United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
PUPO LENIHAN United States Magistrate Judge.
respectfully recommended that Plaintiff's Complaint,
which was commenced in forma pauperis, be dismissed with
prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), as
frivolous, for failure to state a claim upon which relief may
be granted, and because it seeks monetary relief against a
defendant who is immune from such relief.
Farrow (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed
this action alleging the Pennsylvania Department of
Labor violated Plaintiff's due process
rights. It appears the Defendant, according to the Plaintiff,
did not receive notice from Plaintiff's employer that she
resigned, which led to her mistakenly receiving unemployment
compensation. Due to this apparent confusion, Defendant
seemingly realized Plaintiff was not eligible to receive
unemployment compensation and subsequently imposed an
overpayment lien on Plaintiff. (ECF No. 3, ¶ II. A.) By
not requiring Plaintiff's employer to submit direct
evidence of Plaintiff's resignation, Plaintiff alleges
Defendant violated Plaintiff's due process rights. (ECF
No. 3, ¶ III.)
claims the Defendant owes $900 to the Plaintiff, seeks to
require the Defendant to “remove the lien, ” and
asks the Court to grant “relief of the judgment of the
lien.” (ECF No. 3, ¶ IV.)
court must liberally construe the factual allegations of
Plaintiff's Complaint because pro se pleadings,
“however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94
(2007) (internal quotation omitted); Haines v.
Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). In addition, the court
should “‘apply the applicable law, irrespective
of whether a pro se litigant has mentioned it by
name.'” Higgins v. Beyer, 293 F.3d 683,
688 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Holley v. Dep't of
Veterans Affairs, 165 F.3d 244, 247-48 (3d Cir. 1999)).
Court must review Plaintiff's Complaint in accordance
with the amendments promulgated in the Prison Litigation
Reform Act (PLRA), Pub. L. No. 104-134, 110 Stat. 1321
(1996). Although Plaintiff's claims do not appear to
arise from an incarceration, the amendments to the PLRA
codified as 28 U.S.C. § 1915 apply to non-incarcerated
individuals who have been granted in forma pauperis
(“IFP”) status. See Powell v. Hoover,
956 F.Supp. 564, 566 (M.D. Pa. 1997) (holding that federal in
forma pauperis statute is not limited to prisoner suits);
Floyd v. United States Postal Serv., 105 F.3d 274,
276 (6th Cir. 1997) (holding that non-prisoners have the
option to proceed in forma pauperis), superseded on other
grounds by Callihan v. Schneider, 178 F.3d 800
(6th Cir. 1997). Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(a), Plaintiff is eligible for and has been granted leave
to proceed in forma pauperis. Thus her allegations must be
reviewed in accordance with the directives provided in 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e).
to the case at bar is the authority granted to federal courts
for the sua sponte dismissal of claims in IFP proceedings.
Specifically, § 1915(e), as amended, requires the
federal courts to review complaints filed by persons who are
proceeding in forma pauperis and to dismiss, at any time, any
action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim
upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief
against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B). “[A] complaint . . . is frivolous
where it lacks an arguable basis either in law or in
fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325
(1989); Hawkins v. Coleman Hall, C.C.F., 453 F.
App'x 208, 210 (3d Cir. 2011) (“An appeal is
frivolous when it lacks an arguable basis either in law or
fact.”) (citing Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 325).
Thus, under § 1915(e)(2)(B), courts are
“authorized to dismiss a claim as frivolous where
‘it is based on an indisputable meritless legal theory
or where the factual contentions are clearly
baseless.'” O'Neal v. Remus, No.
09-14661, 2010 WL 1463011, at *1 (E.D. Mich. Mar. 17, 2010)
(quoting Price v. Heyrman, No. 06-C-632, 2007 WL
188971, at *1 (E.D. Wis. Jan. 22, 2007) (citing
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 327)).
complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12
(b)(6) if it does not allege “enough facts
to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its
face.” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 554, 556 (2007) (rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6)
standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41,
45-46 (1957)). The court must accept as true all allegations
of the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must
be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d
939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). “To the extent that a
complaint filed in forma pauperis which fails to
state a claim lacks even an arguable basis in law, Rule
12(b)(6) and § 1915(d) both counsel dismissal.”
Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328 (footnote omitted).
Eleventh Amendment bars civil rights suits against a State in
federal court by private parties where the State has not
consented to such action. Laskaris v. Thornburgh,
661 F.2d 23, 25 (3d Cir. 1981) (citing Alabama v.
Pugh, 438 U.S. 781 (1978)). The Supreme Court of the
United States has consistently held that an un-consenting
State is immune from suits brought in federal courts by her
own citizens as well as by citizens of another State.
Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662-63 (1974);
Employees v. Dep't of Pub. Health and Welfare,
411 U.S. 279, 280 (1973). This immunity applies regardless of
the relief sought by a party. Id.; Pennhurst
State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100
(1984) (holding Eleventh Amendment immunity applies
“regardless of the relief sought.”). The
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, by way of statutory authority,
has expressly withheld consent to suit in federal court. 42
Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 8521(b); Laskaris, 661
F.2d at 25. Pennsylvania's Eleventh Amendment immunity
further extends to suits against “arms of the state,
” i.e., departments or agencies of the State having no
existence separate from the State. Laskaris, 661
F.2d at 25 (citing Mt. Healthy Bd. of Educ. v.
Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977)). The Department of
Labor, responsible for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania's
workforce compensation and training, unemployment benefits,
and labor-related policies, is inarguably an arm of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 71 ...