United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION DEFENDANT FEDER'S MOTION TO DISMISS, ECF
NO. 10 - GRANTED DEFENDANT WILLIAMS'S MOTION TO DISMISS,
ECF NO. 13 - GRANTED DEFENDANT RAMSEY'S MOTION FOR
JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS, ECF NO. 14 - GRANTED
F. LEESON, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tyrone Holloway filed this pro se action against Defendants
Eric Feder, Deputy Court Administrator and Director of the
Office of Judicial Records for the First Judicial District
(“FJD”); Rufus Seth Williams, then-District
Attorney of Philadelphia County; and Charles H. Ramsey,
Commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department. The
Defendants have each moved to dismiss Holloway's
Complaint. Because Holloway's federal claims are
barred by the Supreme Court's decision in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), the motions are granted
and the Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
to the Complaint, in April 1992 Holloway was convicted in the
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas of first degree
murder and possessing instruments of crime. Compl.
¶¶ 8-9, ECF No. 1. He was sentenced to life
imprisonment. Compl. ¶ 9. In 1998, Holloway challenged
his conviction by way of the Pennsylvania Post-Conviction
Relief Act, but his challenge was dismissed. See
Compl. ¶¶ 10-17. In 2002, Holloway filed a petition
for writ of habeas corpus in federal court. Compl. ¶ 19.
The petition was denied,  and in 2004 the Court of Appeals for
the Third Circuit denied his request for a certificate of
appealability. See id.
Holloway alleges that the Defendants “have continued to
conspire in a continuing wrong to deny [him] access to
relevant, material, and exculpatory evidence by not employing
procedures whereby [he] may examine, copy, or otherwise
retrieve the information requested and by failing to provide
[him] with the evidence [requested].” Compl. ¶ 36.
Further, the Defendants allegedly “have and continue to
interfere with [Holloway] in obtaining witnesses in his favor
by not employing procedures whereby [he] may examine, copy,
or otherwise retrieve relevant, material, and exculpatory
evidence against him” and by “presenting false
testimony that the District Attorney's case file
regarding the plaintiff could not be reproduced or
reconstructed.” Compl. ¶¶
44-45. In particular, Holloway states that he
seeks records and materials concerning a prosecution witness
named Althea Timmons, see Compl. Wherefore Clause
¶ B,  and alleges that without these materials,
he “is unable to present his claims of innocence to a
court of law, ” Compl. ¶ 32.
contends that the Defendants' conduct, “in
depriving [him] the information necessary for him to prove
his innocence, and/or in failing to prevent said deprivation,
constituted a denial of [his] rights to Due Process, Access
to the Courts, and Equal Protection under the Law in
violation of the First, and Fourteenth Amendment of the
United States Constitution.” Compl. ¶ 47. In
addition, he contends that the Defendants' conduct has
also violated his right to obtain witnesses under the Sixth
Amendment, Compl. ¶ 50, and “constitutes the tort
of negligence under the law of Pennsylvania, ” Compl.
seeks a declaratory judgment stating that the Defendants have
violated his rights; an injunction ordering the Defendants to
arrange for Holloway to examine or copy all records related
to Althea Timmons; and compensatory and punitive damages.
Standard of Review: Motion to Dismiss and Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings
survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Procedure
12(b)(6), a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter,
accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)). Pursuant to
Rule 12(c), “[a]fter the pleadings are closed-but early
enough not to delay trial-a party may move for judgment on
the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). “Rule
12(b)(6) motions to dismiss and Rule 12(c) motions for
judgment on the pleadings for failure to state a claim are
judged according to the same standard.” Gebhart v.
Steffen, 574 F. App'x 156, 158 (3d Cir. 2014).
Holloway's claims are not cognizable under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 because they are barred by Heck v.
1983 provides a cause of action against any person who, under
color of state law, “subjects, or causes to be
subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person
within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any
rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution
and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In Heck v.
Humphrey, the Supreme Court held that a § 1983
action is not cognizable if “a judgment in favor of the
plaintiff would necessarily imply the invalidity of his
conviction or sentence.” 512 U.S. 477, 487 (1994).
Further, absent a conviction being previously invalidated, a
prisoner in state custody cannot use a § 1983 action to
challenge “the fact or duration of his
confinement.” Wilkinson v. Dotson, 544 U.S.
74, 78 (2005) (quoting Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411
U.S. 475, 489 (1973)). “He must seek federal habeas
corpus relief (or appropriate state relief) instead.”
Holloway never expressly asserts that the Defendants'
alleged conduct constitutes a Brady violation, the
gravamen of his Complaint is that exculpatory
evidence was withheld from him during trial and continues to
be withheld from him. See Brady v. Maryland, 373
U.S. 83, 87 (1963) (holding that the withholding of
exculpatory evidence upon request violates due process).
Because the relief Holloway seeks would necessarily call into
question the validity of his conviction, he must assert his
claim by way of a habeas corpus petition. See
Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 536 (2011)
(“Brady claims have ranked within the
traditional core of habeas corpus and outside the province of
§ 1983.”); Dist. Attorney's Office for
Third Judicial Dist. v. Osborne, 557 U.S. 52, 77 (2009)
(Alito, J., concurring) (“[A] state prisoner's
claim under [Brady] must be brought in habeas
because that claim, if proved, would invalidate the judgment
of conviction or sentence (and thus the lawfulness of the
inmate's confinement).”); Wells v. Varner,
No. 2:15-MC-00035, 2016 WL 1449247, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 13,
2016), certificate of appealability denied (Sept. 8,
2016) (dismissing prisoner's § 1983 claims alleging
that the government was withholding access to exculpatory
materials because the claims necessarily called his state
court conviction into question and therefore had to be
asserted in a habeas corpus petition); Narducci v.
Timoney, No. CIV A 99-CV-3933, 1999 WL 961221, at *6
(E.D. Pa. Oct. 15, 1999) (finding that although the plaintiff
“seems to have framed his suit as one for discovery of
certain Philadelphia Police ‘activity
sheets”' that he alleges would enable him to prove
his innocence, he was “essentially alleging the
invalidity of his conviction” and thus was barred by
Heck from bringing his claim under §
the Court does not have jurisdiction to address
Holloway's claims under § 1983, and this action is
dismissed without leave to amend. See Tindell v.
Pennsylvania, 398 F. App'x. 696, 698 (3d Cir. 2010)
(finding that the district court was correct to dismiss the
§ 1983 complaint without leave to amend because
plaintiff “advances no cognizable § ...