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Caterbone v. Lancaster City Bureau of Police

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 24, 2018




         Plaintiff Stanley J. Caterbone, a frequent pro se litigant in this Court, [1] filed this apparent civil rights action against 294 defendants, including various federal, state, and local authorities, based primarily on allegations that the government has been reading and controlling his mind for three decades. He titles his filing as a “Preliminary Injunction for Emergency Relief” (ECF No. 2), which the Court construes as his Complaint. He has also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (ECF No. 1.) On July 21, 2018, Caterbone filed an “Amended Preliminary Injunction for Emergency Relief” (ECF No. 4), which the Court construes to be an Amended Complaint. For the following reasons, the Court will grant Caterbone leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his Complaint and Amended Complaint.

         I. FACTS

         As noted above, Caterbone has brought suit against 294 defendants, including various federal, state, and local authorities, as well as various individuals and businesses within the Lancaster area. Caterbone's Complaint is voluminous and rambling, totaling 117 pages, including exhibits. The Amended Complaint consists of 49 pages. The Complaint and Amended Complaint contain allegations regarding CIA and FBI programs dating back to the 1940s as well as events in Caterbone's life for the past 31 years. The Complaint and Amended Complaint recount Caterbone's arrests and criminal prosecutions in Lancaster County and Stone Harbor, New Jersey, in 1987, 2005, and from 2006 to 2017. It is not clear how all of Caterbone's allegations relate to each other or give rise to claims against the numerous Defendants, and the Court will not recount all of them here.

         To the extent any harmonizing theme can be gleaned from the Complaint and Amended Complaint, Caterbone appears to be alleging that federal, state, and local governments are conspiring against him, attacking him, torturing him, and threatening his life and property, thereby violating various federal criminal and civil rights laws. He further contends that the Lancaster community has participated in the conspiracy against him. The basis for these allegations is Caterbone's contention that, since 1987, he has been a victim of “organized stalking and/or electronic and mind manipulation torture” because of his alleged whistleblowing activities against an international defense contractor. Among other things, Caterbone claims that government authorities are “[b]lanketing [his] dwelling and surroundings with electromagnetic energy [and] [b]ombarding [his] body with debilitating electronic and mind manipulation effects.” These attacks have apparently caused Caterbone to develop telepathy. Caterbone also mentions that he has been deprived of sleep, had toxic chemicals introduced into his home, and has been stalked and mobbed en masse.

         It appears that Caterbone reported the government's mind manipulation activity, as well as all of the other incidents he claims have happened, including perceived personal and business slights, to authorities, but that his concerns were not addressed. Caterbone's Complaint and Amended Complaint also vaguely mention that he has been repeatedly involuntarily committed over the years, most recently in 2016. He also mentions various incidents of false imprisonment, with the most recent incident occurring from November 21 through December 22, 2017, for a stalking charge.[2]


         The Court will grant Caterbone leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) require the Court to dismiss the Complaint and Amended Complaint if they are frivolous or fails to state a claim. A 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).

         Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to 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). Conclusory statements and naked assertions will not suffice. Id. As Caterbone is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         Moreover, Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a complaint to contain “a short a plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” A district court may sua sponte dismiss a complaint that does not comply with Rule 8 if “the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised.” Simmons v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86 (2d Cir. 1995) (quotations omitted). This Court has noted that Rule 8 “requires that pleadings provide enough information to put a defendant on sufficient notice to prepare their defense and also ensure that the Court is sufficiently informed to determine the issue.” Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. Ctr., No. Civ. A. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017) (quotations omitted).


         Caterbone's claims fail for many of the reasons his previous lawsuits have not succeeded. Primarily, Caterbone's claims fail because they are factually frivolous. The general theme of Caterbone's numerous voluminous filings is that he has been the victim of telepathic intrusions, government sabotage, and harassment for approximately three decades because he acted as a whistleblower and filed various lawsuits. It appears that Caterbone has linked every adverse event in his life-arrests and involuntary commitments, medical and mental health issues, computer problems, and minor incidents of daily life-to that alleged conspiracy. His allegations appear to be based on paranoia, delusions of grandeur, irrational thoughts, and/or fantastic scenarios that courts have consistently found to lack an arguable basis in fact.[3] Accordingly, the Court will dismiss the Complaint and Amended Complaint as factually frivolous.

         Second, the Complaint and Amended Complaint, like many of Caterbone's previous filings, fail to comply with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Among other things, the Complaint contains details about Caterbone's personal and family life, explanations of various government programs, and cites to numerous articles and statutes whose relevance is often unclear. “It is so excessively voluminous and unfocused as to be unintelligible” and “[leaves] the defendants having to guess what of the many things discussed” forms the basis for the claims against them. Binsack v. Lackawanna Cty. Prison, 438 Fed.Appx. 158, 160 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam). For that reason as well, the Complaint is subject to dismissal.

         Third, to the extent the Complaint and Amended Complaint can be construed as raising claims under criminal statutes, those claims fail. Criminal statutes do not generally provide a basis for a litigant's civil claims, and this Court lacks the authority to initiate criminal proceedings. See Cent. Bank of Dover, N.A. v. First Interstate Bank of Denver, N.A., 511 U.S. 164, 190 (1994) (“We have been quite reluctant to infer a private right of action from a criminal prohibition alone[.]”); Godfrey v. Pennsylvania, 525 Fed.Appx. 78, 80 n.1 (3d Cir. 2013) (per curiam) (“[T]here is no federal right to require the government to initiate criminal proceedings.”); Mikhail v. Kahn, 991 F.Supp.2d 596, 636 (E.D. Pa. 2014) (“[I]t is today beyond all reasonable doubt that the prosecution of violations of federal criminal law in federal court is a function of the federal government, not private parties, and federal courts lack the power to direct the filing of criminal charges[.]” (citations, quotations, and alteration omitted)), aff'd, 572 Fed.Appx. 68 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam). In any event, Caterbone “lacks a judicially cognizable interest in the prosecution or nonprosecution of another, ” and has no right to a ...

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