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Barzyk v. Dauphin County District Attorney's Office

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 20, 2014

LORI MAY BARZYK, Plaintiff,
v.
DAUPHIN COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, et al., Defendants.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

This case presents the story of a past abusive relationship, albeit a relationship which the federal courts, courts of limited jurisdiction, may be unable to address at this late date.

The plaintiff, Lori My Barzyk, acting pro se, has filed two companion cases in federal court. According to Baryzk's complaints, for some two decades she was in a physically and sexually abusive relationship with her ex-spouse. (Doc. 1.) Beginning in 2005 Barzyk alleges that she complained to authorities regarding this abuse, complaints that culminated in October 2009 with the arrest of her former husband by the Pennsylvania State Police. (Id.) Following his arrest, Barzyk's former spouse allegedly pressured her to recant her claims, and at a November 2009 preliminary hearing, Barzyk stated that she could not remember the incidents that led to these charges. (Id.) Given the plaintiff's announced failure of recollection regarding these events, the district attorney's office withdrew the charges. (Id.)

Barzyk later apparently experienced misgivings regarding her decision, and sought to recant her recantation regarding this domestic violence. (Id.) The district attorney's office, however, declined to reinstate this case, a case in which the complainant had now, sadly, taken three different positions regarding whether she had been assaulted. (Id.)

Expressing anger and frustration at the outcome of this 2009 criminal case, Barzyk has now filed two companion cases. In this case she sues the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office and the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging that these institutional defendants violated her federal constitutional rights. (Id.) As relief for these constitutional infractions, Barzyk seeks $10, 000, 000 in damages, and also appears to demand a state criminal prosecution of her former spouse. In a companion case Barzyk sues her former spouse, seeking $25, 000 in damages along with the state criminal prosecution of her ex-husband.

Along with her complaint, Barzyk seeks leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2.) For the reasons set forth below, we will GRANT Barzyk leave to proceed in forma pauperis but as part of our legally-mandated duty to screen pro se in forma pauperis pleadings, we recommend that this complaint be dismissed.

II. Discussion

A. Screening of Pro Se In Forma Pauperis Complaints-Standard of Review

This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of complaints filed by plaintiffs who seek leave to proceed in forma pauperis, and seek redress against government officials. See 28 U.S.C. ยงยง 1915 and 1915A. Specifically, we must assess whether a pro se in forma pauperis complaint "fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted." This statutory text, in turn, mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6).

With respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 230 (3d Cir. 2008)] and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, ___ U.S. ___, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.

Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009).

In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the Court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court "need not credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally a court need not "assume that a... plaintiff can prove facts that the... plaintiff has not alleged." Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions will not do." Id. at 555. "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id.

In keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that, when considering a motion to dismiss, a court should "begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 679. According to the Supreme Court, "[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 678. Rather, in conducting a review of the adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial courts that they must:

[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

Id. at 679.

Thus, following Twombly and Iqbal a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a complaint must recite factual allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. ...


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