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Spell v. Allegheny County Administration

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

March 24, 2015

MARVASE J. SPELL, Plaintiff,


DONETTA W. AMBROSE, District Judge.

Pending before the court are two Motions to Dismiss Plaintiff's pro se Complaint for Failure to State a Claim filed by Defendants Allegheny County Sheriff's Office and Deputy Sheriff Jared Kulik [ECF No. 11] and by Defendant Allegheny County Administration [ECF No. 13]. Each Motion is accompanied by a Brief in Support and a Reply Brief. [ECF Nos. 12, 14, 18, 19]. Plaintiff opposes the motions to dismiss. [ECF Nos. 16, 17]. The Motions are now ripe for my review. After careful consideration, the Motions to Dismiss are granted as set forth more fully below.

I. Background[1]

Plaintiff commenced this case by filing a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis on October 16, 2014. [ECF No. 1]. I granted Plaintiff's Motion on October 17, 2014, and his Complaint was filed on that same date. [ECF No. 2]. Plaintiff's Complaint names "Allegheny County Administration, " "Allegheny County Sheriff's Department, " and "Allegheny County Sheriff, Detective, Jared Kulick [sic], Firearms Division, " as Defendants. Plaintiff filed this lawsuit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging "multiple violations" of his rights under 18 U.S.C. §§ 241, 242, and 245; 42 U.S.C. § 14141; United States Constitution Article 7, Amendments 1, 5, 9, and 14; and the Pennsylvania Constitution Article 1, Sections 1, 7, 20, and 26. See Complaint ¶ V. Plaintiff appears to allege that Defendants unfairly charged him with Unsworn Falsification to Authorities in connection with an application he completed for a Pennsylvania License to Carry Firearms. Specifically, in the paragraph of his Complaint labeled "Facts, " Plaintiff states:

I was charge [sic] with Unsworn Falsification to Authorities 1A., after I furnish [sic] the Detective in said complaint with documents clearly indicating that I was following a procedural step needed to obtain a denial letter to be submitted with a PICS Challenge application and clearly explaining to Detective that I answer question in Box 30 C, G, and J indicating that I had Enumeration, Convictions and that I was [p]rohibited from possessing or acquiring a firearm by checking the box(s) [sic] to the right in the affirmative "YES."

Complaint ¶ VI.[1] Plaintiff seeks monetary damages for "misconduct, prejudicial bias, selective prosecution, willful violation of civil rights, and emotional distress." Complaint ¶¶ VII, VIII.

On December 19, 2014, Defendants Allegheny County Sheriff's Department and Detective Jared Kulik filed a Motion to Dismiss and Brief in Support. [ECF Nos. 11, 12]. Defendant Allegheny County Administration filed a similar Motion to Dismiss and supporting Brief on December 23, 2014. [ECF Nos. 13, 14]. Both Motions seek dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint for failure to state a claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). On January 9, 2015, Plaintiff filed a document entitled "Amended Complaint Under Rule 15, a Reply Answers of Facts, Exhibits and Legal Claim, a Brief Supporting Claim with Memorandum of Points and Authorities, Corrections Indicating Proper Defendant(s), Entitie(s) Subjected to Suit, Plaintiff Has No Objection to Jury Trial." [ECF No. 17]. After I reviewed the substance of this filing, it was clear that the document is not an Amended Complaint, but, rather, a response to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. Thus, although initially docketed as an Amended Complaint based on its title, I directed the Clerk's Office to redocket Plaintiff's filing as a response. [ECF Nos. 15, 17]. Plaintiff also filed a Brief in support of his Response. [ECF No. 16]. On January 21, 2015, both sets of Defendants filed Replies to Plaintiff's Response. [ECF Nos. 18, 19].

II. Legal Analysis

A. Standard of Review

Defendants filed their Motions to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.[2] When deciding whether to grant or deny a 12(b)(6) motion the Supreme Court has held:

While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, a plaintiff's obligation to provide the grounds of his entitlement to relief requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do. Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true (even if doubtful in fact).

Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and footnote omitted); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (a plaintiff's factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level).

Most recently, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S.662 (2009), the Supreme Court held, "... a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face. A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (citations omitted).

In Iqbal, the Court specifically highlighted the two principles which formed the basis of the Twombly decision: First, for the purposes of a motion to dismiss, courts must accept as true all factual allegations set forth in the complaint, but courts are not bound to accept as true any legal conclusions couched as factual allegations. Id .; see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009). Second, a complaint will survive a motion to dismiss only if it states a plausible claim for relief, which requires a court to engage in a context-specific task, drawing on the court's judicial experience and common sense. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11. Where well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but has not shown-the complainant is entitled to relief. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).

Because Plaintiff in this case filed his Complaint pro se, I must construe his pleadings liberally and apply the applicable law, irrespective of whether he has mentioned it by name. See Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003); see also Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011) ("The obligation to liberally construe a pro se litigant's pleadings is well-established."); Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). This principle, however, does not absolve a pro se litigant from complying with Twombly and the federal pleading requirements. Thakar v. Tan, 372 F.App'x 325, 328 (3d Cir. 2010). Pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim. Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013).

When ruling upon a 12(b)(6) motion, I generally may consider only the allegations contained in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, matters of public record, and items appearing in the record of the case. See Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1195 (3d Cir. 1993). I also may consider an undisputedly authentic document that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to ...

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