United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OPINION ON DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS TO DISMISS ECF Nos. 30, 32, 35
LISA PUPO LENIHAN, Chief Magistrate Judge.
The Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (ECF Nos. 30, 32 and 35) will be granted. Each of the Defendants - Fayette County Court of Common Pleas ("Court of Common Pleas"), Fayette County Prothonotary's Office ("Prothonotary's Office"), Judge Ralph C. Warman ("Judge Warman"), Fayette County District Court Administrator Karen M. Kuhn ("Kuhn"), and Fayette County Prothonotary Rose M. Kern ("Kern") - are immune from suit in accordance with the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution, and/or are not "persons" subject to liability under § 1983, and/or hold judicial or quasi-judicial immunity in their official capacities, all as fully set forth in the Opinion below. Furthermore, given the undisputed facts of record, Plaintiff could maintain no plausible claim against Judge Warman, Kuhn or Kern in their individual capacities.
In that this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction based upon the immunities, and/or given Plaintiff's factual inability to bring a plausible claim, leave to amend his Complaint for a third time would be futile. Accordingly, the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss will be granted.
II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On August 23, 2010, Plaintiff Wayne Culkin ("Culkin") filed a claim with the Prothonotary's Office for tortious interference with contract, fraud/negligence, and breach of contract. The claim named Corrections Cable Television, Friendship Cable of Texas, Inc., and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections as Defendants (the "Cable Claim Defendants"). It was dismissed when Culkin failed to comply with the Local Rules for the Fayette County Court of Common Pleas. Specifically, he failed to provide a Certificate of Presentation and Motion to Court Administrator Kuhn as mandated by the Local Rules.
On April 25, 2013, Culkin filed a Complaint in this Court (ECF No. 6), under Section 1983, alleging as grounds that Kuhn failed to schedule a hearing on his case; Kern failed to docket his petition; and Judge Warman failed to rule on his complaint. In consideration of his pro se status, and in light of the gross insufficiencies and inconsistencies in his Complaint as filed, the Court directed Plaintiff to either: a) amend his caption to substitute the Court of Common Pleas and Prothonotary's Office as Defendants; or b) add new or different allegations to the Complaint. See ECF No. 8 (Court Order). Plaintiff filed a Motion to Amend/Correct Complaint (ECF No. 10), which the Court granted and interpreted as a motion to amend part of the caption (ECF No. 11).
The Court of Common Pleas filed a Motion to Dismiss on August 5 (ECF No. 18), which was mooted when, on August 28, Culkin filed an Amended Complaint that added as additional Defendants Kern, Kuhn and Judge Warman (ECF No. 25). Culkin's claims are that these Defendants, through "gross negligence" in failing to schedule or rule on a hearing in his Fayette County case, denied his First Amendment right of "access to the courts" and his Fourteenth Amendment due process rights. He filed these claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Judge Warman and Court Administrator Kuhn filed a Motion to Dismiss on September 11 (ECF No. 30). Prothonotary Kern and the Prothonotary's Office followed on September 12 (ECF No. 32), and the Court of Common Pleas followed on September 17 (ECF No. 35). Culkin responded to these Motions, with Affidavits and Objections/Rebuttals on September 18 (ECF No. 37), September 20 (ECF No. 39) and March 24, 2014 (ECF No. 46). This Court had referred his case to the Pro Se Prisoner Mediation Program on October 1, 2013, but the mediation ended without settlement on December 3, 2013 (ECF No. 43).
III. STANDARD OF REVIEW
Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit aptly summarized the standard to be applied in deciding motions to dismiss filed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6):
Under the "notice pleading" standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." As explicated in Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009), a claimant must state a "plausible" claim for relief, and "[a] claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Although "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, " Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007), a plaintiff "need only put forth allegations that raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element." Fowler, 578 F.3d at 213 (quotation marks and citations omitted); see also Covington v. Int'l Ass'n of Approved Basketball Officials , 710 F.3d 114, 117-18 (3d Cir.2013).
Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, ___ F.3d ___, 2014 WL 1317137, *2 (3d Cir. Apr. 3, 2014).
In addition to the Complaint itself, a court assessing a Motion to Dismiss may consider "matters incorporated by reference... items subject to judicial notice, matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record of the case, and exhibits attached...." 5B Charles A. Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § ...