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Gyetvai v. Moran

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 27, 2019

LARRY MORAN, et al., Defendants.

          Schwab Magistrate Judge




         Presently before the Court is a Report and Recommendation ("R&R") (Doc. 9) by Magistrate Judge Susan Schwab issued subsequent to the required screening of Jozsef Gyetvai's Civil Complaint (Doc. 1) pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. Magistrate Judge Schwab recommends that Mr. Gyetvai's complaint be dismissed and the case file be closed for the following reasons: he improperly seeks release from custody in this civil rights action; he failed to state a Sixth Amendment claim upon which relief can be granted based on the factual averments contained in the complaint; and, even if he properly pled a Sixth Amendment claim based on the right to counsel, the claim would be barred by the favorable termination rule of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). (Doc. 9 at 6-13).

         Mr. Gyetvai also filed three motions to amend his complaint (Docs. 12, 15, 16) after Magistrate Judge Schwab issued the R&R under consideration. Because these motions are impacted by the analysis contained in the R&R and the Court's decision to adopt it, the Court will also address the pending motions to amend.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Report and Recommendation

         In response to the R&R, Mr. Gyetvai filed a document titled "Motion: Objection to the Report and Recommendation and Leave for Appeal" (Doc. 11). The Court construes this document as a timely-filed response to the R&R.

         A District Court may "designate a magistrate judge to conduct hearings, including evidentiary hearings, and to submit to a judge of the court proposed findings of fact and recommendations for the disposition" of certain matters pending before the Court. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). If a party timely and properly files a written objection to a Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the District Court "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Id. at § 636(b)(1)(C); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3); M.D. Pa. Local Rule 72.3; Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). The de novo standard applies only to objections which are both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). "If a party does not object timely to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the party may lose its right to de novo review by the district court." EEOC v. City of Long Branch, 866 F.3d 93, 99-100 (3d Cir. 2017). However, "because a district court must take some action for a report and recommendation to become a final order and because the authority and the responsibility to make an informed, final determination remains with the judge, even absent objections to the report and recommendation, a district court should afford some level of review to dispositive legal issues raised by the report." Id. at 100 (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has described the appropriate level of review as "'reasoned consideration."' Id. (quoting Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987)).

         The Court concludes that Mr. Gyetvai's objections lack the specificity required by Goney, 749 F.2d at 6-7, and therefore, the Court will conduct the required "reasoned consideration" review. Before doing so, the Court notes that, without reference to findings made or facts set out in the R&R, Mr. Gyetvai's filing consists of thirty-eight numbered paragraphs asserting alleged facts or legal conclusions regarding his arrest, conviction, and sentence.

         Magistrate Judge Schwab correctly concludes that Mr. Gyetvai's request for release from custody is properly raised in a habeas corpus action. (Doc. 9 at 6-7.) As succinctly set out in Forrest v. Sauers, Civ. A. No. 3:13-CV-0067, 2013 WL 3097569 (M.D. Pa. June 18, 2018),

Federal law provides two main avenues of relief to incarcerated persons: a petition for habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254, and a civil rights complaint, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Muhammad v. Close, 540 U.S. 749, 750, 124 S.Ct. 1303, 1304, 158 L.Ed.2d 32 (2004) (per curiam). "Although both § 1983 and habeas corpus allow prisoners to challenge unconstitutional conduct by state officers, the two are not coextensive either in purpose or effect." Learner v. Fauver, 288 F.3d 532, 540 (3d Cir.2002). "Challenges to the validity of any confinement or to particulars affecting its duration are the province of habeas corpus, Preiser v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 475, 500, 93 S.Ct. 1827, 36 L.Ed.2d 439 (1973); requests for relief turning on circumstances of confinement may be presented in a § 1983 action." Muhammad, 540 U.S. at 750, 124 S.Ct. at 1304. "[W]hen the challenge is to a condition of confinement such that a finding in plaintiffs favor would not alter his sentence or undo his conviction, an action under § 1983 is appropriate." Learner, 288 F.3d at 542. In sum, federal habeas relief is unavailable unless the petition attacks "the validity of the continued conviction or the fact or length of the sentence." Learner, 288 F.3d 540.

Forrest, 2013 WL 3097569, at *2. Though Mr. Gyetvai's initial pleading is a form Civil Complaint on which he identified 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as the provision the complaint was to be filed under (Doc. 1 at 1), the filing contains vaguely articulated allegations related to the validity of his conviction and the fact or length of his sentence, including the following: "no evidence exists, mandatory minimum is unconstitutional, I was not made aware of mandatory minimum, or repeat felon." (Doc. 1 at 2.) The numerous allegations raised in his filing in response to the R&R further indicate that Mr. Gyetvai alleges impropriety related to his state court conviction and/or sentence. (Doc. 11.)

         Magistrate Judge Schwab also correctly concludes that Mr. Gyetvai's Sixth Amendment right to counsel claim fails for several reasons, chief among them that it is barred by the favorable-termination rule of Heck, 512 U.S. at 486-87, 489. (Doc. 9 at 7-11.) After setting out the relevant legal framework, the Magistrate Judge found that Mr. Gyetvai's civil rights claim is not cognizable unless or until his conviction or sentence has been ...

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