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Robinson v. Northumberland County Children and Youth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

March 5, 2018

MICHAEL ROBINSON, Plaintiff
v.
NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY CHILDREN AND YOUTH, et al., Defendants

          BRANN, D.J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          William I. Arbuckle U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         I. Factual Background

         Michael J. Robinson has filed a pro se complaint alleging that his civil rights were violated by Children & Youth Services of Northumberland County, twelve employees of that agency, along with one of his daughter's and her mother. In his complaint he alleges that CYS workers and the girl's mother conspired to encourage his daughter to provoke a fight with him so CYS could intervene and place the girl with her mother. He also alleges that a second daughter faked an injury and while at the hospital told him that she hopes that her hand/wrist is hurt so “we can get you in trouble.” He goes on further to state that the girl's mother has “been victimizing me for years, she is poisoning my children against me, I've complained to everyone I need something done about this. I want to press charges against (the girl's mother) for any and all crimes that she has perpetrated against me.” He asserts that when he complained to CYS about the attempt to frame him for abusing his children “…all I got was 2 letters saying I was cleared of any wrong doing. Everybody was aware of my harm, but no assistance was ever rendered to me.” Finally, he alleges that his “ex” (they were “together” for 15 years but never married) posted a screed on Facebook claiming that “Mike Robinson is a woman beater” and that “he is under investigation by CYS because he molests his daughter, does not work for Donald Trump, impersonates a federal agent, and should not be mayor.” The posting also claims that this letter was sent to all 1346 registered voters in Shamokin and was “Paid for by the Committee Against Domestic Violence and Child Molestors.” (Doc. 1).

         Along with this complaint, Robinson has filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2.) We will GRANT this motion, but for the reasons set forth below, we recommend that the complaint be dismissed.

         II. Discussion

         A. Screening of Pro Se Complaints-Standard of Review

         Having been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, Plaintiff is subject to the screening provisions in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). See Atamain v. Burns, 236 F. App'x 753, 755 (3d Cir. 2007)(“the screening procedures set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) apply to in forma pauperis complaints filed by prisoners and non-prisoners alike.”).

         This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by litigants given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Specifically, we are obliged to review the complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), which provides, in pertinent part:

(2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -
(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) the action or appeal--
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         In performing this mandatory screening function, the Court applies the same standard that is used to evaluate motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a complaint should be dismissed for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed the evolving standards governing pleading practice in the federal courts, stating that “pleading standards have seemingly shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009). “[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief.” Id. at 211. It also “has to ‘show' such an entitlement with its facts.” Id. To test the sufficiency of the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must conduct the following three-step inquiry:

First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947. Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 1950. Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.” Id.

Santiago v. Warminster Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010).

         A complaint filed by a pro se litigant is to be liberally construed and ‘“however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007)(quoting Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Nevertheless, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013). Thus, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a pro se complaint must recite factual allegations that are sufficient to raise the Plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation, set forth in a “short and plain” statement of a cause of action.

         Thus, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a pro se plaintiff's complaint must recite factual allegations which are sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation, ...


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