ELLERBE v. U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, OFFICERS, AGENTS AND EMPLOYEES et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GERALD A. MCHUGH ON 4/6/17. 4/6/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO PLAINTIFF AND COPY TO LEGAL.(jaa, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
U.S. FEDERAL GOVERNEMNT OFFICIALS,
OFFICERS, AGENTS, AND EMPLOYEES
THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA OFFICIALS,
OFFICERS, AGENTS, AND EMPLOYEES
APRIL ' , 2017
Derrick J. Ellerbe regularly files pro se civil cases in this Court against government
actors based on his belief that he is the victim of a vast government conspiracy. See Ellerbe v.
US. Gov't, No. CIV.A. 14-5041, 2014 WL 4446128, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2014) ("The gist of
Mr. Ellerbe's "'Emergency" Criminal Complaint' is that federal, state and local governmental
departments and agencies are engaged in a 'criminal conspiracy' against him that is primarily
being driven by the United States Postal Service."). In the instant civil action, Ellerbe sued "U.S.
Federal Government Officials, Officers, Agents and Employees," and "The City of Philadelphia
Officials, Officers, Agents and Employees," apparently on the basis that he is the victim of a
conspiracy that violates the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"). He
also seeks leave to proceed informa pauperis. The Court will grant Ellerbe leave to proceed in
forma pauperis and dismiss his complaint.
Ellerbe alleges that between April 2, 2013 and October 4, 2013, he was "kidnapped and
held captive at four (4) different Phila. County jails." (Compl. at 3.) He appears to be
contending that his incarceration was the product of RICO violations and/or a RICO conspiracy.
He also alleges that the defendants are "blocking, delaying and/or destroying" his legal mail, that
"emails from a Phila. library system are also blocked from the State General Assembly and the
U.S. Congress," and that his telephone calls are being redirected. (Id) Ellerbe claims the
irreparable harm, physical violence, terroristic threats, harassment, stalking, third
party interference with employment and independent contractor rights, civil rights
violations, civil liberties violations, U.S. Constitutional violations (Federal and
State which are ongoing and continual), Pa. Constitutional violations, Federal and
State Statutory (criminal and civil) violations including Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organizations Act and the Pennsylvania Corrupt Organizations Act.
(Id at 4.) He seeks damages, various declarations (including a declaration that he is eligible for
witness protection) and unspecified injunctive relief.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court grants Ellerbe leave to proceed in forma pauperis because it appears that he is
incapable of paying the fees to commence this civil action. Accordingly, 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii) require the Court to dismiss the complaint if it is 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). It is legally baseless if "based on an indisputably
meritless legal theory," Deutsch v. United States, 67 F.3d 1080, 1085 (3d Cir. 1995), and
factually baseless "when the facts alleged rise to the level of the irrational or the wholly
incredible." Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25, 33 (1992). To survive dismissal for failure to
state a claim, 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). Conclusory statements and naked assertions will not suffice. Id As
Ellerbe is proceeding prose, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen.,
655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
Ellerbe's complaint is factually frivolous. Several of his allegations appear to be the
byproduct of delusions or paranoia, including his allegation that there is a vast government
conspiracy against him. Especially in light of his prior filings in this district-including two
other cases that Ellerbe filed simultaneously with this case-the Court concludes that Ellerbe's
complaint is factually frivolous because it is based on allegations that rise to the level of
irrational and incredible. See Ellerbe v. US. Gov 't Officers, Agents and Employees, Civ. A. No.
17-1474 (E.D. Pa.); Ellerbe v. The US. Att'y Gen., Civ. A. No. 17-1473 (E.D. Pa.); see also
Ellerbe, No. CIV.A. 14-5041, 2014 WL 4446128, at *2 (dismissing complaint as frivolous where
"[t]he thrust of Mr. Ellerbe's complaints is that every branch of government on the federal, state,
and local level are conspiring to harm him, torture him, harass him, and deprive him of his
constitutional rights," and listing other cases filed in this district); see also Walton v. Walker, 364
F. App'x 256, 258 (7th Cir. 2010) ("[T]he district court was entitled to draw upon its familiarity
with Walton's prior meritless litigation (again describing sprawling conspiracies) to conclude
that his complaint consisted only of 'claims describing fantastic or delusional scenarios, claims
with which federal district judges are all too familiar."' (quoting Neitzke, 490 U.S. at 328)).
