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Kitchen v. PA Bd. of Probation and Parole

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 19, 2017



          William W. Caldwell, United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Before the court is the report (Doc. 16) from Magistrate Judge Joseph F. Saporito, Jr. recommending that Defendants' motion (Doc. 13) to dismiss for failure to state a claim be granted and that Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed without leave to amend. For the following reasons, the court will grant Defendants' motion to dismiss, but will allow Plaintiff an opportunity to amend his complaint.

         II. Background

         On October 21, 2016, Plaintiff Robert Allen Kitchen, Sr. filed a civil rights action based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole (BPP), Pennsylvania state parole agent Jeffrey Ruzicki (Ruzicki) in his individual capacity, and Pennsylvania state parole agent Douglas Schaeffer (Schaeffer) in his individual capacity.[1] (Doc. 1). Plaintiff amended his complaint as a matter of right on November 4, 2016. (Doc. 8).

         In his amended complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Ruzicki and Schaeffer, acting under color of state law, violated his constitutional rights to due process[2] and equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. (Doc. 8 at 3). He claims that Ruzicki and Schaeffer co-authored a Supervision History Report (SHR) in which they intentionally falsified probation violation information and purposefully omitted information favorable to Plaintiff. (Id. at 5). This SHR was provided to the trial court for use in sentencing Plaintiff for violating the terms of his probation, and was “referred to, relied upon, and used by the Court in deciding what sentence to impose upon Plaintiff.” (Id.) Plaintiff alleges that the submission of, and reliance on, this falsified SHR resulted in a sentence of three to six years in state prison, with a credit of 119 days for time served. (Id.) This initial sentence was imposed on April 11, 2012. (Id.)

         According to Plaintiff, after he received a copy of the SHR, he embarked on a lengthy appeal process to challenge the validity of his sentence. (Id.) On August 28, 2013, the Superior Court of Pennsylvania vacated the April 11, 2012 sentence, and remanded the case for resentencing. Commonwealth v. Kitchen, No. 1217 MDA 2012, 2013 WL 11256394, at *1 (Pa. Super. Ct. Aug. 28, 2013).[3] The Superior Court found that vacatur and remand were required because the sentencing court failed to request a pre-sentence investigation report (PSI), or alternatively to conduct an appropriate colloquy explaining the reasons for not ordering a PSI. Id. at *4.

         After his sentence was vacated, Plaintiff alleges that he was eventually permitted to challenge the contents of the SHR. (Doc. 8 at 5). He asserts that in June of 2014, a hearing was held where “[i]t was proven . . . that the majority of the violations contained in the report were false and unverifiable” and “that key information showing [his] compliance with certain conditions of parole [was] omitted from the report.” (Id.)

         On September 17, 2014, Plaintiff was resentenced to a term of two and one-half years to six years' imprisonment, with a credit of 2, 101 days for time served, “effectively cutting [his] sentence in half[.]” (Id.) He was released from prison on December 17, 2014, the maximum release date under the revised sentence. (Id.)

         Plaintiff is suing Ruzicki and Schaeffer in their individual capacities, seeking monetary damages totaling $750, 000, which includes punitive damages. (Id. at 6). He is suing the BPP for “fail[ure] to properly supervise, train[, ] and instruct Defendants Ruzicki and Schaeffer.” (Id. at 4).

         On January 13, 2017, Defendants filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. 13). Defendants argue that Plaintiff's § 1983 claims are barred by both Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994), and the statute of limitations. (Doc. 14 at 4-8). Plaintiff failed to respond to the motion to dismiss despite being given a sua sponte extension until April 25, 2017, and thus the motion was considered unopposed pursuant to Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 7.6. (Doc. 16 at 1-2). Judge Saporito found that Plaintiff's claims were barred by Heck v. Humphrey, and did not address Defendants' statute of limitations argument. (Id. at 7-11). Judge Saporito recommended that Plaintiff's complaint be dismissed and that leave to amend be denied because “amendment in this case would be futile.” (Id. at 11-12). No objections to the report and recommendation were filed.

         III. Standard of Review

         When a party objects to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district court must review de novo the contested portions of the report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); M.D. Pa. Local Rule 72.3. Uncontested portions of the report are reviewed for “clear error on the face of the record.” Clouser v. Johnson, 40 F.Supp.3d 425, 430 (M.D. Pa. 2014) (quoting Cruz v. Chater, 990 F.Supp. 375, 375-78 (M.D. Pa. 1998) (quoting 1983 Advisory Committee Notes to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b))).

         At the motion to dismiss stage, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must “accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.” Bronowicz v. Allegheny County, 804 F.3d 338, 344 (3d Cir. 2015 (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008)). In general, documents properly considered at the motion to ...

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