWITT, Magistrate Judge.
On March 6, 2014, Plaintiffs, Jimi Rose (a/k/a James E. Rose, Jr.) and seemingly his minor daughter, Conciata Rose, residents of Allentown, Pennsylvania, filed, pro se, the instant civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §1981, § 1983, §1985 and §1986. (Doc . 1) . Plaintiffs also raise state law claims. Further, Plaintiffs filed an In Forma Pauperis Motion. (Doc. 2). Only Plaintiff Jimi Rose signed the Complaint and the In Forma Pauperis Motion. As such, we shall refer to Jimi Rose herein as "Plaintiff." We also note that while Conciata Rose is Jimi Rose's minor daughter, Jimi Rose does not state that he has a legal right to file this action on behalf of Conciata. In fact, Plaintiff Jimi Rose indicates in his Complaint that Defendant Jessica McLaughlin, Conciata's mother, has legal custody of Conciata. In his Complaint, Jimi Rose is essentially challenging, as racially discriminatory, the state court decisions granting Jessica McLaughlin custody of Conciata and denying him visitation.
Plaintiffs Jimi Rose with Conciata Rose filed a previous similar action with this Court. See Rose v. Roberts, Civil No. 11-0323, M.D. Pa. As the Court stated in Plaintiffs' prior case, "Plaintiff's Complaint centers around a custody dispute in which the Plaintiff [Jimi Rose] is involved with respect to the minor Plaintiff [Conciata Rose]. The essence of the Complaint is that he and his minor daughter have been discriminated against by the Defendants based upon their race." See Rose v. Roberts, Civil No. 11-0323, M.D. Pa., Doc. 8, p. 1, 3-17-11 R&R, adopted, in large part, by the Court. On June 10, 2011, this Court entered an Order dismissing the Rose's Complaint and closed their case. See Rose v. Roberts, Civil No. 11-0323, M.D. Pa., Doc. 13, 6-10-11 Order.
This Court has jurisdiction over the instant action based on 28 U.S.C. § 1331 and §1341(a). Plaintiff seeks the Court to exercise its supplemental jurisdiction over his state law claims under 28 U.S.C. §1367.
Plaintiff names the following Defendants: Adams County, Pennsylvania; Adams County Children and Youth [Services]; Jessica McLaughlin; Mark McLaughlin; Barbara Buchanan; and John Pappy' Buchanan. (Doc. 1, p. 1). Plaintiff states that Jessica McLaughlin and Mark McLaughlin are "Drug Dealers, " and John Pappy' Buchanan is a "child molester" whose unlawful and perverted acts toward his daughter are "covered up by the Adams County Children and Youth." The four individual Defendants are not alleged to be state actors. Plaintiff indicates that Defendant Jessica McLaughlin is the mother of his minor daughter Conciata and has legal custody of his daughter. Defendant Mark McLaughlin appears to be the husband of Jessica McLaughlin. Plaintiff states that the Adams County Court and the York County Court have only allowed his daughter to be in the company of Jessica McLaughlin, Mark McLaughlin, Barbara Buchanan and John Pappy' Buchanan. ( Id., p. 4).
II. Allegations of Complaint.
Plaintiff's Complaint is a lengthy 11-page, single spaced, typed document with no numbered paragraphs. The paragraphs in Plaintiff's Complaint contain long, scandalous and confusing narratives which allege, in part, that Defendant Adams County Children and Youth Office along with York County Judges and Adams County Judges implemented and carried out "the practice of white supremacy [and] white racism." Plaintiff also alleges that the McLaughlin Defendants "made a slave out of [his] minor daughter" and in conjunction with Defendant Barbara Buchanan have "turned [his daughter into a House Nigger, ' aka Slave.'" Plaintiff avers that some of the Defendants belong to the Ku Klux Klan, that Defendants have treated his daughter as a "slave" and, that Defendants have conspired and aided and abetted each other to isolate his daughter "from having contact with black people or the outside world." Plaintiff essentially challenges the Court Orders of the Adams County Court and the York County Court which have awarded Jessica McLaughlin legal custody of his minor daughter and have denied him visitation. Plaintiff alleges that "[t]hese court orders do nothing but disguise racism and slavery in the year 2014." It appears that Plaintiff was not given custody of his minor daughter by the Adams County Court and the York County Court and that he was denied visitation of his daughter. Plaintiff alleges that the Court Orders do not permit his daughter "to have any contact or association with her Black Family' and only allow his daughter to have contact with "slave owners Barbara Buchanan, John Pappy' Buchanan, Jessica McLaughlin and Mark McLaughlin, as well as a cult-like Christian church that helps Defendants poison, if not kill the thoughts and individuality of a young Black child who is held in human bondage for the sole purpose of being a House Nigger.'" (Doc. 1, pp. 1-3).
Plaintiff insists that Defendants Jessica McLaughlin, Mark McLaughlin, Barbara Buchanan and John Pappy' Buchanan should be "arrested immediately for what they are doing to an innocent Black Child.'" Plaintiff avers that the Adams County Court and the York County Court "are composed of white racist judges who do no more than cover up the brutal illegal acts of slavery" and that they fail to ensure that black children remain in contact with their "Black Family." Plaintiff avers that the state Courts have awarded custody of his daughter to her mother, namely, Defendant Jessica McLaughlin, and that his daughter has been "a slave in her own mother's home and has been a slave for 14 years." As stated, Defendant Mark McLaughlin appears to be the husband of Defendant Jessica McLaughlin. Plaintiff alleges that the Adams County Court and the Defendant Adams County Children and Youth have aided Defendant Jessica McLaughlin in keeping his daughter in isolation and are "responsible for covering up the acts of slavery and child molestation." Plaintiff also avers that the Adams County Court and the York County Court "have absolute knowledge of these atrocities and have done nothing to prevent [his daughter] from being used as a Black Slave'" and from being kept in "Human Bondage." ( Id., pp. 3-4).
