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Williams v. Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

May 16, 2018

NYGEA WILLIAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
OFFICE OF VOCATIONAL REHABILITATION, et al., Defendants.

          KANE, J.

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          KAROLINE MEHALCHICK, United States Magistrate Judge

         Presently before the Court is the complaint of pro se Plaintiff, Nygea Williams (hereinafter referred to as “Williams”), filed on May 2, 2016. (Doc. 1). In addition to her complaint, Williams also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), which was granted by separate Order of this Court on September 22, 2017. (Doc. 19). Now having conducted its statutory screening review of the complaint, the Court respectfully recommends that the complaint be DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Williams initiated the instant action by filing a complaint (Doc. 1), a motion to proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), and a motion for preliminary injunction (Doc. 3) on May 2, 2016. This Court has previously addressed Williams's motion for preliminary injunction, which sought to reinstate a revoked vendor's license that had been granted to Williams under the Randolph-Sheppard Act.[1] (Doc. 3). Specifically, on November 18, 2016, the undersigned United States Federal Magistrate Judge issued a Report and Recommendation that recommended Williams's motion for preliminary injunction be denied. (Doc. 8). After Williams failed to file any timely objections, the District Court adopted the Report and Recommendation on January 10, 2017. (Doc. 16). The undersigned subsequently considered and granted Williams's motion to proceed in forma pauperis on September 22, 2017. (Doc. 2; Doc. 19).

         From what can be gleaned from the complaint, presently before the Court pursuant to its statutorily-mandated screening obligation, Williams asserts violations against various Defendants under the Randolph-Sheppard Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (Doc. 1, at 1). The complaint also appears to request that counsel be appointed for Williams, and that said counsel be permitted to file an amended complaint at a later time. (Doc. 1, at 3). On May 27, 2016, however, pro bono counsel, Carol T. Herring (“Attorney Herring”), entered an appearance on behalf of Williams and indicated that she intended to redraft the complaint. (Doc. 5, at 2). In light of this statement, on September 22, 2017 the Court issued an Order to Show Cause as to why an amended complaint had not yet been filed. (Doc. 19). The Order further directed that Williams file an amended complaint by Friday, October 20, 2017, or have the matter proceed on the original complaint. (Doc. 19).

         On October 18, 2017, instead of an amended complaint, the Court received a motion to file under seal and hold Williams's case in abeyance pending the exhaustion of administrative remedies. (Doc. 20; Doc. 21). The motion further indicated that Attorney Herring would be unable to file an amended complaint on Williams's behalf, as previously represented, and requested for her to be withdrawn as the attorney of record. (Doc. 21, at 3). On March 6, 2018, this Court ultimately denied Williams's motion to file under seal and hold the case in abeyance (Doc. 20; Doc. 21), but granted the motion for Attorney Herring to withdraw as Williams's counsel. (Doc. 22, at 4). Accordingly, the Court again granted leave for Williams to file an amended complaint by Tuesday, March 27, 2018, and advised for a second time that her action would proceed on the original complaint if no amendment was filed. (Doc. 22, at 4).

         To date, the Court has not received an amended complaint in the above-captioned matter. Thus, the complaint in its original form (Doc. 1) is now before the Court pursuant to its statutorily-authorized screening review under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2).

         II. Screening Standards

         Under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), the Court may review the complaint of a plaintiff proceeding in forma pauperis prior to service of process. See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2). The Court must dismiss the complaint if it is frivolous or malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b)(1); Mitchell v. Dodrill, 696 F.Supp.2d 454, 471 (M.D. Pa. 2010); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i)-(ii). In performing this screening function, a district court applies the same standard applied to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999). Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure authorizes a defendant to move to dismiss 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 also noted the evolving standards governing pleading practice in federal court, stating that:

[s]tandards of pleading have been in the forefront of jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), continuing with our opinion in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 (3d Cir. 2008)] and culminating recently with the Supreme Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), 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).

         In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel,20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). A court “need not credit a complaint's ‘bald assertions' or ‘legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss.” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist.,132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Additionally, a court need not assume that a ...


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