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Barzyk v. Barzyk

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 3, 2014



MARTIN C. CARLSON, Magistrate Judge.

I. Statement of Facts and of the Case

We are now called upon in this case to write the second chapter in federal court of the story of a past abusive relationship, albeit a relationship which the federal courts, courts of limited jurisdiction, are unable to address at this late date.

On October 17, 2014, the plaintiff, Lori May Barzyk, acting pro se, filed two companion cases in federal court. According to Baryzk's initial complaints, for some two decades she was in a physically and sexually abusive relationship with her ex-spouse, Robert William Barzyk. (Doc. 1.) Beginning in 2005 Barzyk alleged 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 the plaintiff 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 filed two companion cases. In this case Barzyk initially sued her former spouse, seeking $25, 000 in damages along with the state criminal prosecution of her ex-husband. In a companion case she sued the Dauphin County District Attorney's Office and the Pennsylvania State Police, alleging that these institutional defendants violated her federal rights. (Id.) As relief for these constitutional infractions, Barzyk initially sought $10, 000, 000 in damages, and also appeared to demand a state criminal prosecution of her former spouse.

We granted Barzyk leave to proceed in forma pauperis but as part of our legally-mandated duty to screen pro se in forma pauperis pleadings, we reviewed her initial complaint and recommended that this complaint be dismissed without prejudice to the filing of an amended complaint. (Doc. 4.) This recommendation was adopted by the district court, (Doc. 5), and Barzyk has now filed an amended complaint. That amended complaint re-states Barzyk's claims against her former spouse, and further asserts that these claims violate the Violence Against Women's Act, 42 U.S.C. §13891, giving rise to civil liability on the part of her spouse. (Doc. 6.)

Having conducted a second screening review, for the reasons set forth below we conclude that this amended complaint is also fatally flawed and should be dismissed.

II. Discussion

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

This Court has an on-going 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. §§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 ...

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