Plaintiff alleges that the Adams County Court and the York County Court have permitted "Slavery, " and through the Orders of these Courts, slavery is "conducted and carried out." Plaintiff states that the Adams County Court and the York County Court have also covered up that protected the identities of "the slave owners Barbara Buchanan, Jessica McLaughlin and Mark McLaughlin. Plaintiff indicates that through the Orders of the Adams County Court and the York County Court, they have allowed his daughter "to be a prisoner in her mother's home" and that "they have continued to hide and cover up and protect white racist violations of every civil right known to mankind." Additionally, Plaintiff avers that the Judges of the York County Court "are racist and white supremacist and act in concert with their racist white supremacist Court of Adams County (sic)." In fact, Plaintiff indicates that York Count Judge Renn, who was a Defendant in Plaintiff s prior case filed with this federal Court, was the Judge who suspended his parental rights to his daughter. ( Id., pp. 4-5).
The remaining pages of Complaint contain similar scurrilous allegations in which Plaintiff essentially claims that the Adams County Court and the York County Court have issued Orders illegally suspending his visitation and parental rights and, prevented his right to communicate with his daughter because they are "white racist" judges "who hate black people" and who have allowed Jessica McLaughlin to imprison his daughter at her home and "make her a slave." Plaintiff also basically avers that the Judges of the Adams County Court and the York County Court have knowing allowed his daughter to be in the custody of Mark McLaughlin, an alleged drug abuser, and John "Pappy" Buchanan, an alleged child molester. ( Id., pp. 6-11).
As relief in his Complaint, Plaintiff seeks "judgment against the Defendants in excess of $5, 000, 000 per Defendant for nominal and punitive damages." ( Id., p. 11).
As discussed below, we find that all of Plaintiff's constitutional claims in his Complaint should be dismissed with prejudice.
III. Screening Plaintiff's Complaint.
As stated, Plaintiff filed a Motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2). We will recommend that the Court grant Plaintiff's Motion to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2). We now screen Plaintiff's pleading as we are obliged to do. See Dunbar v. Dunbar, Civil No. 11-0135, M.D. Pa. On February 11, 2011, the Court in Dunbar issued an Order and granted Plaintiffs in forma pauperis motion (Doc. 3, Dunbar ). The Dunbar Court then stated:
The proper procedure after a district court grants in forma pauperis status is to file the complaint and then "screen it" before service pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). Fisher v. Miller, 373 Fed.App'x 148, 148 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Oates v. Sobolevitch , 914 F.2d 428, 429 n.1 (3d Cir. 1990)). The District Court may dismiss the complaint if, inter alia, it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii); Fisher, Fed App'x at 148. If the Court finds that the Complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the Court must grant Plaintiff leave to amend the Complaint unless "amendment would be inequitable or futile." Grayson v. May view State Hosp. , 293 F.3d 103, 106 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Shane v. Fauver , 213 F.3d 113, 116-17 (3d Circ. 2000)); see also Fisher, 373 Fed.App'x at 149-50.
(Doc. 3, pp. 1-2, Dunbar ).
Thus, we are obliged to screen Plaintiffs Complaint under 28 U.S.C. §1915(e). Despite the fact that Plaintiff is not an inmate and he is not complaining about prison conditions, § 1915(e)(2) applies to all in forma pauperis complaints, and not just to prisoners. See Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d 103, 110, n. 10 (3d Cir. 2002); Lopez v. Smith, 203 F.3d 1122, 1129 (9th Cir. 2000); Williams v. Marino, Civil No. 03-0632, M.D. Pa. January 12, 2004, Memorandum and Order, p. 4; Palencar v. Cobler Realty Advisors, Civil No. 09-0325, M.D. Pa., 7-24-09 slip op. pp. 5-6.
The Court uses the same standard to screen a complaint as it does for a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See O'Connell v. Sobina, 2008 WL 144199, *3 (W.D. Pa.); Matthews v. Villella, 2009 WL 311177, *2 (M.D. Pa.).
IV. Motion to Dismiss Standard.
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).
V. Section 1983 Standard.
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.
Initially, insofar as Plaintiff seeks this Court to have the four individual Defendants arrested and criminally prosecuted for their alleged unlawful conduct, we find that this request should be dismissed with prejudice. Thus, to the extent that Plaintiff is deemed as asking this Court to file federal criminal charges and initiate criminal prosecution against the four individual Defendants, this Court cannot grant as relief in the present case the initiation of federal criminal prosecution. The Third Circuit has held that a private person 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 with respect to alleged criminal conduct in this 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. Therefore, insofar as Plaintiff is deemed as seeking this Court to arrest, prosecute and punish Defendants for their alleged unconstitutional and criminal behavior, this request should be dismissed with prejudice. See Ross v. Pennsylvania Bd. of Probation and Parole, 2012 WL 3560819, *5 n. 3 (M.D. Pa. August 16, 2012).
To the extent that Plaintiff is seeking punitive damages against the municipal Defendants, Adams County Children and Youth Services and Adams County, we shall recommend that this request for relief be dismissed with prejudice. See City of Newport v. Fact Concerts, Inc., 453 U.S. 247, 101 S.Ct. 2748 (1981). Based on City of Newport, we find that it would be futile for the ...