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Rose v. Dopkin

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

August 27, 2019

JIMI ROSE, Plaintiff,
v.
MIKE DOPKIN, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          JEFFREY L. SCHMEHL, JUDGE

         Currently before the Court is an Amended Complaint filed by Plaintiff Jimi Rose, who is representing himself (proceeding pro se) against three employees of the CareerLink Office in Allentown, Pennsylvania.[1] For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss Rose's claims with the exception of his First Amendment claims against Defendants Mike Dopkin and Nancy Dischinat.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISOTRY

         The events giving rise to Rose's claims occurred in March of 2019, when he visited the CareerLink office in Allentown. The gist of Rose's initial Complaint was that Defendant Janet, an employee at the office, reported that Rose, who is black, made a threat against the security guard. As a result, Defendant Dopkin, after speaking with his supervisor, Defendant Dischinat, barred Rose from all CareerLink offices in Allentown and Bethlehem. Accordingly, Rose filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981, § 1983, § 1985 and § 1986, claiming that he was subjected to race discrimination, that his right to travel was infringed, and that even if he had made the threat, the Defendants reaction violated the First Amendment. He also included the Department of Labor & Industry, Equal Opportunity Office as a Defendant.

         In a July 29, 2019 Memorandum and Order, the Court granted Rose leave to proceed in forma pauperis and dismissed most of his claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). First, the Court dismissed any § 1981 claims because that statute does not provide a right of action against a state actor. Second, the Court dismissed Rose's § 1983 claims against the Department of Labor & Industry, Equal Opportunity Office and the individual Defendants in their official capacities because those claims are barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Third, the Court rejected Rose's right to travel claims because Rose did not allege that he was discriminated against as an interstate traveler or based on his residency in a given state. Fourth, the Court dismissed Rose's equal protection claims because, leaving his conclusory allegations and characterizations aside, he failed to allege that he was treated differently from others similarly situated based on his race. The Court also concluded that Rose failed to state a claim under § 1985(3) because he failed to state a race-based conspiracy and that the absence of a plausible § 1985(3) claim was fatal to his § 1986 claim. Although the Court permitted Rose to proceed on his First Amendment claims against Dopkin and Dischinat based on their expulsion of Rose from CareerLink offices, Rose was also given leave to file an amended complaint.

         Rose returned with an Amended Complaint against Janet, Dopkin, and Dischinat, raising claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, § 1985 and § 1986. Rose alleges that on the occasion in question, he overheard two boys joking about harming the security guard and that he passed that information along to Janet. Rose alleges that Janet “made a Judgement Call which painted [him], an Elderly Black Man, in the worst light possible given the situation” and “fabricated a story” by telling Dopkin that Rose intended to harm her or the security guard. (Am. Compl., ECF No. 13, at 2.)[2] Dopkin then reported the information to Dischinat. Rose alleges that Dopkin and Dischinat essentially conspired to believe Janet, a white woman, over his version of events, and permanently expelled him from CareerLink offices on that basis. Based on those allegations, Rose seeks damages from the Defendants for allegedly violating his civil rights.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         As Rose is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) apply, which require the Court to dismiss the Amended Complaint if it is frivolous or fails to state a claim. A Complaint is frivolous if it “lacks an arguable basis either in law or in fact, ” Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989), and is legally baseless if it is “based on an indisputably meritless legal theory.” Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995).

         To survive dismissal, a complaint “must contain 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). Although the Court must take the Complaint's factual allegations as true, it must also “disregard legal conclusions and ‘recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements.'” Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). “A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678. As Rose is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Section 1983 Claims

          “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss Rose's § 1983 claims with the exception of his First Amendment claims against Dopkin and Dischinat.

         1. Official Capacity Claims

         As noted in the Court's prior opinion, the Eleventh Amendment bars suits against a state and its agencies in federal court. See Pennhurst State Sch. And Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 99-100 (1984); A.W. v. Jersey City Public Schs., 341 F.3d 234, 238 (3d Cir. 2003). Suits against state officials acting in their official capacities are really suits against the employing government agency, and as such, are also barred by the Eleventh Amendment.[3]A.W., 341 F.3d at 238; see also Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 25 (1991). Accordingly, the Court will dismiss Rose's damages claims against the Defendants ...


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