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Diaz v. Curcillo

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 17, 2019

ERIC DIAZ, Plaintiff
v.
DEBORAH E. CURCILLO, et al., Defendants

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

          William I. Arbuckle United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On April 29, 2019, Eric Diaz (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, brought suit against Dauphin County, Dauphin County District Attorney's Office, Dauphin County Adult Probation/Parole Department, Dauphin County Work Release Center, Dauphin County District Attorney's Office Criminal Investigation Division, Dauphin County Information Technology Department, Judge Deborah E. Curcillo, Judge Edward M. Marsico, Jr., and employees/officers from these offices. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff alleged violations of his constitutional rights and sought compensatory damages and equitable relief. Id.

         Defendants subsequently moved to dismiss that complaint. (Doc. 16). Following the filing of this motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. 18). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff named the same defendants, seeking compensatory damages and equitable relief. (Doc. 16). In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges violations of his constitutional rights because Judge Curcillo's imposed sentence is illegal.

         Plaintiff filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 2), and on July 23, 2019, it was granted (Doc. 12).

         Because he is proceeding in forma pauperis, Plaintiff is subject to the screening provisions in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e). See Atamian v. Burns, 236 Fed.Appx. 753, 755 (3d Cir. 2007) (“the screening procedures set forth in 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e) apply to in forma pauperis complaints filed by prisoners and non-prisoners alike”). Under this statute, the Court is required to dismiss any action that is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B). See Collins v. Cundy, 603 F.2d 825, 828 (10th Cir. 1979) (“[T]here is no constitutional right to the expenditure of public funds and the valuable time of federal courts to prosecute an action which is totally without merit.”).

         After reviewing Plaintiff's Complaint, I conclude that it fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and that granting further leave to amend would be both futile and inequitable because Plaintiff has not obtained a favorable termination of his conviction or sentence at this time. Accordingly, IT IS RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Amended Complaint (Doc. 18) be DISMISSED without further leave to amend.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR SCREENING COMPLAINTS FILED BY LITIGANTS PROCEEDING IN FORMA PAUPERIS

         This Court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary review of pro se complaints brought by litigants given leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Specifically, the Court is obliged to review the complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2), which provides, in pertinent part:

         (2) Notwithstanding any filing fee, or any portion thereof, that may have been paid, the court shall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that -

(A) the allegation of poverty is untrue; or
(B) the action or appeal--
(i) is frivolous or malicious;
(ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or
(iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief.

         In performing this mandatory screening function, the Court applies the same standard that is used to evaluate motions to dismiss under 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. 12(b)(6). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has observed the evolving standards governing pleading practice in the federal courts, stating that “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 Cir. 2009). “[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief.” Id. at 211. It also “has to ‘show' such an entitlement with its facts.” Id.

         To test the sufficiency of the complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), the court must conduct the following three-step inquiry:

First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947. Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Id. at 1950. Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.” Id.

Santiago v. Warminster Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010).

         A complaint filed by a pro se litigant is to be liberally construed and ‘“however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Erickson v. Pardus,551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (quoting Estelle v. Gamble,429 U.S. 97, 106 (1976)). Nevertheless, “pro se litigants still must allege sufficient facts in their complaints to support a claim.” Mala v. Crown Bay Marina, Inc., 704 F.3d 239, 245 (3d Cir. 2013). Thus, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, a pro se complaint must recite factual allegations that are ...


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