Furthermore, Ellerbe has not stated a RICO claim. The federal civil RICO statute provides
that "[a]ny person injured in his business or property by reason of a violation of section 1962 of
this chapter[, which prohibits racketeering activity,] may sue therefor in any appropriate United
States district court .... " 18 U.S.C. § 1964(c). "[I]n construing the federal RICO law, [the
Third] Circuit has rejected the argument that personal injuries qualify as RICO injuries to
'business or property."' Williams v. BASF Catalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 323 (3d Cir. 2014)
(citing Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221 F.3d 472, 492 (3d Cir. 2000)). Furthermore, RICO does not
provide a cause of action where the damages alleged are "speculative." Maio v. Aetna, Inc., 221
F.3d 472, 495 (3d Cir. 2000) (speculative damages that were "predicated exclusively on the
possibility that future events might occur" could not form the basis of a RICO injury).
Nothing in the complaint provides a plausible for concluding that Ellerbe suffered a nonspeculative injury to business or property that would give him standing to raise a RICO claim. 1
In particular, Ellerbe cannot state a RICO claim based injuries he sustained by virtue of his
imprisonment-including any lost employment opportunities-because those injuries are not are
not injuries to "business or property" for purposes ofRIC0. 2 See, e.g., Etti ben-Issaschar v. ELI
Am. Friends of the Israel Ass'nfor Child Prof., Inc., No. CV 15-6441, 2016 WL 97682, at *3
(E.D. Pa. Jan. 7, 2016) ("The type of harm suffered by [plaintiff] for which she seeks to recover
in this action-i.e., harm related to her detention and the alleged abuse she suffered while
detained-is not an injury to 'business or property' that is cognizable under the RICO laws.");
Clark v. Conahan, 737 F. Supp. 2d 239, 255 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (observing that "[m]ental distress,
emotional distress, and harmed reputations do not constitute injury to business or property
sufficient to confer standing on a RICO plaintiff' and explaining that "injury for RICO purposes
requires proof of concrete financial loss, not mere injury to an intangible property interest").
Ellerbe's failure to allege an injury to business or property is also fatal to his RICO conspiracy
claims. Magnum v. Archdiocese of Phila., 253 F. App'x 224, 229 (3d Cir. 2007) ("A plaintiff
The Court need not credit any conclusory allegations that Ellerbe suffered harm to business or
property absent factual support for those allegations.
A lost opportunity to pursue a personal injury claim is also not "business or property" for
purposes of RICO. See Magnum v. Archdiocese of Phi/a., 253 F. App'x 224, 226 (3d Cir. 2007).
alleging a civil RICO violation under either§ 1962(c) or (d) must plead a cognizable injury to
'business or property' under§ 1964(c).").
Finally, in the event Ellerbe sought to raise claims under criminal statutes or file criminal
charges, there is no legal basis for his claims. See Cent. Bank of Dover, N.A. v. First Interstate
Bank of Denver, N.A., 511 U.S. 164, 190 (1994) ("We have been quite reluctant to infer a private
right of action from a criminal prohibition alone[.]"); Mikhail v. Kahn, 991 F. Supp. 2d 596, 636
(E.D. Pa. 2014) ("[I]t is today beyond all reasonable doubt that the prosecution of violations of
federal criminal law in federal court is a function of the federal government, not private parties,
and federal courts lack the power to direct the filing of criminal charges[.]" (citations, quotations,
and alteration omitted)), aff'd, 572 F. App'x 68 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam). "Indeed, Mr.
Ellerbe has been repeatedly informed that he may not initiate a criminal case by filing a lawsuit."
Ellerbe, No. CIV.A. 14-5041, 2014 WL 4446128, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 8, 2014) (citing cases).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the complaint. Ellerbe will not be given
leave to amend because amendment would be futile. An appropriate order follows, which shall
be docketed separately.
BY THE COURT:
GERALD A. MCHUGH, J.
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