United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MATT L. LOPER, Plaintiff
COMMUNITY BANK, N.A., Defendant
PARADISE BAXTER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND
RICHARD A. LANZILLO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
hereby recommended that the motion for leave to proceed
in forma pauperis [ECF No. 1] be GRANTED, and the
Clerk be ordered to docket the Complaint.
further recommended that this action be dismissed as legally
frivolous in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e).
Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma
Matt L. Loper (“Plaintiff”), an inmate
incarcerated at the Crawford County Correctional Facility,
initiated this pro se civil rights action by filing
a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. In
his motion, Plaintiff states that he is unable to pay the
filing fee associated with this case. Based upon this
averment, it appears that Plaintiff is without sufficient
funds to pay the costs and fees of the proceedings.
Accordingly, his motion for leave to proceed in forma
pauperis should be granted.
Assessment of Plaintiff's Complaint
been granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis,
Plaintiff is subject to the screening provisions in 28 U.S.C.
§ 1915(e). Among other things, that statute requires
the Court to dismiss any action in which the Court determines
that the action is “frivolous or malicious; fails to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or seeks
monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such
relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2); Muchler v.
Greenwald, 624 Fed.Appx. 794, 796-97 (3d Cir. 2015). A
frivolous complaint is one which is either based upon an
indisputably meritless legal theory (such as when a defendant
enjoys immunity from suit) or based upon factual contentions
which are clearly baseless (such as when the factual scenario
described is fanciful or delusional). Neitzke v.
Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327 (1989). The determination as
to whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which
relief may be granted is governed by the same standard
applicable to motions to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. D'Agostino v. CECOM
RDEC, 436 Fed.Appx. 70, 72 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing
Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir.
instant case, Plaintiff identifies numerous documents as his
“complaint” despite that none of those documents
contain a factual narrative or otherwise comport with the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For example, the document
filed at page 7 of ECF No. 1-2 is labeled both a
“complaint” and a “praecipe for entry of
judgment and certification of notice under Pa. R.C.P.
237.1(a).” ECF No. 1-2 at 7. That document instructs
the clerk to “enter judgment in favor of the Plaintiff,
Matt Lynn Loper, and against Community Bank, N.A.”
Id. The subsequent submission is designated a
“complaint” and an “entry of
judgment” and appears to contain a proposed order
granting judgment against Community Bank in the amount of
“‘Total Ownership,' of Community Bank,
N.A.” with “‘Total Monies,' in the
amount of ‘Total value,' for ‘Full
Amount.'” Id. at 8. Also included are an
untitled, largely incoherent statement addressed to the
prothonotary [ECF No. 1-2 at 3] and a document styled both a
“complaint” and a “notice of entry of
judgment pursuant to Pa R.C.P. 236.” Id. at 4.
By way of relief, Plaintiff asks to be given actual ownership
of Community Bank, as well as unspecified monetary damages.
Id. at 5, 8-9.
of background, the Court takes judicial notice of
Plaintiff's allegations in a related lawsuit, Loper
v. Sheils Law Associates, No. 19-cv-188 (W.D. Pa. 2019),
in which Plaintiff sued the law firm representing Community
Bank in a legal action pending in the Court of Common Pleas
of Beaver County. Sheils, No. 19-cv-188, ECF No.
1-1 ¶ 2-3. A review of the pleadings in that case
indicates that Plaintiff allegedly entered into a
“Retail Installment, and Security Agreement” with
Community Bank on June 12, 2015, and received “a sum
amount of money of $18984.24.” Id.
¶¶ 6-7. On December 2, 2016, Community Bank filed a
complaint against Plaintiff in the Court of Common Pleas of
Beaver County and requested a “bad judgment.”
Id. ¶¶ 8-9. A “praecipe to
discontinue without prejudice” was filed in that action
on June 17, 2019, and granted on June 17, 2019. Id.
¶ 12. Although the remainder of his complaint in that
action is largely incoherent, Plaintiff appears to contend
that the litigation in Beaver County implicated
“Federal question cases relating data” and
violated unspecified federal statutes. Id. ¶
he appears to be seeking monetary damages for an alleged
violation of federal law, the Court will construe
Plaintiff's claims as arising under 42 U.S.C. §
1983. See, e.g., Decker v. Northeast
Revenue Service, 2017 WL 7052234, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Nov.
13, 2017) (construing a claim for monetary damages based on
“a question of federal law” as arising under
Section 1983 despite plaintiff's failure to identify
“what federal or state law” gave rise to his
claim). Section 1983 is not an independent source of
substantive rights, but merely “provides a remedy for
deprivations of rights established elsewhere in the
Constitution or federal laws.” Kopec v. Tate,
361 F.3d 772, 775-76 (3d Cir.2004). To establish liability
under Section 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate: (1) a
deprivation under the Constitution or laws of the United
States, (2) by a person acting under color of state law.
Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d
these principles to the instant case, the Court concludes
that Plaintiff's Section 1983 claims should be summarily
dismissed. Even in the absence of detailed factual
allegations, it is evident from Plaintiff's submissions
that the lone defendant in this action, a private financial
institution, is not amenable to suit under Section 1983.
Gerhart v. Energy Transfer Partners, L.P., 2018 WL
6589586, at *9 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 14, 2018) (“Generally,
private actors do not act under color of state law [and] thus
are not liable under Section 1983.”) (quoting Luck
v. Mount Airy #1, LLC, 901 F.Supp.2d 547, 560 (M.D. Pa.
2012)). Indeed, “the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has
repeatedly found that constitutional claims brought against
banks fail as a matter of law because banks and their
employees do not qualify as state actors.” Swope v.
Nortumberland National Bank, 2014 WL 4716944, at * (M.D.
Pa. Sep. 22, 2014) (collecting cases). See alsoBrookhart v. Rohr, 385 Fed.Appx. 67, 68 (3d Cir.
2010) (dismissing appeal from order that dismissed
allegations of unconstitutional conduct by private parties in
state court foreclosure proceedings because the parties were
not state actors); James v. Heritage Valley Fed. Credit
Union, 197 Fed.Appx. 102, 106 (3d Cir. 2006) (defendant
credit union not a state actor for purposes of section 1983);
and Awala v. Wachovia Corp., 156 Fed.Appx. 527, 528
(3d Cir. 2005) (bank held not to be a state actor merely
because it operates within a regulated industry). Because
Plaintiff has failed to allege any facts from which the Court