United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
E.K. PRATTER, J.
Gerald Edwards, a self-represented litigant, filed this civil
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the
Honorable Daniel Baranoski, a Magisterial District Judge in
Bucks County. Mr. Edwards seeks leave to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will
grant Mr. Edwards leave to proceed in forma pauperis
and dismiss his Complaint.
Edwards's Complaint consists of sparse, disjointed
allegations and voluminous exhibits. He indicates his claims
are based on what he believes was an illegal prosecution that
led to his conviction and incarceration. Mr. Edwards also
alleges that "they would not let [him] see a doctor or a
[dentist] for [he] had 2 infected teeth, and no treatment for
emphysema." (Compl. ECF No. 2 at 4.)That allegation
appears to be based on the conditions of Mr. Edwards's
incarceration. He seeks damages in the amount of $500,
Edwards attached numerous exhibits to his Complaint that
reflect that he was found guilty of numerous summary offenses
based on violations of local ordinances related to the
maintenance of his property. See Commonwealth v.
Edwards, CP-09-SA-0000401-2019; CP-09-SA-0000318-2019;
CP-09-SA-0000219-2018; CP-09-SA-0000301-2018 (Bucks Cty. Ct.
of Common Pleas). District Justice Baranoski presided over
the initial proceedings in those matters and directed Mr.
Edwards to pay fines after finding him guilty on the cited
violations. It is apparent that Mr. Edwards named District
Justice Baranoski as a defendant in this case based on the
handling of the case. (Compl. ECF No. 2-3 at 2-4.) Mr.
Edwards alleges that District Justice Baranoski lacked
subject matter jurisdiction, apparently because the citations
"are not a law or in the pa. [sic] Statute" and
because the proceedings were allegedly unconstitutional.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Mr. Edwards leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is not able to pay
the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, Mr.
Edwards's Complaint is subject to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii), which require the Court to dismiss
the Complaint if it 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, the 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). "[M]ere conclusory statements do
not suffice." Id. Because Mr. Edwards is
proceeding pro se, the Court construes his
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
are entitled to absolute immunity from civil rights claims
that are based on acts or omissions taken in their judicial
capacity, so long as they do not act in the complete absence
of all jurisdiction. See Stump v. Sparkman, 435 U.S.
349, 355-56 (1978); Harvey v. Loftus, 505 Fed.Appx.
87, 90 (3d Cir. 2012) (per curiam); Azubuko v.
Royal, 443 F.3d 302, 303-04 (3d Cir. 2006) (per curiam).
An act is taken in a judge's judicial capacity if it is
"a function normally performed by a judge."
Gallas v. Supreme Ct. of Pa., 211 F.3d 760, 768 (3d
Cir. 2000). Moreover, "[g]enerally ... 'where a
court has some subject matter jurisdiction, there is
sufficient jurisdiction for immunity purposes.'"
Figueroa v. Blackburn, 208 F.3d 435, 443-44 (3d Cir.
2000) (quoting Barnes v. Winchell, 105 F.3d 1111,
1122 (6th Cir. 1997)).
Mr. Edwards alleges that District Justice Baranoski lacked
jurisdiction to adjudicate the citations issued related to
his property. However, that allegation is unsupported and
incorrect because magisterial district justices in
Pennsylvania have jurisdiction to adjudicate summary offenses
such as those with which Mr. Edwards was charged.
See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1515(a)(1); see
also Comonwealth v. Heckman, No. 3 CD. 2013, 2013 WL
3357729, at *3 (Pa. Commw. Ct. July 3, 2013) (explaining that
the magisterial district judge was "vested with
jurisdiction" over proceedings involving a summary
offense for a property maintenance code violation). That the
proceedings resulted from violation of a local ordinance, and
not a state law, did not deprive the judge of jurisdiction.
Accordingly, because Mr. Edwards is seeking damages for acts
taken by Magisterial District Justice Baranoski in his
judicial capacity while presiding over Mr. Edwards's
cases, Mr. Edwards's § 1983 claims are barred by
absolute judicial immunity. See Malcomb v. Dietz,
487 Fed.Appx. 683, 685 n.2 (3d Cir. 2012) (per
curiam) ("We note that judicial immunity would
still apply if Malcomb had challenged rulings made by the
other judges involved in the underlying traffic citation
proceedings."); Lal v. Borough of Kennett
Square, 935 F.Supp. 570, 574 (E.D. Pa. 1996) (finding
judicial immunity applied to claims against judge where
plaintiff "was charged with numerous violations of
borough ordinances" and the judge "fined him within
the range specifically allowed by those ordinances"),
aff'd, 124 F.3d 187 (3d Cir. 1997).
foregoing reasons, the Court will grant Mr. Edwards leave to
proceed in forma pauperis and dismiss his Complaint.
Mr. Edwards cannot cure the defects in his claims against
District Justice Baranoski. Therefore, he will not be given
leave to file an amended complaint in this case. An
appropriate Order follows.