United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
R. SÁNCHEZ, C.J.
Charmaine Prater, a self-represented litigant, submitted what
appears to be a civil rights Complaint against the City of
Philadelphia, various departments of the City, and various
employees of the City. Prater seeks to proceed in forma
pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court will
grant Prater leave to proceed in forma pauperis and
dismiss her Complaint. Prater also filed a “Motion for
Protection, ” (ECF No. 3) which the Court will deny.
Complaint is sparse. Prater generally alleges that the City and
its employees have “violated owner[']s civil rights
by targeting their properties for the [purpose] of demolition
to make money for the City” from “bogus”
violations and taxes. (Compl. ECF No. 2 at 2.)Prater alleges
that she is a “former city worker and whistle
blower.” (Id.) Her Complaint appears to
concern property she owns at 6003 Reinhard Street in
Philadelphia, which the City boarded up and intends to
demolish. (Id.) Prater also alleges that she was
barred from City Buildings “for L&I
hearings.” (Id.) She seeks an injunction to
stay the demolition of the property and, apparently, to
prevent enforcement of the “bogus” violations.
attached to her Complaint various exhibits, which concern
notices of code violations for property at 6003 Reinhard St.
in Philadelphia. Prater is listed as the owner of that
property. The exhibits include an initial notice of violation
dated October 16, 2019, in which the City of Philadelphia
Department of Licenses and Inspections
(“L&I”) notified Prater that the property had
been declared unsafe, informed her of the violations, and
stated that a reinspection would occur on November 8, 2019.
(Id. at 9-10.) It appears L&I thereafter
inspected the property and sent Prater a notice dated
November 14, 2019 informing her that she was required to
obtain a vacant structure license, imposing penalties and
fees on her, and notifying her of her right to appeal.
(Id. at 13-14.) L&I sent Prater another notice
on December 10, 2019, notifying her that it inspected the
property on that date and declared it unsafe for various
reasons, and a “Final Notice of Violation and
Order” informing Prater that L&I inspected the
premises on December 26, 2019 and declared it
“imminently dangerous.” (Id. at 5 &
exhibits also include a license issued to J Reyes
Construction Inc., dated March 2015; it is not clear that
this document pertains to Prater's property or whether
the permit was valid at the time the building was declared
unsafe. (Id. at 21.) Additional exhibits indicate
that Prater filed an appeal of some or all of the violations,
(id. at 4, 8, 12), that a hearing is scheduled on
January 16, 2020 on one of the appeals, (id. at 7),
and that a hearing is scheduled on another appeal on May 5,
2020. (Id. at 11.) Prater's “Motion for
Protection” refers to a hearing scheduled for January
9, 2020. (ECF No. 3.) She also alleges in her Complaint that
the City is “try[ing] to illegally demolish our
building in 10 days” from the date of the Complaint,
which would be January 9, 2020. (Compl. ECF No. 2 at 1.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Prater leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that she is incapable of
prepaying the fees to commence this civil action.
Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) requires the
Court to dismiss the Complaint if it fails to state a claim.
To state a claim, a pleading 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).
Conclusory statements and naked assertions will not suffice.
Id. Furthermore, “[i]f the court determines at
any time that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction, the court
must dismiss the action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3). As
Prater is proceeding pro se, the Court construes her
allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655
F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
a complaint may be dismissed for failing to comply with
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. Garrett v. Wexford
Health, 938 F.3d 69, 91 (3d Cir. 2019). To conform to
Rule 8, a pleading must contain a short and plain statement
showing that the plaintiff is entitled to relief. See
Travaline v. U.S. Supreme Court, 424 Fed.Appx. 78, 79
(3d Cir. 2011). The Third Circuit recently explained that in
determining whether a pleading meets Rule 8's
“plain” statement requirement, the Court should
“ask whether, liberally construed, a pleading
‘identifies discrete defendants and the actions taken
by these defendants' in regard to the plaintiff's
claims.” Garrett, 938 F.3d at 93 (citation
omitted). A pleading may still satisfy the
“plain” statement requirement “even if it
is vague, repetitious, or contains extraneous
information” and “even if it does not include
every name, date, and location of the incidents at
issue.” Id. at 93-94. The important
consideration for the Court is whether, “a pro se
complaint's language . . . presents cognizable legal
claims to which a defendant can respond on the merits.”
