United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
ALEX H. PIERRE, Plaintiff,
SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA, Defendant.
Alex H. Pierre, an attorney who has been suspended from the
practice of law in Pennsylvania, brings this civil action
against the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. Mr. Pierre seeks
leave to proceed in forma pauperis. The Court will
grant Mr. Pierre leave to proceed in forma pauperis
and dismiss his complaint.
to the complaint, Mr. Pierre was suspended from the practice
of law for three years in 2005. In 2006, he was charged with
responsibility for a disbursement made to a former client
from the Pennsylvania Lawyers Fund for Client Security. Mr.
Pierre made two or three payments but could not afford any
additional payments. In November of 2011, Mr. Pierre applied
to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for reinstatement; his
application was denied in February of 2012 pursuant to a rule
that prohibits reinstatement unless the Fund has been fully
reimbursed plus 10% per annum interest.
meantime, Mr. Pierre had initiated a civil action in the
Court of Common Pleas in 2010 against his landlord, stemming
from his 2008 eviction. After years of litigation, Mr. Pierre
lost at trial. The Superior Court affirmed the verdict in
2015, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Mr.
Pierre's petition for allowance of appeal in March of
on those allegations, Mr. Pierre initiated this civil action
against the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, claiming violations
of his constitutional rights, apparently pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 1983, based on the denial of his application
for reinstatement and based on the manner in which his
landlord-tenant case was handled by the state courts.
Specifically, he claims Eighth Amendment, Due Process, and
Equal Protection violations. He also asserts breach of
contract claims. Mr. Pierre seeks compensatory and punitive
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Pierre's motion to proceed in forma pauperis is
granted because it appears that he is incapable of paying the
fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) require the Court to dismiss
the complaint if it is frivolous or fails to state a claim. A
complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact, " Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally
baseless if it is "based on an indisputably meritless
legal theory." Deutsch v. United States, 67
F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995). To survive dismissal for
failure to state a claim, the 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)
(quotations omitted). "[M]ere conclusory statements do
not suffice." Id.
Pierre's constitutional claims are legally baseless.
"To state a claim under [42 U.S.C] § 1983, a
plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show
that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting
under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487
U.S. 42, 48 (1988). The Supreme Court has explained that
States are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from
§ 1983 claims and that, in any event, a State is not
considered a "person" for purposes of § 1983.
See Will v. Mich. Dep 't of State Police, 491
U.S. 65-66 (1989). Pennsylvania courts, including the
Pennsylvania Supreme Court, are considered part of the
Commonwealth and, thus, share in the Commonwealth's
immunity. See Callahan v. City of Philadelphia, 207
F.3d 668, 672 (3d Cir. 2000) ("All courts and agencies
of the unified judicial system ... are part of'
Commonwealth government' and thus are state rather than
local agencies."). Accordingly, there is no legal basis
for a constitutional claim against the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court pursuant to § 1983. See, e.g, Law Offices of
Lucas ex rel. Lucas v. Disciplinary Bd. of Supreme Court of
PA, 128 Fed.Appx. 235, 237 (3d Cir. 2005) ("The
[Disciplinary Board of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania], an
agency of the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania and part of the
'unified judicial system, ' is an arm of the
Breach of Contract Claims
Pierre's breach of contract claims also fail. His
contract claims are based on allegations that a Pennsylvania
Rule pertaining to the supervision and assignment of judges
in the unified judicial system creates a contract with him as
a litigant. Mr. Pierre cites to a portion of the rule
announcing the following policy statement:
It is the policy of the unified judicial system that any
matter at any stage of a proceeding be brought to a fair
conclusion as promptly as possible, consistent with the
character of the matter and the resources of the system. The
requirements of this rule further specify and implement this
policy in keeping with the Court's constitutionally