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Marin v. Secretary of Commonwealth

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 29, 2014

MEL M. MARIN, Plaintiff,



Mel M. Marin ("plaintiff") filed a complaint in this Court on June 1, 2011, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, challenging a Pennsylvania statue which in plaintiff's view requires all candidates for public office to divulge to the public their home address.[1] Presently before the court is plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will granted, the Clerk will be directed to file the complaint and an order will be entered declining to exercise jurisdiction over the action.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has instructed the district courts to utilize a two-step analysis to determine whether to direct service of a complaint where the plaintiff seeks to proceed in forma pauperis. First, the court must determine whether the litigant is indigent within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(a). Second, the court must determine whether the complaint is frivolous or malicious under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(d). Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 n.1 (3d Cir. 1990). The court finds plaintiff to be without sufficient funds to pay the required filing fee. Thus, he will be granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis.

In Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319 (1989), the Supreme Court identified two types of legally frivolous complaints: (1) those based upon indisputably meritless legal theory, and (2) those with factual contentions which clearly are baseless. Id. at 327. An example of the first is where a defendant enjoys immunity from suit, and an example of the second is a claim describing a factual scenario which is fanciful or delusional. Id. In addition, Congress has expanded the scope of § 1915 to require that the court be satisfied that the complaint states a claim upon which relief can be granted before it directs service; if it does not, the action shall be dismissed. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) (2) (B) (ii).

Plaintiff filed the action while he was "a candidate for Congress in the Western District of Pennsylvania." Complaint (Doc. No. 1-1) at ¶ 2. Plaintiff had registered as a candidate in the primary election for the 3rd Congressional District in order to challenge Representative Kathy Dahlkemper for the democratic nomination. Id. at ¶ 3; see also Memorandum Order of August 30, 2012, in Marin v. The Erie Times, et al., 1:11cv102 (Doc. No. 18 in 1:11cv102) at 4, aff'd, 525 F.App'x 74 (3d Cir. 2013).

On November 3, 2011, this court received a notice a notice from plaintiff indicating he had commenced a parallel action in Pennsylvania "state court on the same action." Notice of October 26, 2011 (Doc. No. 2). Plaintiff explained that the state attorney general had accepted service of his state court action, granted "a fee waiver" and the state court had scheduled a dispositive hearing on the matter. Id. No further correspondence has been received from plaintiff.

It is well settled that relief pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act is discretionary. State Auto Ins. Co. v. Summy, 234 F.3d 131 (3d Cir. 2001); Reifer v. Westport Ins. Corp., 751 F.3d 129 (3d Cir. 2014). After considering each of the various factors that guide the exercise of that discretion, see Reifer, 751 F.3d at 146, it is clear that "considerations of practicality and wise judicial administration" counsel the dismissal of this action. Id. at 139 (citing Wilton v. Seven Falls Co., 515 U.S. 277, 288 (1995)).

Specifically, it is less than clear that a declaration by this court will resolve any remaining uncertainty of obligation that gave rise to the filing of the complaint. According to plaintiff's more recent submission, it will be more convenient and expedient for the parties to proceed in the state court proceeding. There is no reason to assume the public interest in resolving the parties' dispute cannot be vindicated in the state court proceeding, particularly where the exact same controversy has been presented to the state courts. And proceeding with the instant matter will result in duplicative litigation.

In light of the above, the court will exercise its discretion and decline to exercise its jurisdiction under the Declaratory Judgment Act. An appropriate order will follow.

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