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,
Jonathan Ally, is a prodigious, but prodigiously unsuccessful
pro se litigant. See Ally v. Benjamin,
Civil No. 3:19-356; Ally v. Chipotle Mexican Grill,
No. 1:18-CV-2342, 2019 WL 2501325, at *1 (M.D. Pa. June 17,
2019). In the instant case, Ally sues the Pennsylvania Human
Relations Commission (PHRC), and Shippensburg University,
alleging discrimination and obstruction of justice arising
out of academic probation experienced by Ally at the
university in 2015, after it was determined by university
officials that Ally needed to undergo 6 months of mental
health counseling. Ally alleges that this academic probation
was inappropriate, and further contends that the PHRC
violated his rights by failing to adequately investigate his
complaints against the university. Ally then seeks $10, 000,
000, 000 in damages from the PHRC and $10, 000, 000 in
damages from Shippensburg University.
with his complaint, Ally is seeking leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. (Doc. 2.) We will conditionally GRANT
Ally 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, 209-10 (3d
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 ...