United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
C. Carlson United States Magistrate Judge
case comes before us for a screening review. The plaintiff,
Joseph Petrick, recites that he was convicted in the Court of
Common Pleas of Lackawanna County on state criminal charges,
and is currently actively pursuing an appeal of this
conviction to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. (Doc. 1,
¶¶ 3, 33.) In this pro se complaint,
Petrick names the presiding judge in his state criminal
trial, the district attorney and assistant district attorney
who prosecuted this case, and various investigating police
officers as defendants. (Id.) He then alleges that
the defendants maliciously prosecuted him, engaged in
prosecutorial misconduct and denied him due process. As
relief for these alleged civil rights violations, Petrick
urges us to set aside and overturn his state criminal
conviction based upon due process violations, the denial of
Petrick's right to a fair trial, and prosecutorial
has not submitted the filing fee required by law and thus is
apparently seeking leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. We will conditionally GRANT Petrick leave to
proceed in this fashion, direct the clerk to file the lodged
complaint for screening purposes only, but for the reasons
set forth below we recommend that the complaint be dismissed.
Screening of Pro Se Complaints-Standard of
court has an on-going statutory obligation to conduct a
preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by
plaintiffs given leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
See 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii).
Specifically, we are obliged to review the complaint to
determine whether any claims are frivolous, malicious, or
fail to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. This
statutory text mirrors the language of Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that a
complaint should be dismissed for “failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
respect to this benchmark standard for legal sufficiency of a
complaint, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third
Circuit has aptly noted the evolving standards governing
pleading practice in federal court, stating that:
Standards of pleading have been in the forefront of
jurisprudence in recent years. Beginning with the Supreme
Court's opinion in Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007) continuing with our opinion
in Phillips [v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224,
230 (3d Cir. 2008)] and culminating recently with the Supreme
Court's decision in Ashcroft v. Iqbal 556 U.S.
662, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009) pleading standards have seemingly
shifted from simple notice pleading to a more heightened form
of pleading, requiring a plaintiff to plead more than the
possibility of relief to survive a motion to dismiss.
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside
578 F.3d 203
considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted, the court must accept as true
all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable
inferences that can be drawn therefrom are to be construed in
the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox
Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d
1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). However, a court “need not
credit a complaint's bald assertions or legal conclusions
when deciding a motion to dismiss.” Morse v. Lower
Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
Additionally a court need not “assume that a
... plaintiff can prove facts that the ...
plaintiff has not alleged.” Associated Gen.
Contractors of Cal. v. California State Council of
Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983). As the Supreme
Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550
U.S. 544 (2007), in order to state a valid cause of action a
plaintiff must provide some factual grounds for relief which
“requires more than labels and conclusions, and a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of actions
will not do.” Id. at 555. “Factual
allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above
the speculative level.” Id.
keeping with the principles of Twombly, the Supreme
Court has underscored that a trial court must assess whether
a complaint states facts upon which relief can be granted
when ruling on a motion to dismiss. In Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009), the Supreme Court held that,
when considering a motion to dismiss, “[t]hreadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Id. at 678. Rather, in conducting a review of the
adequacy of complaint, the Supreme Court has advised trial
courts that they must:
[B]egin by identifying pleadings that because they are no
more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of
truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a
complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations.
When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court
should assume their veracity and then determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.
Id. at 679.
following Twombly and Iqbal a well-pleaded
complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and
conclusions. Rather, a complaint must recite factual
allegations sufficient to raise the plaintiff's claimed
right to relief beyond the level of mere speculation. As the
Third Circuit has stated:
[A]fter Iqbal, when presented with a motion to
dismiss for failure to state a claim, district courts should
conduct a two-part analysis. First, the factual and legal
elements of a claim should be separated. The District Court
must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as
true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a
District Court must then determine whether the facts alleged
in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff
has a “plausible claim for relief.” In other
words, a complaint must do more than allege the
plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to
“show” such an entitlement with its facts.
Fowler, 578 F.3d at 210-11.
years after Fowler, the Third Circuit further
The Supreme Court in Twombly set forth the
“plausibility” standard for overcoming a motion
to dismiss and refined this approach in Iqbal. The
plausibility standard requires the complaint to allege
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face.” Twombly, 550 U.S. at
570, 127 S.Ct. 1955. A complaint satisfies the plausibility
standard when the factual pleadings “allow[ ] the court
to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable
for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct.
at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct.
1955). This standard requires showing “more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. A complaint which pleads
facts “merely consistent with” a ...