United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
CARLSON, M. J.
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the court is the November 29, 2017 Report and
Recommendation (“Report”) of U.S. Magistrate
Judge Martin C. Carlson. (Doc. 5). In his Report, Judge
Carlson recommends that the plaintiff's motion to proceed
in forma pauperis, (Doc. 2), be conditionally
granted and that his complaint, (Doc. 1), be dismissed. On
December 13, 2017, the plaintiff filed timely objections to
Judge Carlson's Report. (Doc. 8). For the following
reasons, the Report will be ADOPTED IN ITS
ENTIRETY, and the plaintiff's complaint will be
James Capozzi, a prisoner currently housed at the Lackawanna
County Prison and awaiting trial on federal charges, filed
the above-captioned pro se complaint under the
Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. (Doc. 1). The
two named defendants in this case are the Pennsylvania
Unemployment Compensation Board of Review
(“UCBR”) and Bonnie Haas, an Audit and
Investigative Specialist for the Pennsylvania Department of
Labor and Industry (“DLI”). (Id.).
Capozzi's complaint details a history of state court and
state administrative agency proceedings arising from certain
unemployment compensation disputes. (Id.). Alleging
that the outcome of this state litigation, which proceeded
all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, violated his
constitutional rights, Capozzi has now filed a complaint in
this court, requesting that this court reverse the state
court and agency decisions against him. (Id.). After
filing his complaint, Capozzi submitted an application for
leave to proceed in forma pauperis under 28 U.S.C.
§1915. (Doc. 2).
case arises from state court litigation that apparently
concluded in a way that has left Capozzi dissatisfied, as he
now turns to the federal district court to review this state
court outcome. (Doc. 5). Judge Carlson's Report
appropriately points out that (1) the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine compels federal
district courts to decline invitations to conduct what
amounts to appellate review of state trial court decisions;
(2) relitigating a state court action is further prohibited
under issue preclusion principles; and (3) to the extent that
Capozzi seeks to sue the UCBR, a state administrative agency,
his claims run afoul of Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity
principles. (Id.). While Judge Carlson
“recognize[s] that pro se plaintiffs often
should be afforded an opportunity to amend a complaint before
[it] is dismissed in its entirety . . . unless [it] would be
futile or result in undue delay . . . [i]n this case . . .
Capozzi simply is not entitled to the relief he apparently
seeks, ” which is “an order setting aside a state
court decision in a state unemployment compensation
case.” (Id.). “[S]ince Capozzi is not
entitled to use a federal district court as a state appellate
tribunal . . . granting further leave to amend his complaint
would be futile or result in undue delay.”
(Id.). Judge Carlson thus recommended dismissing
this case without further leave to amend. (Id.).
objections are timely filed to the Report and Recommendation
of a magistrate judge, the district court reviews de
novo those portions of the Report to which objections
are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v.
Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the
standard of review is de novo, the extent of review
is committed to the sound discretion of the district judge,
and the court may rely on the magistrate judge's
recommendations to the extent it deems proper. Rieder v.
Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D. Pa. 2000) (citing
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).
those sections of the Report to which no objection is made,
the court should, as a matter of good practice,
“satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the
face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee
notes. See also Henderson v. Carlson, 812
F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining that judges should
give some review to every Report and Recommendation).
Nonetheless, regardless of whether or not timely objections
are made to the Report, the district court may accept, not
accept, or modify in whole or in part the magistrate
judge's findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3).
Capozzi here proceeds pro se, his pleading is
liberally construed, and his complaint, “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) (citing Estelle v.
Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). The court must accept
all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view
them in the light most favorable to the pro se
plaintiff. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d
224, 228 (3d Cir. 2008). However, the court must dismiss, at
the earliest practicable time, certain in forma
pauperis and prisoner actions that are frivolous or
malicious, that fail to state a claim on which relief can be
granted, or that seek monetary relief from a defendant who is
immune from such relief. See28 U.S.C.
are four requirements that must be met for the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine to apply: (1) the
federal plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the plaintiff
“complain[s] of injuries caused by [the] state court
judgments;” (3) those judgments were rendered before
the federal suit was filed; and (4) the plaintiff is inviting
the district court to review and reject the state
judgments.” Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v.
Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010)
(citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus.
Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)). The first and third
requirements for the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine to apply are clearly satisfied in this case, as
Capozzi lost his appeal in the Pennsylvania court system and
subsequently filed the instant federal suit. (Doc. 1; Doc.
objections to Judge Carlson's Report focus more on the
second and fourth requirements set forth above, as Capozzi
challenges the notion that he is inviting appellate review of
a state court decision. (Doc. 8). Specifically, Capozzi
insists that he “is not appe[a]ling to the United
States District Court, but rather raising his issues to seek
a de novo review of the injuries caused by the
decision-making of the DLI and UCBR.” (Id.).
Capozzi further claims that Judge Carlson's Report
“focuses upon Capozzi's alleged use of the federal
court system [for] . . . appellate review of the state
court's decisions, which is erroneous in nature, as
Capozzi attacks the . . . violations of his constitutional
rights at every stage of the review and determination of the
DLI and UCBR.” (Id.). Capozzi's objections
on this point, however, draw a distinction without a
difference, as de novo review is merely a standard
of appellate review. (Id.). Indeed, the very
injuries that Capozzi articulates in his complaint are those
caused by the denial of his unemployment benefits by the
state court and state administrative agency. (Doc. 1).
Capozzi asserts very clearly under a heading in his complaint
entitled “[r]elief [s]ought” that he wishes for
the court to “grant favorable judgment to plaintiff and
[o]rder the UCBR to reverse [its] decision.”
(Id.). Capozzi thus fulfills the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine's “key
requirements-that the injury must be caused by the state
court judgment and that the plaintiff must invite review and
rejection of that judgment.” Fox Rothschild
LLP, 615 F.3d at 168.
Capozzi objects to Judge Carlson's opinion on the
Eleventh Amendment sovereign immunity issue, citing to
Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976), for the
proposition that “Congress has the plenary power to set
aside [a] state's immunity . . . in order to enforce the
Fourteenth Amendment.” (Doc. 8). While this statement
is quite true in isolation as a general matter of legal
theory, Capozzi has not cited to a single (nor is the court
aware of any) act of Congress that abrogates the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania's sovereign immunity in this specific
instance such that it would allow Capozzi's current suit
against the UCBR to proceed forward. (Id.). A
federal court must “rel[y] on a statutory
mandate” before “treating the state just as any
other litigant.” Hutto v. Finney, 437 U.S.
678, 696 (1978) (citing Fairmont Creamery Co. v.
Minnesota, 275 U.S. 70, 77 (1927)).
when liberally construed, Capozzi's pleadings and his
objections to Judge Carlson's Report present no
sufficient basis for permitting his claims to move forward,
and the court agrees with the sound reasoning that led Judge
Carlson to the conclusions in his Report. Finding no clear
error on the face of the record, the court will adopt the
Report in its entirety, conditionally grant Capozzi's