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Robinson v. Wetzel

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2017

JOHN WETZEL, Defendant.


          SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER United States Magistrate Judge.

         A. Relevant Procedural History

         Plaintiff Taveren Robinson (“Plaintiff”) is an inmate in the custody of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (“DOC”), and is currently incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Greene (“SCI Greene”). Plaintiff initiated this civil action against Defendant John Wetzel (“Defendant”), the Secretary of the DOC, in the Court of Common Pleas of Greene County, Pennsylvania, alleging that he is being illegally incarcerated in violation of his rights provided by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution because no written sentencing order relative to his underlying conviction was ever generated (Count I). [ECF No. 1-2].[2] Plaintiff also brings two state law claims for unlawful restraint and false imprisonment (Counts II and III). Id.

         On November 23, 2016, Defendant removed the case to this Court, [ECF No. 1], and on November 29, 2016, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which is presently before the Court. [ECF No. 3]. In addition, Plaintiff has filed a motion to remand for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. [ECF No. 7]. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion to remand will be denied and Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.

         B. Standards of Review

         1. Motion to Dismiss

         In 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. Employees' 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).

         Further, in deciding a motion to dismiss, “[i]n addition to the allegations contained in the pleadings, the Court may also review “matters of public record, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case, ” as well as “undisputably authentic document[s] that a defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff's claims are based on the document.” Ickes v. Flanagan, 2008 WL 859183, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2008), quoting Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384-85 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) and Steinhardt Group Inc. v. Citicorp, 126 F.3d 144, 145 (3d Cir. 1997).

         2. Pro Se Pleadings and Filings

         Pro se pleadings and filings, “however inartfully pleaded, ” must be held to “less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520 (1972). If the court can reasonably read pleadings to state a valid claim on which the litigant could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and sentence construction, or litigant's unfamiliarity with pleading requirements. Boag v. MacDougall, 454 U.S. 364 (1982); United States ex rel. Montgomery v. Brierley, 414 F.2d 552, 555 (3d Cir. 1969) (A petition prepared by a prisoner ... may be inartfully drawn and should be read “with a measure of tolerance”); Freeman v. Department of Corrections, 949 F.2d 360 (10th Cir. 1991). Under our liberal pleading rules, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant. Gibbs v. Roman, 116 F.3d 83 (3d Cir. 1997) (overruled on other grounds). See, e.g., Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996) (discussing Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard); Markowitz v. Northeast Land Company, 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990) (same). Accordingly, because Plaintiff is a pro se litigant, this Court will consider the facts and make inferences where it is appropriate.

         C. Discussion

         1. Plaintiff's Motion to Remand

         Section 1441 of Title 28, United States Code, provides that “any civil action brought in a State court of which the district courts of the United States have original jurisdiction, may be removed by the defendant . . . to the district court of the United States for the district and division embracing the place where such action is pending.” 28 U.S.C. § 1441(a). See Krupa v. Hilcorp Energy I LP, 2014 WL 2506144, at *6 (W.D. Pa. June 3, 2014). A federal district court has original jurisdiction over an action “arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Where a motion for remand is filed, the defendant has the burden of proving that removal was proper. Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 219 (3d Cir. 2005).

         Here, Plaintiff concedes that his claim brought pursuant to the Thirteenth Amendment is one over which the Court has original jurisdiction but maintains that the Court lacks jurisdiction over his state law claims for unlawful restraint and false imprisonment. Plaintiff therefore asks that the Court sever those claims and remand them to state ...

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