United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
RAYMOND E. TAFT, Plaintiff
NANCY A. MORRIS, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge
Relevant Procedural and Factual History
December 4, 2015, Plaintiff Raymond E. Taft, an inmate
incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Forest
in Marienville, Pennsylvania, initiated this action by filing
a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, against the following named Defendants:
Nancy A. Morris ("Morris") and Carl McKee
("McKee"), probation officers with the Warren
County Department of Parole and Probation; and attorneys John
Parroccini, Esquire ("Parroccini"), Joan Fairchild,
Esquire ("Fairchild"), and Alan M. Conn, Esquire
alleges that each of the Defendants violated his
constitutional right to due process and committed defamation
by allegedly misrepresenting to the Court of Common Pleas of
Warren County, Pennsylvania, that Plaintiff was a repeat sex
offender. In particular, Plaintiff alleges that, on February
23, 2015, he discovered new evidence that Defendant Conn
"was ineffective for instructing Plaintiff to enter a
guilty plea to an illegal sentence" for failing to
register as a sex offender. (ECF No. 5, Complaint, at p. 5,
¶ 1). On March 9, 2015, Defendant Fairchild was
appointed to file an amended PCRA petition on behalf of
Plaintiff and to represent him at the PCRA hearing.
(Id. at ¶ 2). On May 18, 2015, Plaintiff
received documentation from the State of Michigan allegedly
showing that he did not have a second victim under the age of
13, thus allegedly showing that he was improperly sentenced
as a repeat sex offender based upon false information.
(Id. at ¶ 5). Plaintiff alleges that this
"newly discovered evidence" was provided to
Defendant Fairchild on May 19, 2015, but she filed a motion
to withdraw as his counsel, instead of investigating the
matter. (Id. at ¶ 6). On May 20, 2017,
Plaintiff allegedly informed Defendants Parroccini and Conn
of the newly discovered evidence, but neither one did
anything to investigate or to have his name removed from the
sex offender registration. (Id. at ¶ 7). Then,
on May 21, 2015, Plaintiff wrote both Defendants Morris and
McKee to inform them of the newly discovered evidence, but
neither did anything to "support his innocence."
(Id. at ¶ 8). As relief for his claims,
Plaintiff seeks compensatory and punitive damages from each
27, 2016, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 13],
arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff's due
process claims are barred by the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine and/or the Younger abstention doctrine, or,
alternatively, that: (1) Plaintiff's due process claims
against Defendants Parroccini and Conn must be dismissed
because neither is considered a state actor under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983; and (2) Defendants Morris and McKee are entitled
to quasi-judicial immunity. In addition, Defendants argue
that Plaintiff's state law defamation claims are barred
by the one-year statute of limitations and fail to state
claims upon which relief may be granted in any event.
Plaintiff has since filed a response and brief in opposition
to Defendants' motion essentially restating his claims.
[ECF Nos. 24, 25]. This matter is now ripe for consideration.
Standards of Review
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
defendant's motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(1) may be treated as either a facial or
factual challenge to the court's subject matter
jurisdiction. Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States,
220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000) citing Mortensen v.
First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n., 549 F.3d 884, 891
(3d Cir. 1977). Since Defendants in this case are challenging
this Court's subject matter jurisdiction under
Rooker-Feldman, they are invoking a factual challenge.
See McCurdy v. Esmonde, 2003 WL 223412, at *4
(E.D.Pa. Jan. 30, 2003) (finding that since
“Rooker-Feldman turns on whether the issues
were or could have been raised in the state court … or
whether [they] are inextricably intertwined with the state
court judgment, ” the issues raised by the 12(b)(1)
motion were fact-based.)
12(b)(1) motion attacks the existence of subject matter
jurisdiction in fact, “we are not confined to the
allegations in the complaint and can look beyond the
pleadings to decide factual matters relating to
jurisdiction.” Cestonaro v. United States, 211
F.3d 749, 754 (3d Cir. 2000). Thus, in reviewing a factual
attack, “the Court is free to weigh the evidence and
satisfy itself whether it has power to hear the case ... [N]o
presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's
allegations.” Carpet Group Int'l. v. Oriental
Rug Importers Ass'n., 227 F.3d 62, 69 (3d Cir. 2000)
citing Mortensen, 549 F.2d at 891. The party
asserting subject matter jurisdiction bears the burden of
proving that it exists. Id.; cf. Ballentine v.
U.S., 486 F.3d 806, 810 (3d Cir. 2007) (“On a
motion to dismiss for lack of standing, the plaintiff bears
the burden of establishing the elements of standing, and each
element must be supported in the same way as any other matter
on which the plaintiff bears the burden of proof, i.e., with
the manner and degree of evidence required at the successive
stages of the litigation.”).
Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable
to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the
complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v.
Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be
dismissed pursuant to Rule 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. 544, 570 (2007). See also Ashcroft
v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (May 18, 2009) (specifically
applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the
Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they
are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint.
See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb
Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse
v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.
1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth
as factual allegations. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555,
citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).
See also McTernan v. City of York, Pennsylvania, 577
F.3d 521, 531 (3d Cir. 2009) (“The tenet that a court
must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a
complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions”). A
Plaintiff's factual allegations “must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level.”
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, citing 5 C.Wright & A.
Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216,
pp. 235-36 (3d ed. 2004). Although the United States Supreme
Court does “not require heightened fact pleading of
specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Id. at 570.
other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is
“required to make a ‘showing' rather than a
blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief.”
Smith v. Sullivan, 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del.
February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). “This
‘does not impose a probability requirement at the
pleading stage, ' but instead ‘simply calls for
enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that ...