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Davis v. The City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 27, 2019

KIETH DAVIS, Plaintiff,
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.


          JEFFREY L. SCHMEHL, J.

         Plaintiff Keith Davis initiated this civil action by filing a Complaint against the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, the “Third Circuit Court all Districts, ” the “Clerks of U.S. Courts and State Courts, ” various state courts, municipal employees/entities and attorneys, and the Washington Post.[1] Although he did not name them in the caption, he also appeared to be bringing claims against several current and former federal judges, and clerical officers for various state and federal courts. In a July 23, 2019 Memorandum and Order, the Court granted Davis leave to proceed in forma pauperis, dismissed his Complaint without prejudice, and gave him an opportunity to file an amended complaint. (ECF Nos. 3 & 4.)

         Davis responded by filing a document titled “The Order and Memorandum of Law of July 23, 2019, by the U.S. Third Circuit Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl, is Void.” (ECF No. 5.) The document appears to be drafted as a hybrid motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4) and an amended complaint. So construed, the Court will deny the motion and dismiss the Amended Complaint. Davis will be given one more opportunity to amend.


         In construing Davis's initial Complaint, the Court understood Davis to be alleging that state prosecutors, state courts, state and federal judges, public defenders and others have generally conspired to rig the judicial system against African Americans. Many of Davis's allegations were pled in general and conclusory terms. However, it appeared that the impetus for this lawsuit was his June 1, 2018 arrest, his related prosecution and imprisonment, and a related habeas petition that he filed in this Court. (See Compl. at 9.)[2]

         Davis alleged that on that date he was arrested by officers of the Philadelphia Police Department, charged with various felonies, including attempted murder, and incarcerated at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center (“PICC”). Davis claimed that while incarcerated at PICC he was unconstitutionally punished and denied medical care for various ailments including an “old gunshot wound to the chest, dysentery, and [a] broken tooth.” (Id.) Davis filed motions in state court and a habeas petition in federal court, which was dismissed without prejudice by the Honorable Gerald J. Pappert because Davis failed to pay the fee, failed to file the application on the proper form, and failed to exhaust state remedies. See Davis v. Phila. Dep't of Prisons Warden, Civ. A. No. 18-3033 (E.D. Pa.) (ECF No. 4). Davis also notes that Judge Pappert denied a prior habeas petition that he filed challenging pretrial detention in connection with a 2014 arrest. See Davis v. Ct. of Common Pleas, Civ. A. No. 15-5113 (E.D. Pa.).

         In his initial Complaint, Davis alleged that certain Defendants “fabricate[d] lies” to maintain the charges against him, and that the public defenders conspired with others to keep him in jail. (Id. at 10.) The charges against Davis were dismissed on September 11, 2018 and he was released. Davis also referred to other criminal prosecutions initiated against him and alleged failures in those prosecutions and the prosecutions of third parties. He generally referred to litigation in the state and federal courts and suggested that the courts have been rigged against him.

         The Complaint reflected Davis's intention to bring claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 1985(3), § 1986, and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”). He presumably brought claims against the federal actors pursuant to Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388 (1971). Davis sought assorted declaratory relief, an “independent tribunal” to assess his claims, and millions of dollars in damages. (Compl. at 19.)

         As noted above, the Court granted Davis leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed his Complaint. The Court first dismissed Davis's § 1985(3) claims because Davis failed to plausibly allege a race-based conspiracy, which was also fatal to his § 1986 claims. Next, the Court explained that Davis's § 1983 claims against the state courts and their parole departments were barred by Eleventh Amendment immunity, his claims against the state judges were barred by absolute judicial immunity, and his claims against the prosecutors who prosecuted him were barred by absolute prosecutorial immunity. The Court then dismissed Davis's § 1983 claims against his public defenders because those individuals are not state actors, and dismissed his municipal liability claims because he failed to adequately allege a policy or custom that caused the violation of his rights. The Court also concluded that Davis failed to allege a clear factual basis to support his claims against state court employees, the Philadelphia Police Department, or Commissioner Richard Ross.

         The Court recognized that Davis intended to bring § 1983 claims based on the conditions at PICC. However, he failed to allege how “Superintendent, Philadelphia County Jail, PICC, ” was involved in any of the alleged violations of his rights or how any other Defendant was so responsible. Turning to Davis's Bivens claims, the Court explained that the federal courts are immune from such claims and that the federal judges identified in the Complaint were entitled to absolute judicial immunity. The Court also observed that Davis had failed to allege a plausible basis for his claims against any federal employees and noted the possibility that quasi-judicial immunity applied. As for Davis's inclusion of the Washington Post as a Defendant, the Court explained that the newspaper's failure to publish stories related to Davis's allegations did not support a basis for a lawsuit. Finally, the Court rejected Davis's RICO claims. The Court also rejected Davis's request to assign another judge to preside over this matter.

         The Court gave Davis leave to file an amended complaint after noting that it was possible he could cure some of the defects in his claims, “particularly with regard to the conditions of his confinement or the prosecution that ended in his acquittal.” (ECF No. 3 at 13.) As noted above, Davis responded by filing a document titled “The Order and Memorandum of Law of July 23, 2019, by the U.S. Third Circuit Judge Jeffrey L. Schmehl, is Void.” (ECF No. 5.)


         In his filing, Davis essentially claims that the Court's July 23, 2019 Memorandum and Order are void under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b)(4). That rule, which applies to final judgments, is inapplicable here because Davis was given leave to amend an no final judgment has been issued. See State Nat'l Ins. Co. v. Cty. of Camden, 824 F.3d 399, 406 (3d Cir. 2016) (explaining that Rule 60(b) only applies to final judgments); Ahmed v. Dragovich, 297 F.3d 201, 207 (3d Cir. 2002) (“Ordinarily, an order dismissing a complaint without prejudice is not a final order as long as the plaintiff may cure the deficiency and refile the complaint.”). To the extent the filing can be considered a motion for reconsideration, it is untimely. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e) (requiring motions under Rule 59(e) to be filed “no later than 28 days after the entry of the judgment”); E.D. Pa. L.R. 7.1(e) (motions for reconsideration must be filed within fourteen days of entry of the order other than those covered by Rule 59(e)). In any event, even if the motion was timely, Davis has not set forth a legitimate basis for relief. Rather, his filing is comprised of many of the same allegations in his initial Complaint and attacks on the undersigned, none of which reflect a legal error or a basis for a claim.[3]

         III. ...

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