United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES C. KLUEBER, Plaintiff pro se
ROBERT PATTERSON, Esq., MICHAEL SCHWARTZ, Esq., Defendants.
QUINONES ALEJANDRO, J.
James C. Klueber, a State inmate proceeding pro se,
has filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983
against attorneys Robert Patterson and Michael Schwartz. On
March 20, 2018, the Court received the full filing fee from
Mr. Klueber. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will
dismiss Mr. Klueber's complaint, with prejudice.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
review of the public dockets reflect that on December 22,
1999, the Palmer Township Police Department in Northampton
County charged Mr. Klueber with indecent exposure, corruption
of minors-assist minor violate parole, and open lewdness.
Commonwealth v. Klueber, Docket No.
CP-48-CR-0000263-2000 (Northampton Cty. Court of Common
Pleas). Mr. Klueber pled guilty to open lewdness and was
sentenced to ninety (90) days in jail. Id. Attorney
Robert Patterson represented Mr. Klueber during these
public dockets further reflect that on March 17, 2011, the
Palmer Township Police Department charged Mr. Klueber with
134 counts of sexual abuse of children (sell pornography),
135 counts of sexual abuse of children (possession of child
pornography), 135 counts of criminal use of a communication
facility, and 135 counts of selling obscene/sexual materials.
Commonwealth v. Klueber, Docket No.
CP-48-CR-000832-2002 (Northampton Cty. Court of Common
Pleas). Attorney Robert Patterson again represented Mr.
Klueber during trial proceedings. Mr. Klueber pled guilty to
the 134 counts of sexual abuse of children (sell pornography)
and was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of 402 to 804
months (33 ½ to 67 years). Id. Attorney
Michael Schwartz subsequently represented Mr. Klueber at his
appellate and state post-conviction proceedings. Id.
2010, Mr. Klueber, through Mr. Schwartz, filed a Petition for
a Writ of Habeas Corpus pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
2254 in this Court. See Klueber v. Varano, Civil
Action No. 10-5165. In his habeas petition, Mr.
Klueber argued that, with respect to his convictions for the
134 counts of sexual abuse of children, "trial counsel
provided ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to file
a motion to reconsider his sentence on the grounds that this
sentence was so manifestly excessive and unreasonable that it
constituted cruel and unusual punishment." Klueber
v. Varano, No. 10-5165, 2012 WL 1466513, at * 2 (E.D.
Pa. Mar. 14, 2012), Report and Recommendation adopted
by 2012 WL 1481509 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2012). On April
26, 2012, the Honorable C. Darnell Jones II, United States
District Judge, denied Mr. Klueber's § 2254 petition
with prejudice. Klueber v. Varano, No. 10-5165, 2012
WL 1481509, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 26, 2012).
Klueber has now filed the instant complaint against attorneys
Patterson and Schwartz alleging "ineffectiveness of
counsel." (Compl. at 3.) He states that the specific
"facts will be filed within therein, and brought forth
a[t] trial, or be sent to a Federal lawyer, for the
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Mr. Klueber has paid the filing fee in full, the Court has
the authority to screen his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915A. See Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 116
n.2 (3d Cir. 2000) (recognizing that the district courts have
the authority to screen a prisoner complaint pursuant to
§ 1915A(b)(1) even if the prisoner is not proceeding
in forma pauperis). Section 1915A requires that the
court "review, before docketing, if feasible or, in any
event, as soon as practicable after docketing, a complaint in
a civil action in which a prisoner seeks redress from a
governmental entity or officer or employee of a governmental
entity." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). In doing so, the
court must dismiss a complaint or any portion thereof that
"is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, " id. at §
1915A(b)(1), or that "seeks monetary relief from a
defendant who is immune from such relief, " id.
at § 1915A(b)(2).
complaint is frivolous if it "lacks an arguable basis
either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams,
490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989). It is legally baseless if
"based on an indisputably meritless legal theory, "
Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d
Cir. 1995), and factually baseless "when the facts
alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly
incredible." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25,
33 (1992). The determination of whether a complaint fails to
state a claim under § 1915A(b)(1) is governed by the
same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Neal v. Pa. Bd. of
Probation & Parole, No. 96-7923, 1997 WL 338838, at
*1 (E.D. Pa. June 19, 1997); see also Tourscher v.
McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999).
Accordingly, the court must determine whether the complaint
contains "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). The court may also dismiss
claims based on an affirmative defense if the affirmative
defense is obvious from the face of the complaint. See
Ray v. Kertes, 285 F.3d 287, 297 (3d Cir. 2002); see
also McPherson v. United States, 392 Fed.Appx. 938, 943
(3d Cir. 2010). The court may also consider matters of public
record. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist, 452 F.3d
256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). As Mr. Klueber is proceeding pro
se, his allegations are construed liberally. Higgs
v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
suit under § 1983 requires the wrongdoers to have
violated federal rights of the plaintiff, and that they did
so while acting under color of state law." Groman v.
Twp. of Manalpan, 47 F.3d 628, 638 (3d Cir. 1995). Mr.
Klueber cannot maintain constitutional claims against
Attorneys Patterson and Schwartz because they are not state
actors for purposes of § 1983. See Polk Cty. v.
Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 325 (1981) ("[A] public
defender does not act under color of state law when
performing a lawyer's traditional functions as counsel to
a defendant in a criminal proceeding.") (footnote
omitted); Naranjo v. City of Phila., 626 Fed.Appx.
353, 356 (3d Cir. 2015) (per curiam) (concluding
that post-conviction counsel was not subject to suit pursuant
to § 1983); Clark v. Vernon, 228 Fed.Appx. 128,
131 (3d Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (same). Thus, the
Court must dismiss Mr. Klueber's Complaint for failure to
state a claim.
foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss Mr. Klueber's
complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1). Mr.
Klueber will not be permitted to file an amended complaint,
as any such amendment would be futile. See Grayson v.
Mayview State Hosp.,293 F.3d 103, ...