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Weber v. Prothonotary

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 29, 2018

CLARK A. WEBER, Plaintiff,


          STENGEL, C.J.

         This case involves a claim by the plaintiff that the defendants, Berks County Prothonotary and Deputy Prothonotary violated plaintiff's civil rights when they rejected his complaint that plaintiff mailed to the court. Plaintiff, a pro se litigant, alleges one claim: that the defendants denied plaintiff access to the courts in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants move to dismiss the complaint pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 2.)

         I. Background

         On or about July 25, 2017, plaintiff attempted to file a complaint against Berks County Commissioners by filing an in forma pauperis motion, a 205.5 Civil Cover Sheet, and a praecipe for writ of summons. (Doc. No. 1, Ex. A.) Also on July 25, 2017, defendants placed plaintiff's filings in an envelope with a letter form dated July 27, 2017 rejecting plaintiff's complaint, and post-marked the envelope for July 25, 2017. (Id.) Based on the foregoing, plaintiff alleges that defendants “unlawfully barred plaintiff's access to the Courts, violating plaintiff's secured rights.” (Id.)

         II. Procedural History

         On or about August 11, 2017, plaintiff filed an initial complaint in the Berks County Court of Common Pleas by filing a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and a complaint. On September 21, 2017, defendants removed this matter to the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441, 1446. Removal was based on plaintiff's sole claim alleging a violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. This Court has original jurisdiction over the action under 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

         On September 29, 2017, defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 2.) Plaintiff moved for an extension of time to move to amend the complaint. (Doc. 4.) On October 24, 2017, I granted plaintiff's request, extending plaintiff's time to file a motion to amend the complaint until January 16, 2018. (Doc. No. 5.) To date, plaintiff has not filed a motion to amend the complaint or otherwise responded to defendants' motion to dismiss.

         III. Standard

         A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure challenges the legal sufficiency of the complaint. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). To sustain this challenge, the factual allegations in the complaint must be sufficient to make the claim for relief more than just speculative. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Conclusory allegations are insufficient to support a facially plausible claim; the facts asserted must allow the court “to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). In determining whether to grant a motion to dismiss, a federal court must construe the complaint liberally, accept all factual allegations as true, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555; see also D.P. Enters. v. Bucks County Cmty. Coll., 725 F.2d 943, 944 (3d Cir. 1984). The court asks “not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n. 8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)).

         When presented with a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true but may disregard legal conclusions. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679. Second, a district court must determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a “plausible claim for relief.” Id. In other words, a complaint must do more than allege entitlement to relief. A complaint has to “show” such an entitlement with its facts. Id.; see also Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008). “Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged - but it has not ‘show[n]' - ‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679; see also Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232-34 (holding that: (1) factual allegations of a complaint must provide notice to the defendant; (2) the complaint must allege facts indicative of the proscribed conduct; and (3) the complaint's “‘[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'”) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555) (alterations in original).

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading need not contain detailed factual allegations, but must contain a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 545. A pleading that offers “labels and conclusions” or “a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. at 555. Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders “naked assertion[s]” devoid of “further factual enhancement.” Id. at 557.

         IV. Discussion

         Plaintiff fails to set forth sufficient facts to state a claim for relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

         The First and Fourteenth Amendments protect a prisoner's right to access to the courts.[1]Monroe v. Beard, 536 F.3d 195, 205 (3d Cir. 2008); citing Lewis v. Casey, 518 U.S. 343 (1996)). To establish a claim ...

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