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Talley v. Mazzocca

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 5, 2019

QUINTEZ TALLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
TIMOTHY MAZZOCCA, et al, Defendants.

          Nora Barry Fischer United States District Judge

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          CYNTHIA REED EDDY CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         I. Recommendation

         Upon review of the Complaint, and pursuant to the screening requirements for litigants proceeding in forma pauperis, the Court recommends sua sponte dismissal of the Complaint before service as such claims are frivolous and fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. It is further recommended that leave to amend be denied as it would be futile for Plaintiff to amend his claims.

         II. Report

         A. Background

         The facts that form the basis of the instant case arise from Defendants filing a motion seeking to revoke Talley's in forma pauperis status in Talley v. Pillai, Civil Action No. 18-cv-1060.[1] In that case, Defendants sought to revoke Talley's authorization to proceed in forma pauperis on the grounds that Talley's alleged indigency was a result of his abusive litigiousness. Defendants argued that Talley had received a payment of $15, 000.00 in joint settlement of two of his Middle District of Pennsylvania lawsuits and that within 18 months he had spent it all, approximately 1/3 of it on his multiple civil litigation cases, and most of the rest on discretionary personal spending. Defendants attached a copy of Talley's DOC monthly account statements to support their argument.

         The gist of the instant lawsuit is that in seeking to revoke Talley's IFP status, Defendants inappropriately (i) disclosed the terms of a confidential settlement agreement Talley entered into in 2016 and (ii) obtained and disclosed Talley's inmate account statements without his approval.

         Talley alleges that Defendants' conduct amounts to “robbery/ extortion / and taking” of his “property . . . with both the malicious and sadistic intention of converting [his] property for their personal use and defaming Plaintiff's character in both the eyes of the Court and the general public while gaining for both themselves and their enterprises a fraudulently obtained advantage in defending themselves against Plaintiff's claims!” Complaint at ¶ 19.

         Plaintiff alleges that Defendants' conduct violates the “Racketeer[] Influenced Corrupt Organization[s] (RICO) Act, ” the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and a number of state common laws. He seeks as relief the following: (1) an injunction striking Defendants' Motion to Revoke In Forma Pauperis status; (2) a declaration declaring his rights under the settlement agreement entered in the Middle District of Pennsylvania; (3) compensatory damages, comprised of $250, 000.00 for violation of the RICO act; $75, 000.00 for each claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983; and $20, 00000 for each state tort claim; (4) punitive damages, comprised of $125, 000.00 for each claim brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1983 and $20, 000.00 for each state tort claim; and (5) any additional relief the Court or jury deems just, equitable, or proper.

         Named in the complaint are twenty-four defendants: The Department of Corrections (“DOC”) and eighteen officers or employees of the DOC (collectively referred to as the “Commonwealth Defendants”); The Attorney General's Office, Josh Shapiro, the Attorney General; Timothy Mazzocca, Deputy Attorney General; Keli M. Neary, Chief Deputy Attorney General, and Dr. Pillai, a DOC psychiatrist. Service of process has not yet been made on defendants.

         B. Applicable Legal Principles

         This Court has a statutory responsibility to review complaints filed by prisoners and by those who have been granted in forma pauperis to determine if the complaint states a valid claim for relief. The Court is required to identify cognizable claims and to sua sponte dismiss any claim that is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e)(2)(B) and 1915A.

         Moreover, not only is a court permitted to sua sponte dismiss a complaint which fails to state a claim, but it is required to do so by the mandatory language of “the court shall dismiss” utilized by § 1915(e)(2). In performing a court's mandated function of sua sponte reviewing complaints under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A to determine if they fail to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, a federal district court applies the same standard as applied to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See, e.g., Powell v. Hoover, 956 F.Supp. 565, 568 (M.D. Pa. 1997) (applying Rule 12(b)(6) standard to claim dismissed under 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii)).

         In reviewing complaints as mandated by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) and § 1915A and, consequently, utilizing the standards for a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the complaint must be read in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all well-pleaded, material allegations of fact in the complaint must be taken as true. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). Because Plaintiff is pro se, the court will accord him an even more liberal reading of the complaint, employing less stringent standards than when judging the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).

         The question to be resolved is: whether, taking the factual allegations of the complaint, which are not contradicted by exhibits and matters of which judicial notice may be had, and taking all reasonable inferences to be drawn from those contradicted factual allegations of the complaint, are the “factual allegations . . . enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level, . . . on the assumption that all the allegations in the complaint are true even if doubtful in fact[.]” Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Or put another way, a complaint may be dismissed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if it does not plead “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Id. at 570. Dismissal is proper under Rule 12(b)(6), and hence, under the PLRA screening provisions, where the court determines that the contradicted facts alleged, taken as true and viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, fail to state a claim as a matter of law. See., e.g., Gould Electronics, Inc. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

         C. Discussion

         1. Claims Under the Racketeer Influenced and ...


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