United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
se Plaintiff Virgilio Vargas, a prisoner in federal
custody, has filed this Bivensaction against a United
States District Court Judge, three United States Magistrate
Judges, an Assistant United States Attorney and others.
Vargas also seeks leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will
grant leave to proceed in forma pauper is, dismiss
the claims against the judicial officers and the AUSA with
prejudice pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) for
failure to state a claim, and dismiss the claims against the
remaining Defendants without prejudice.
alleges that the criminal charges for which he received his
custodial sentence, see United States v. Vargas,
ll-CR-366 (E.D. Pa.), are void because the indictment
presented by the Government was invalid. He seeks unspecified
injunctive relief, a judicial inquiry, the "right to
assert his constitutional rights to pursue justice," and
a declaratory judgment "for acts and omissions described
herein." (ECF No. 1 at 3.)
review of public records shows that Vargas appeared before
United States Magistrate Judge M. Faith Angell for a
preliminary hearing on February 22, 2011, and for a pretrial
detention hearing before Magistrate Judge Timothy R. Rice on
February 23, 2011 (see 11-MJ-228-1, ECF Nos. 2, 4).
Magistrate Judge David R. Strawbridge entered an order on May
18, 2011 setting forth a time in which an indictment or
information must be filed in Vargas's action, and
Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski entered a similar order on
June 16, 2011 (see id., ECF Nos. 11, 12). Vargas
entered a plea of guilty before United States District Judge
Mitchell S. Goldberg on February 7, 2012, to a charge of
attempted possession with intent to distribute cocaine. He
was originally sentenced to a term of 262 months
incarceration (see ll-CR-366, ECF No. 47), but the
sentence was later reduced to 200 months incarceration to be
followed by an eight year term of supervised release.
(Id., ECF No. 75). Defendant Jessica Natali was the
Assistant United States Attorney assigned to the case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Vargas appears to be unable to pay the filing fee for this
matter, the Court grants him leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, requiring the Court to dismiss the
Complaint if it fails to state a claim. 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 allegations do not
suffice. Id. As Vargas is proceeding pro
se, the Court construes his allegations liberally.
Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir.
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).
the persons Vargas has named as Defendants in this case are
Judges Goldberg, Sitarski, Rice, Angell and Strawbridge.
Judges are entitled to absolute immunity from civil rights
claims that are based on acts or omissions taken in their
judicial capacity, so long as they do not act in the complete
absence of all jurisdiction. See Stump v. Sparkman,
435 U.S. 349, 355-56 (1978); Harvey v. Loftus, 505
Fed.Appx. 87, 90 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam); Azubuko v.
Royal, AA3 F.3d 302, 303-04 (3d Cir. 2006) (per curiam).
An act is taken in a judge's judicial capacity if it is
"a function normally performed by a judge."
Gallas v. Supreme Ct. of Pa., 211 F.3d 760, 768 (3d
Cir. 2000). Moreover, "[g]enerally ... 'where a
court has some subject matter jurisdiction, there is
sufficient jurisdiction for immunity purposes.'"
Figueroa v. Blackburn, 208 F.3d 435, 443-44 (3d Cir.
2000) (quoting Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111,
1122 (6th Cir. 1997)). As the docket establishes that each of
these Judges were acting within their judicial capacity and
within their jurisdiction, they are absolutely immune.
Vargas's claims against them, accordingly, are not
plausible and will be dismissed pursuant to §
named as a Defendant is AUSA Jessica Natali. Prosecutors are
also entitled to absolute immunity from liability if they are
sued for acts that are "intimately associated with the
judicial phase of the criminal process" such as
"initiating a prosecution and ... presenting the
State's case." Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S.
409, 430-31 (1976). Since Vargas's claim against Natali
derives from the initiation of the prosecution against him,
Natali is entitled to absolute immunity.
also names as Defendants Brian B. Piskal and Sandra L. Shaw.
However, other than listing their names in the caption, they
are not mentioned by Vargas anywhere else in his Complaint.
The claims against Piskal and Shaw will, accordingly, be
dismissed without prejudice for failure to comply with Rule
8's requirement that Vargas present a short plain
statement of his claim sufficient to show he is entitled to
relief, to give the Defendants sufficient notice to prepare
their defense, and to ensure that the Court is sufficiently
informed to determine the issue. Because the Court cannot say
at this juncture that Vargas's claims against Piskal and
Shaw are futile, he will be granted leave to file an amended
complaint within thirty (30) days.
appropriate Order ...