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Golson v. Harold

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

June 8, 2017

JAROD GOLSON, Plaintiff,
ZACK HAROLD, et al. Defendants.


          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         Before the Court for disposition is a civil action filed by pro se Plaintiff, Jarod Golson, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. No. 1.) Upon review of the allegations within the complaint, the Court will dismiss the complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2) with leave to amend.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff initiated this civil action by filing a complaint (Doc. No. 1) on April 4, 2017, naming as defendants two Lackawanna County detectives, Zach Harold and John Munly, a Lackawanna County Assistant District Attorney, Michael Ossont, and a Lackawanna County Magisterial District Judge, Terrence Gallagher. (Doc No. 1.) Plaintiff alleges that he was traveling with a friend to visit his god daughter, when his friend pulled-over into a hotel parking lot to meet another friend. (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that they were then “ambushed” by the defendant detectives along with the Scranton Police Department. (Id.)

         Plaintiff's claim against Magistrate Terrance Gallagher is that the Magistrate allegedly tried to convince Plaintiff's co-defendant in a related criminal case to retract testimony that would have purportedly exonerated Plaintiff from the criminal case. (Id. at 2 and 3.) Plaintiff's claim against Assistant District Attorney Michael Ossont is that Attorney Ossont told Magistrate Gallagher to charge Plaintiff with conspiracy even though the co-defendant stated that Plaintiff had nothing to do with the criminal acts. (Id. at 3.) Finally, Plaintiff's claim against the detectives is that they incarcerated him knowing that Plaintiff did not have any drugs on him and falsely accused Plaintiff of being on a wiretap. (Id.) Plaintiff seeks to recover damages in an excess amount of $5, 000, 000.00 against Defendants. (Id.)

         II. Standard of Review

         Pursuant to the screening provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court is required to screen in forma pauperis complaints prior to service and “shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that ... the action ... (i) is frivolous or malicious [or] (ii) fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii). An action is “frivolous where it lacks an arguable basis in either law or fact.” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). Factual allegations are “clearly baseless” if they are “fanciful, ” “fantastic, ” or “delusional, ” Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328, or where “the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible.” Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). “[A] finding of factual frivolousness is appropriate when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly incredible, whether or not there are judicially noticeable facts available to contradict them.” Id. at 33.

         28 U.S.C. § 1915's failure to state a claim standard mirrors Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which authorizes the dismissal of a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. Rule 12(b)(6). Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must set forth a claim for relief, which contains a short and plain statement of the claim, showing that the pleader is entitled to relief. The complaint must provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The issue in a motion to dismiss is whether the plaintiff should be entitled to offer evidence to support the claim, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (the Rule 8 pleading standard “simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.”); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).

         The onus is on the plaintiff to provide a well-drafted complaint that alleges factual support for his claims. “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 ‘entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original and internal citations omitted). The court need not accept unsupported inferences, Cal. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), nor legal conclusions cast as factual allegations, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Legal conclusions without factual support are not entitled to the assumption of truth. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 677-679 (2009) (“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not” satisfy the requirements of Rule 8).

         Once the court winnows the conclusory allegations from those allegations supported by fact, which it accepts as true, the court must engage in a common sense review of the claim to determine whether it is plausible. This is a context-specific task, for which the court should be guided by its judicial experience. The court must dismiss the complaint if it fails to allege enough facts “to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 677 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). 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 677. Lastly, a pro se complaint is held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972).

         III. Discussion

         Plaintiff's complaint, as currently drafted, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. In addition to this shortcoming, the doctrines of judicial and prosecutorial immunity also provide daunting road blocks for Plaintiff to overcome in order to state a claim against Magistrate Gallagher and Assistant District Attorney Ossont.

         A plaintiff, in order to state a viable § 1983 claim, must plead two essential elements: 1) that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law, and 2) that said conduct deprived the plaintiff of a right, privilege, or immunity secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States. Natale v. Camden County Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 580-81 (3d Cir. 2003).

         A basic rule of pleading requires that a “district court . . . determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a ‘plausible claim for relief.' In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to ‘show' such an ...

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