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Barzyk v. Marsico

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

December 18, 2014

ED MARSICO, et al., Defendants

Submitted this 18th day of December, 2014.

Lori May Barzyk, Plaintiff, Pro se, Harrisburg, PA.

Martin C. Carlson, United States Magistrate Judge. Judge Kane.


Martin C. Carlson, United States 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 and asserting continuing harassment by her ex-spouse, Barzyk filed two companion cases. In this 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. In a companion case Barzyk initially sued her former spouse, seeking $25, 000 in damages along with the state criminal prosecution of her ex-husband.

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. (Doc. 6.)

That amended complaint names the Dauphin County District Attorney, two assistant district attorneys, a victim-witness specialist, and the police officer who handled the 2009 investigation of Barzyk's ex-spouse as defendants. The complaint then recites in a summary fashion that the actions of these defendants violated various federal civil rights statutes and constitutional guarantees, including the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § § 1983, 1985 and 1986, the Violence Against Women Act, 42 U.S.C. § 13981, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Notably missing from the amended complaint, however, are any well-pleaded facts describing actions taken by any defendant within the past two years. Indeed, no well-pleaded facts whatsoever are alleged with respect to District Attorney Marsico in the body of this pleading.

Having conducted a second screening review of this amended complaint, 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, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (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, 103 S.Ct. 897, 74 L.Ed.2d 723 (1983). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (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, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (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 ...

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