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Juice v. Barrasse

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 5, 2017

STEPHEN JUICE, Plaintiff
v.
JUDGE MICHAEL BARRASSE, et al., Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          A. RICHARD CAPUTO United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         On October 23, 2016, Plaintiff, Stephen Juice, an inmate at the Benner Township State Correctional Institution (SCI-Benner) in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, initiated the above-captioned action by filing a pro se Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (ECF No. 1, Compl.) Mr. Juice claims Defendants violated his Due Process rights when he was designated a sexually violent predator under Megan's Law, 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 9791(b); denied access to his copies of his criminal transcript and records for the purpose of appeal; and improperly denied parole based on his inability to obtain an acceptable parole plan due to his improper Megan's Law conviction. He names the following as Defendants: the Honorable Michael Barasse; the Court of Common Pleas of Lackawanna County; and the Secretary, Board and all employees of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (the Board). As relief he seeks his immediate release from prison on parole and monetary damages. He also seeks unspecified prison officials provide him with cancer treatment.

         As Mr. Juice proceeds in forma pauperis, the Complaint is before the Court for screening pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915. For the following reasons, the Complaint will be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).

         II. Background

         On February 27, 2012, Mr. Juice pled guilty to Unlawful Contact with Minor - Sexual Offenses. Commonwealth v. Juice, CP-35-CR-0002421-2011 (Lackawanna Cnty. Ct. C.P.).[1]On November 16, 2012, Mr. Juice was sentenced to thirty-three months' to eighty-four months' incarceration. The Honorable Judge Michael J. Barrasse presided over Mr. Juice's criminal proceeding. No direct appeal was filed. (Id.) On November 12, 2013, Mr. Juice filed a pro se Petition for Post-Conviction Collateral Relief (PCRA). (Id.) Judge Barrasse appointed Mr. Juice PCRA counsel, Kurt Lynott, Esquire. (Id.) Mr. Juice filed multiple pro se Petitions between April 2014 and October 2015. (Id.) On November 10, 2015, Judge Barrassee granted Attorney Lynott's motion to withdraw and dismissed the PCRA Petition. (Id.) Mr. Juice then filed additional pleadings that were docketed as amended PCRA petitions. (Id.)

         On November 12, 2013, Mr. Juice filed a pro se Petition for Post-Conviction Collateral Relief (PCRA). (Id.) Judge Barrasse appointed Mr. Juice PCRA counsel, Kurt Lynott, Esquire. (Id.) Mr. Juice filed multiple pro se Petitions between April 2014 and October 2015. (Id.) On November 10, 2015, Judge Barrassee granted Attorney Lynott's motion to withdraw and denied the PCRA Petition. (Id.) Mr. Juice then filed multiple amended PCRA petitions. (Id.) Mr. Juice claims Judge Barasse denied his PCRA Petition without holding a hearing or issuing an opinion. (ECF No. 1, Pet, p. 2.)

         Mr. Juice claims Judge Barrasse is "biased and conflicted" and "after a shakedown attempt by counsel Moses and Judge Barrasse retaliated against plaintiff and imposed an unconstitutional 'Megan's Law"' sentence. (Id., p. 3.) He also claims his plea counsel (Moses, a non-defendant) failed to advise him of the consequences of his guilty plea. (Id., p. 5.) Mr. Juice also argues that Judge Barrasse and the Lackawanna County Court of Common Pleas violated his "right to access to court (sic), due process and equal protection" by obstructing his right to PCRA proceedings and appeals of his criminal conviction. (Id., p. 6.) Finally, Mr. Juice claims that although the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole granted him parole on May 28, 2015, he has been unable to obtain a satisfactory "Home Plan" due to his improper adjudication as a sexually violent predator as defined in Megan's Law. (Id., p. 6.) As relief, Mr. Juice seeks his immediate release, monetary damages, copies of the transcripts from his criminal proceedings, and treatment for his various medical ailments (migraines and cancer). (Id., p. 3.)

         III. Standard of Review

         The Court is required to screen Mr. Juice's Complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a) and 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). The court must dismiss a complaint, or any portion thereof, if the prisoner has raised claims that are legally frivolous, malicious, fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1), (2); 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(iii).

         The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is the same as that for dismissing a complaint pursuant to a motion filed under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F.3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000). Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must 'lake as true all the factual allegations of the [complaint] and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, but we disregard legal conclusions and recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements." Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010)(quotation marks omitted and citation omitted).

         "The test in reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) is whether, under any 'plausible' reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff would be entitled to relief." Guidotti v. Legal Helpers Debt Resolution, LLC., 716 F.3d 764 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing BetlAtl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1974, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007)). To satisfy this standard, a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim, " Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964. Nonetheless, a complaint has to plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. at 1974. "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement, ' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009)(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965). "[L]abeis and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "'is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

         A complaint filed by a pro se plaintiff must be liberally construed and "held 'to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'" Fantone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184 (3d Cir. 2015) (citing Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21, 92 S.Ct. 594, 596, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972)); see also Erickson v. Partus, 551 U.S. 89, 94, 127 S.Ct. 2197, 2200, 167 L.Ed.2d 1081 (2007). Yet, even a pro se plaintiff "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) (citation omitted). A plaintiff is to be granted leave to file a curative amended complaint even when he does not seek leave to amend, unless amendment would be inequitable or futile. See Estate of Lagano v. Bergen Cnty. Prosecutor's Office, 769 F.3d 850, 861 (3d Cir. 2014).

         IV. ...


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