United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER RE: ECF NO. 6
MAUREEN P. KELLY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Lynne Thompson (“Plaintiff”) initiated this
action against Defendants Pennsylvania Board of Probation and
Parole, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Heather
Hildenbrandt, Mr. Douglas, Judge Randal B. Todd (“Judge
Todd”), Jeremy Stewart, Ms. Torma and Dr. Richard Learn
(collectively, “Defendants”), in the Court of
Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, on January
19, 2016. In her Complaint, Plaintiff purports to raise civil
rights claims for malicious prosecution, “wrongful
incarceration, ” and various other actions (illegal
restraint, abuse of authority, fraud, conspiracy, abuse of
power, malicious arrest, prosecutorial misconduct), stemming
from her arrest by a state parole agent on a state detainer,
which Plaintiff claims was based on a “bogus”
charge. Id. Defendants timely removed the case to
this Court on July 29, 2016. ECF No. 1.
before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of
Defendant Judge Todd. ECF No. 6. For the reasons that follow,
the Motion will be granted.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a
motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material
allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual
inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the
plaintiff. Odd v. Malone, 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir.
2008). The Court, however, need not accept bald assertions or
inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by
the facts set forth in the complaint. See Cal. Pub.
Empls.' Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126,
143 (3d Cir. 2004), citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch.
Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the
Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual
allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, “[f]actual allegations
must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level.” Id., citing Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Indeed, the United
States Supreme Court has held that a complaint is properly
dismissed under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) where it does not
allege “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face, ” id. at 570, or where
the factual content does not allow the court "to draw
the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the
misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009). See Phillips v. Cty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding
that, under Twombly, “labels, conclusions, and
a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of
action” do not suffice but, rather, the complaint
“must allege facts suggestive of [the proscribed]
conduct” and that are sufficient “to raise a
reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of
the necessary element[s] of his claim”).
addition, although pro se filings must be held to
“less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted
by lawyers, ” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519,
520-521 (1972), pro se litigants are not relieved of
their obligation to allege sufficient facts to support a
cognizable legal claim. See Taylor v. Books A Million,
Inc., 296 F.3d 376, 378 (5th Cir. 2002); Weimer v.
B.I. Vanorsdale, 2012 WL 5469877, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 9
instant Motion, Judge Todd argues that the Complaint against
him is properly dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to
allege any facts to support her claims. The Court agrees.
the only assertion in the Complaint relative to Judge Todd,
is that he engaged in prosecutorial misconduct, conspiracy
and abuse of authority. ECF No. 1-1 ¶ 22.
Plaintiff's assertion, however, is nothing more than a
conclusion and contains no facts that would allow the Court
reasonably infer that Judge Todd is liable for any of the
alleged misconduct or raise Plaintiff's right to relief
above the speculative level. Under these circumstances,
Plaintiff's claims against Judge Todd are properly
Court also notes that, although Plaintiff has arguably
included some “facts” relative to Judge Todd in
her brief in opposition to Judge Todd's Motion to
Dismiss, it is well settled that a plaintiff may not amend
the Complaint through the brief filed in opposition to a
motion to dismiss. See Commonwealth of Pa. ex. rel.
Zimmerman v. Pepsico, Inc., 836 F.2d 173, 181 (3d Cir.
1988). Further, although the United States Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit has held that when dismissing a civil
rights case for failure to state a claim, a court must give
the plaintiff an opportunity to amend the complaint whether
or not the plaintiff has asked to do so, the Court is not
required to allow an amended complaint to be filed where it
would be inequitable or futile. See Fletcher-Harlee Corp.
v. Pote Concrete Contractors, Inc., 482 F.3d 247, 251
(3d Cir. 2007), citing Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d
229, 235 (3d Cir. 2004). Here, although not argued by Judge
Todd, it appears that he is entitled to judicial immunity and
thus allowing Plaintiff to amend her Complaint against him
would be futile. Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New
Jersey, 588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009), quoting
Azubuko v. Royal, 443 F.3d 302, 303 (3d Cir. 2006) and
Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 359 (1978)
(“[a] judicial officer in the performance of his duties
has absolute immunity from suit and will not be liable for
his judicial acts” [even if] “the action he took
was in error, was done maliciously, or was in excess of his
authority”); Van Tassel v. Lawrence Cty. Domestic
Relations Section, 659 F.Supp.2d 672, 696 (W.D. Pa.
2009), aff'd sub nom. Van Tassel v. Lawrence Cty.
Domestic Relations Sections, 390 F.App'x 201 (3d
Cir. 2010) (“[a] judge is absolutely immune from
liability for his [or her] judicial acts even if his [or her]
exercise of authority is flawed by the commission of grave
procedural errors and [j]udicial immunity cannot be overcome
by allegations of bad faith or malice”) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). As such, the Court
declines to permit Plaintiff to amend her Complaint with
respect to Judge Todd.
foregoing reasons, Defendant Judge Todd's Motion to
Dismiss is properly granted. Accordingly, the following Order
NOW, this 13th day of July, 2017, upon
consideration of Defendant Judge Todd's Motion to Dismiss
and Plaintiff's response thereto, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED
that the Motion to Dismiss filed on behalf of Defendant Judge