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Talley v. Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

October 23, 2019





         Presently before the court is the report and recommendation of Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick (“R&R”), wherein she recommends seven motions to dismiss the plaintiff Quintez Talley's second amended complaint be granted. (Doc. 89). Based on the following, the plaintiff's objections (Doc. 92) shall be overruled, Judge Mehalchick's R&R (Doc. 89) shall be adopted, the defendants' motions to dismiss (Doc. 64; Doc. 66; Doc. 67; Doc. 72; Doc. 73; Doc. 74; Doc. 75) shall be granted, and the plaintiffs' second amended complaint (Doc. 63) shall be dismissed.


         The plaintiff, who is a black male, alleges that at all times relevant to the events in his second amended complaint he was incarcerated and suffering from a serious mental illness. (Doc. 89, at 4). In 2014, the plaintiff set fire to his cell in an attempt to inflict self-harm and threw an unknown substance on two corrections officers. (Id.) His conduct resulted in criminal charges in the Centre County Court of Common Pleas. (Id.)

         Here, the plaintiff asserts a slew of claims relating to his criminal prosecution in Centre County. (Doc. 89, at 4-5). Specifically, he asserts that he was not afforded a fair trial because the juries in his trials had no black members. (Doc. 89, at 4). To support his allegation, the plaintiff raises additional claims alleging that the court in Centre County only employs white people and that their jury qualifications discriminate against black people. (Id.) The plaintiff further alleges against several defendants that he qualified for legal defenses that were not pursued on his behalf. (Id.)

         The events most relevant to our inquiry began on June 13, 2019, when the plaintiff filed objections to Judge Mehalchick's R&R. (Doc. 92). Defendants Centre County Defenders Association, David Crowley, and Casey McClain filed a response to the plaintiff's objections on June 20, 2019. (Doc. 97). Then, on June 27, 2019, the defendant, District Attorney's Office of Centre County, filed its response to the plaintiff's objections. (Doc. 99). The court allowed the plaintiff to file a reply brief by September 11, 2019 but has not received any such filing. (Doc. 103).


         In disposing of objections to a magistrate judge's R&R and recommendation, the district court must make a de novo determination of those portions of the R&R that receive an objection. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also Sullivan v. Cuyler, 723 F.2d 1077, 1085 (3d Cir. 1983). To adopt portions of the R&R where no objections are filed, we must determine if a review of the record evidences plain error or manifest injustice. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b) 1983 Advisory Committee Notes (“When no timely objection is filed, the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record to accept the recommendation”); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Sullivan, 723 F.2d at 1085. The court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 877 (3d Cir. 1987); see also L.R. 72.3. The district court judge may also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the magistrate judge with instructions. Id.


         The plaintiff's second amended complaint contains claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 1962, 1964(c) (hereinafter “RICO claim(s)”); 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 (hereinafter “§ 1983 claim(s)”), 1985-1986 (hereinafter “Conspiracy claim(s)”); Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2 (hereinafter “Title VII claim(s)”); Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12132 (hereinafter “Title II claim(s)”); and Title V of the American with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12201-12213 (hereinafter “Title V claim(s)”)[1].

         I. Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

         The plaintiff alleges § 1983, Conspiracy, and RICO claims against the Centre County Courthouse and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (collectively “Court Defendants”). Judge Mehalchick recommends that these claims be dismissed with prejudice as the Court Defendants “are immune from liability in federal court under the Eleventh Amendment.” (Doc. 89, at 16-17).

         While the plaintiff briefly mentions the Court Defendants in his objection to the application of Eleventh Amendment immunity, the substance of his objection only concerns other defendants. Compare (Doc. 92-1, at 5) (“In turning to the Courts recommendation as to the State Court/Judicial Defendants being shield by the Eleventh Amendment . . . .”), with (Doc. 92-1, at 6-7) (failing to object to Court Defendants' sovereign immunity). Plaintiff states that his RICO claims are not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity because “they . . . are intricately intertwined with . . . [his] Title II of the ADA claims.” (Doc. 92-1, at 6-7); however, he provides no legal basis supporting his notion.

         Finding no objection to the Court Defendants' sovereign immunity, no clear error on the face of the record, and no manifest injustice, we shall adopt Judge Mehalchick's R&R and dismiss plaintiff's § 1983, Conspiracy, and RICO claims against the Court Defendants with prejudice for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

         II. Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief May Be Granted

         A. Absolute Immunity

         The plaintiff also alleges several claims against Judge Thomas King Kistler, Judge Jonathan D. Grine, Judge Pamela A. Ruest, Judge Bradley P. Lunsford, Judge J. Michael Williamson, Judge Allen Sinclair, and Judge Steven Lachman (collectively “Judicial Defendants”). In her R&R, Judge Mehalchick recommends that the plaintiff's § 1983, Title II, RICO, and Conspiracy claims against the Judicial Defendants be dismissed with prejudice as the Judicial Defendants are entitled to absolute immunity. (Doc. 89, at 21-22).

         In his objections, the plaintiff cites U.S. v. Georgia for the idea that “any [Constitutional] claim arising out of [his] Title II claims should be allowed to proceed.” (Doc. 92-1, at 6). That case, however, deals with sovereign immunity, not absolute immunity.[2] See U.S. v. Georgia, 546 U.S. 159 (2006) (holding Title II of the ADA abrogates state sovereign immunity by creating a private right of action for conduct that violates the Fourteenth Amendment) (emphasis added).

         Separately, the plaintiff argues that two of his claims against Judge Thomas King Kistler should not be dismissed. (Doc. 92-1, at 6). The first claim is an Eighth Amendment claim brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and the second claim is under Title VII[3]. Since Judge Mehalchick does not recommend that Judge Kistler is immune to any Title VII claim, we need only consider the Eighth Amendment claim herein. The plaintiff concedes that when judges act in their judicial capacity, they are immune from any resulting § 1983 claims, but he argues that his § 1983 claim against Judge Kistler sounds in “non-judicial” action. (Doc. 92-1, at 6).

         Determining whether a judge's actions are judicial, and, therefore, entitled to judicial immunity, requires the court to look to the “nature of the act itself, i.e., whether it is a function normally performed by a judge, and to the expectations of the parties, i.e., whether they dealt with the judge in his judicial capacity.” Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S. 349, 362 (1978).

         Through his Eighth Amendment claim, the plaintiff alleges that-by calling a jury venire ...

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