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Farrow v. PA Department of Education

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

December 14, 2016

RIKEA FARROW, Plaintiff,
v.
PA DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, Defendant.

          Arthur J. Schwab District Judge.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          LISA PUPO LENIHAN United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. RECOMMENDATION

         It is 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.

         II. REPORT

         A. Plaintiff's Claims

         Rikea Farrow (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, filed this action alleging the Pennsylvania Department of Education (“Defendant”) has denied Plaintiff the ability to enroll in a postsecondary, junior college in Allegheny County due to an alleged outstanding debt the Defendant is owed. According to Plaintiff's Complaint, the Defendant is continuing to bar Plaintiff from enrolling in a community college until this debt is repaid. Plaintiff alleges she attempted to contact the Defendant numerous times, but to no avail. This has resulted in Plaintiff suffering emotional and financial distress as she is forced to attend community college outside Allegheny County. Plaintiff seeks damages in the amount of $30, 000, consisting of: $5, 000 for the cost of school, courses, and books; $5, 000 in travel expenses; and $20, 000 in emotional distress.

         Plaintiff avers the Court has federal question jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which enables individuals to file a civil action for the deprivation of constitutional and federal statutory rights by persons acting under color of law.

         B. Legal Standards

         The 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)).

         This 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).

         Pertinent 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 on 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)).

         A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12 (b)(6)[1] 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).

         C. ...


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