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Brown v. Riazzi

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 30, 2018

JERON D. BROWN, Plaintiff,




         Presently before the court are motions to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) with supporting briefs filed by Magisterial District Judge Eugene Riazzi, Jr. ("Judge Riazzi"), the Honorable Jeffery Manning ("Judge Manning") and the Honorable Edward Borkowski ("Judge Borkowski") (collectively, the "Judicial Defendants") and by Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Steven Stadtmiller ("ADA Stadtmiller"). (ECF Nos. 22, 23, 27 and 28.) The Judicial Defendants and ADA Stadtmiller seek to dismiss the complaint filed by Jeron D. Brown ("plaintiff) for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim. Plaintiff filed a response in opposition (ECF No. 37), ADA Stadtmiller filed a reply (ECF No. 41), and plaintiff filed a sur-reply. (ECF No. 42.) For the reasons explained herein, the motions to dismiss will be granted, and plaintiffs complaint will be dismissed.


         On June 15, 2017, plaintiff filed a pro se complaint under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985(2) and (3)[1] against the Judicial Defendants, ADA Stadtmiller, Orlando Harper, who is the warden of the Allegheny County Jail ("ACJ") ("Warden Harper") and an unknown Allegheny County Public Defender identified as a John Doe defendant ("Public Defender Doe") (collectively, "all defendants") in their official and individual capacities[2] alleging violations of his constitutional rights concerning a case against him in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. (ECF No. 3, ¶¶ 3-10). Plaintiff generally claims that all defendants conspired to violate his civil and due process rights under Pennsylvania's Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 9121, et seq. ("UCEA"), the Federal Extradition Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3182, and the Fourth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. (Id., Prelim. Stmt.; ¶¶ 27-31.) Plaintiff also alleges state tort law claims against all defendants for malicious intent, fraud, negligence, "breach of duty, " and "any other torts deem[ed] appropriate from the facts." (Id., Prelim Stmt.) Plaintiff seeks an award of compensatory, punitive and nominal damages, and a declaratory judgment that all defendants violated his civil and due process rights under federal and state law. (Id. ¶¶ A.l-5; B.1; C.1-3; D.1.)

         On March 27, 2015, plaintiff was arrested by the McKeesport, Pennsylvania Police for violations of the Pennsylvania Crimes Code.[3] (ECF No. 30 at 1-5.) On that same date, plaintiff also was arrested on an outstanding fugitive warrant from Delaware. (Id. at 7; ECF No. 3, ¶ 11.) Judge Riazzi set bail at $100, 000 on the fugitive warrant and at $1, 000 on the Pennsylvania criminal charges. (ECF Nos. 30-1 and 30-2.) Plaintiff was unable to post bail in either case and he was committed to the ACJ. (Id.; ECF No. 3, ¶ 11.) Plaintiff alleges that Judge Riazzi failed to specify that his commitment was not to exceed a period of 30 days on the fugitive warrant, and therefore he was wrongfully confined for an indefinite period of time. (ECF No. 3, ¶¶ 11, 27.)

         On September 24, 2015, plaintiff was convicted of some of the Pennsylvania charges and sentenced to time served in the ACJ and a six-month term of probation. (ECF No. 30-3.) On December 21, 2015, Governor Wolf issued a Pennsylvania Governor's Warrant to effectuate plaintiffs extradition to Delaware to face the charges pending against him there. (ECF Nos. 29 and 29-1.)

         Plaintiff claims, however, that hearings to extend his commitment at the ACJ based on the fugitive warrant did not occur in a timely manner. Plaintiff alleges that Judge Borkowski and ADA Stadtmiller conspired to conduct an untimely hearing on November 13, 2015, to extend his commitment at the ACJ. (Id. ¶ 19.) Plaintiff also asserts that Judge Manning, ADA Stadtmiller and Public Defender Doe conspired to conduct another untimely hearing on November 16, 2015, to further extend his commitment. (Id ¶¶ 21, 28.) Plaintiff alleges that Judge Borkowski, ADA Stadtmiller and Public Defender Doe conspired to conduct a third untimely hearing on December 23, 2015, which resulted in his extradition to Delaware on January 7, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 26, 30.)