Id. at 94.
“a pleading that is so ‘vague or ambiguous'
that a defendant cannot reasonably be expected to respond to
it will not satisfy Rule 8.” Id. at 93;
see also Fabian v. St. Mary's Med. Ctr., Civ. A.
No. 16-4741, 2017 WL 3494219, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2017)
(“Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires that
pleadings provide enough information to put a defendant on
sufficient notice to prepare their defense and also ensure
that the Court is sufficiently informed to determine the
issue.”) (quotations omitted). Dismissals under Rule 8
are “‘reserved for those cases in which the
complaint so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise
unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well
disguised.'” Garrett, 938 F.3d at 94
(quoting Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d
claims fail for various reasons. Even affording the Complaint
liberal construction, Prater has not sufficiently alleged
what happened to her and how each Defendant was involved in
the events giving rise to her claims. Although the Court can
discern that Prater's claims generally involve the
possible demolition of her property and code violations that
have been cited at that property, the factual allegations
supporting her claims are confusing and unclear, such that it
is difficult to determine with any clarity what happened,
when it happened, and what facts and circumstances support
Prater's claims. Prater attached exhibits to her
Complaint, but without an explanation of the specific code
violations or procedures she is challenging, her pleading
does not comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8.
See DiGenova v. Unite Here Local 274, 673 Fed.Appx.
258, 260 (3d Cir. 2016) (per curiam) (“The documents
that DiGenova submitted as his amended complaint do not
contain a ‘short and plain statement' of any claim,
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2), and DiGenova's allegations are not
‘simple, concise, and direct,' Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(d)(1).”); Binsack v. Lackawanna Cty. Prison,
438 Fed.Appx. 158, 160 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam)
(“[Plaintiff's] voluminous exhibits, do not,
without the required ‘short and plain statement,'
communicate the nature of his claim, and would, in any event,
be insufficient to satisfy Rule 8(a).”).
are other defects in Prater's Complaint. The Court
construes Prater's Complaint as raising due process
claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 based on a course of
action the City has taken with respect to her
property. Prater's Complaint and Motion indicate
that a hearing was taking place within ten days of December
30, 2019, which would be January 9, 2020, and that the City
sought to demolish the property on that date. Due to an
administrative delay in opening and processing the case, the
Court was not able to address this matter before January 9,
so any relief related to these matters are unfortunately
moot. See Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77
F.3d 690, 698-99 (3d Cir. 1996) (“If developments occur
during the course of adjudication that eliminate a
plaintiff's personal stake in the outcome of a suit or
prevent a court from being able to grant the requested
relief, the case must be dismissed as moot.”). Another
defect is that Prater has named as Defendants certain
departments of the City, which are not themselves amenable to
suit under § 1983, see 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 16257; Philadelphia Entm't & Dev.
Partners, L.P. v. City of Philadelphia, 939 A.2d 290,
292 n.1 (Pa. 2007), and she has also named individual
Defendants without alleging facts supporting any claim
against them. See Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988) (explaining that “[a]
defendant in a civil rights action must have personal
involvement in the alleged wrongs” to be
under the abstention doctrine of Younger v. Harris,
401 U.S. 37 (1971), the Court must abstain from adjudicating
challenges to certain state or administrative proceedings.
See Middlesex Cty. Ethics Comm. v. Garden State Bar
Ass'n, 457 U.S. 423, 432 (1982) (“The policies
underlying Younger are fully applicable to
noncriminal judicial proceedings when important state
interests are involved.”). Generally, federal courts
must adjudicate all cases and controversies that are properly
before them. New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. City of New
Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 358 (1989). Abstention, however,
“is the judicially created doctrine under which a
federal court will decline to exercise its jurisdiction so
that a state court or state agency will have the opportunity
to decide the matters at issue.” Heritage Farms,
Inc. v. Solebury Twp., 671 F.2d 743, 746 (3d Cir. 1982).
Absent extraordinary circumstances not present here,
Younger abstention applies when: “(1) there
are ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature;
(2) the state proceedings implicate important state
interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate
opportunity to raise the federal claims.” Lazaridis
v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 671 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting