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Johnson v. Reynolds

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 9, 2019

HOWARD JOHNSON, Plaintiff
v.
CHIEF OF POLICE DANIEL REYNOLDS, et al., Defendants

          BRANN, D.J.

          REPORT & RECOMMENDATION

          WILLIAM I. ARBUCKLE, U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         On September 24, 2018, Plaintiff Howard Johnson (“Plaintiff”), proceeding pro se, initiated this civil action by filing a Complaint (Doc. 1), which was then amended (Doc. 12) on June 27, 2019. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint sought relief from Defendants, identified as Sayre Borough Chief of Police Daniel Reynolds (“Chief Reynolds”); Sayre Borough Police Officer Bruce Hoffman (“Officer Hoffman”); and Sayre Borough Police Officer Nathan Ross (“Officer Ross”) (collectively, “Defendants”). (Doc. 12).

         Once granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, (Doc. 8) 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.”). Together with his Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion requesting leave of Court to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2). On April 19, 2019, I granted this motion. (Doc. 8).

         After reviewing Plaintiff's original Complaint, I concluded that it failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and ordered Plaintiff to submit an amended complaint. Id. Although Plaintiff's original Complaint, as written, would typically be subject to dismissal pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii), I granted Plaintiff an opportunity to cure the deficiencies noted in the screening order issued by this Court on April 19, 2019. Id.

         Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint (Doc. 12) with this Court, and after reviewing the Amended Complaint, I conclude that it too fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted. Accordingly, IT IS RECOMMENDED that Plaintiff's Complaint (Doc. 12) be DISMISSED with prejudice.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD FOR REVIEWING COMPLAINTS FILED BY PRO SE PLAINTIFFS 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. UPMCShadyside,578 F.3d 203, 209-10 (3d Cir. 2009). ...


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