         Plaintiff claims that he filed several writs of habeas corpus contesting his confinement, but he received no response from the state court. (ECF No. 3, ¶¶ 12, 14, 18, 20, 23.) Plaintiff alleges that he also wrote to Warden Harper to request immediate release from confinement, but he did not receive a response until November 23, 2015, indicating that his confinement had been extended. (Id. ¶¶ 17, 24.) According to plaintiff, Warden Harper and ADA Stadtmiller conspired to manipulate arrest records in order to continue to detain him. (Id. ¶ 29.)

         The Judicial Defendants moved to dismiss plaintiffs complaint for the following reasons: (1) plaintiffs claims are barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity, absolute judicial immunity and the doctrine set forth in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); (2) abstention is proper pursuant to Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971); and (3) plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (ECF No. 23 at 3-9, 11-14.) ADA Stadtmiller also moved to dismiss the complaint because: (1) plaintiffs claims are barred by prosecutorial immunity; and (2) plaintiff failed to state a claim which would entitled him to relief[4] (ECF No. 28 at 3-7.)

         Plaintiff responded that the motions should be denied primarily because the Judicial Defendants lacked jurisdiction to take any action concerning his case and ADA Stadtmiller was not acting in a prosecutorial role, consequently he is not entitled to immunity. (ECF No. 37 at 7, 9, 13, 14, 17). Plaintiff also contends that he stated a conspiracy claim against all defendants. Id. at 18-19.


         A. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1)

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), "a court must grant a motion to dismiss if it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction to hear a claim." In re Schering Plough Corp. Intron/Temodar Consumer Class Action, 678 F.3d 235, 243 (3d Cir. 2012). Jurisdictional challenges may be treated as either "facial" or as "factual." See Constitution Party of Pa. v. Aichele, 757 F.3d 347, 357 (3d Cir. 2014). A facial attack asserts that a claim "is insufficient to invoke the subject matter jurisdiction of the court because, for example, it does not present a question of federal law, or because there is no indication of a diversity of citizenship among the parties, or because some other jurisdictional defect is present." Id. at 358. A facial attack "can occur before the moving party has filed an answer or otherwise contested the factual allegations of the complaint." Id. (citation omitted). On the other hand, a factual challenge "attacks the factual allegations underlying the complaint's assertion of jurisdiction, either through the filing of an answer or 'otherwise presenting] competing facts.'" Davis v. Wells Fargo, 824 F.3d 333, 346 (3d Cir. 2016) (quoting Constitution Party of Pa., 757 F.3d at 358).

         Here, the Judicial Defendants make a facial challenge, arguing that Eleventh Amendment immunity bars plaintiffs claims.[5] When analyzing a facial attack on subject-matter jurisdiction, "the court must only consider the allegations of the complaint and documents referenced therein and attached thereto, in the light most favorable to the plaintiff" Gould Elecs. Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 176 (3d Cir. 2000). "Thus, a facial attack calls for a district court to apply the same standard of review it would use in considering a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), i.e., construing the alleged facts in favor of the nonmoving party." Constitution Party of Pa., 757 F.3d at 358 (citing In re Schering Plough, 678 F.3d at 243).

         B. Motion to Dismiss Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6)

         To survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), a complaint must allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly. 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). "A claim has facial plausibility when the pleaded factual content allows 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) (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).

         "The District Court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. In short, a motion to dismiss should be granted if a party does not allege facts which could, if established at trial, entitle him to relief. See Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211.

         Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, " must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520(1972). Because plaintiff is proceeding pro se, the court will liberally construe his complaint and employ less stringent standards than when judging the ...

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