GARCIA v. BUCKS COUNTY JUSTICE CENTER et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE GERALD A. MCHUGH ON 10/26/17. 10/26/17 ENTERED AND COPIES MAILED TO GARCIA.(rf, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
HAMLET GARCIA, JR.
COUNTY OF BUCKS, et al.
OCTOBER 26 , 2017
Plaintiff, who is proceeding informa pauperis, filed an amended complaint in this civil
action, which concerns his conviction, violation of probation, and recent incarceration in the
Bucks County Jail. Before the Court had an opportunity to screen the amended complaint
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B), plaintiff filed a second amended complaint. While
plaintiffs amended complaint predominately raises claims based on the conditions in which he
was incarcerated in Bucks County, his second amended complaint solely concerns the alleged
invalidity of his conviction. For the following reasons, the Court will dismiss the second
amended complaint, which is now the operative pleading in this case, and allow plaintiff to file a
third amended complaint raising claims based on the conditions in which he was confined at the
Bucks County Jail in December of 2016.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiffs initial complaint raised numerous claims arising out of his arrest, prosecution,
and conviction in 2012, his subsequent conviction for violating probation in 2016, and his
incarceration at the Bucks County Jail in 2016. As background, on March 4, 2014, plaintiff pled
guilty in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas to possession of a small amount of
marijuana for personal use. See Commonwealth v. Garcia, Docket No. CP-09-CR-0002053-2013
(Bucks Cty. Ct. of Common Pleas). He was given probation for one year, with the option to
close probation in six months ifhe paid his costs and did not receive any misconducts.
In March of 2016, plaintiff was found guilty of violating probation/parole due to his failure to
pay court costs. According to the initial complaint in this case, plaintiff was given a choice to
either serve ninety days to eleven months in jail or agree to be placed on probation for one year.
Plaintiff pled guilty to avoid jail time, but was again arrested for violating probation/parole on
December 1, 2016. He was incarcerated at the Bucks County Jail and released after a hearing
before the Honorable Raymond F. McHugh on December 21, 2016, after his court costs were
paid in full.
After granting plaintiff leave to proceed in forma pauper is, the Court dismissed plaintiffs
initial complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(i) and (ii), because plaintiffs claims
were either frivolous or failed to state a plausible claim as pled. In particular, the Court held
that: (1) any claims based on plaintiffs Moorish heritage or treaties, declarations, and resolutions
related to plaintiffs Moorish heritage were frivolous; (2) any claims based on criminal statutes
were frivolous because criminal statutes do not provide for a private right of action; (3) plaintiff
failed to state a claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1985 and 1986 because he failed to allege a conspiracy
or the type of race or class based discrimination that is required to state a claim under those
statutes; (4) several defendants were not "persons" for purposes of 42 U.S.C. § 1983; (5) any§
1983 claims based on plaintiffs arrest in 2012 were barred by the two-year statute oflimitations;
(6) prosecutors who were sued were entitled to absolute prosecutorial immunity from plaintiffs
§ 1983 claims against them; (7) plaintiffs public defender was not a state actor for purposes of§
1983; (8) plaintiffs guilty plea prevented him from challenging the constitutionality of his
prosecution, conviction, or related imprisonment; and (9) plaintiff had not explained how several
named defendants were personally involved in the alleged violations of his rights so as to state a
claim against those defendants. The Court observed that plaintiff might have a basis for
challenging the constitutionality of the conditions in which he was confined but noted that "he
has not raised claims against any of the individuals responsible for treating him [during his
incarceration], and the complaint does not provide a basis for holding any of the named
defendants liable for the conditions in the Bucks County Jail." (September 18, 2017 Mem., ECF
No. 6 at 12.) Accordingly, the Court gave plaintiff leave to file an amended complaint.
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint naming the following defendants: (1) the County of
Bucks; (2) Charles H. Martin, identified as a member of the Bucks County Board of
Commissioners; (3) Robert G. Loughery, identified as a member of the Bucks County Board of
Commissioners; (4) Diane M. Ellis-Marseglia, identified as a member of the Bucks County
Board of Commissioners; (5) the Bucks County Department of Correction; (6) Christopher A.
Pirolli, identified as Director of the Bucks County Department of Correction; (7) Susan L. Ward,
identified as the Director of Personal Health; (8) John Markey, identified as Director of Mental
Health; (9) Clifton Mitchell, identified as the Warden of the Bucks County Correctional Facility;
(10) Paul K. Lagana, also identified as the Warden of the Bucks County Correctional Facility;
and (11) Christina A. King, identified as the public defender assigned to plaintiff in connection
with his criminal case. The thirty-four page complaint contains numerous legal quotes,
generalized allegations, and conclusory assertions that do not contribute to plaintiffs claims. 1
Leaving those allegations aside, plaintiff primarily appears to be raising claims based on the
For instance, paragraphs 41 through paragraph 116 of the complaint (pages 18 though 30) are
almost entirely comprised of legal citations or legalistic allegations that detract from the
substance of plaintiffs claims.
conditions at the Bucks County Jail during his December 2016 incarceration. He also raises
claims against the attorney appointed as his public defender, even though the Court previously
informed plaintiff that public defenders are not state actors who are subject to liability under§
Four days after filing his amended complaint, plaintiff filed a second amended complaint
with exhibits totaling eighty-seven pages. The second amended complaint names the County of
Bucks and Judge Raymond F. McHugh as the only defendants, and is focused on alleged
deficiencies in plaintiffs criminal proceeding. Plaintiffs challenges to his prosecution and
related conviction are based on theories that he is a "secured party" under the uniform
commercial code and a sovereign citizen. He also appears to be claiming that he is entitled to
relief under admiralty law, copyright law, or trademark law. The Court understands plaintiff to
be seeking vacatur of his state conviction. The second amended complaint is now the governing
pleading in this action, and the Court will address it accordingly.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
As plaintiff is proceeding informa pauperis, 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
ifit "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 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). "[M]ere conclusory statements do not
suffice." Id. The Court may also consider matters of public record. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch.
Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). As plaintiff is proceeding prose, the Court construes
his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).
The Court will address plaintiff's second amended complaint, as that is the governing
pleading in this case. The gist of that pleading is that plaintiff's conviction is invalid-and
should be vacated by this Court-because of plaintiff's secured party citizen status and/or
because of theories based on admiralty, copyright, or trademark law. Plaintiff's second amended
complaint is the epitome of legally frivolous and will be dismissed on that basis. 2 See Schlager
v. Beard, 398 F. App'x 699, 701 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) ("As the Magistrate Judge
accurately noted, the argument that Schlager sought to pursue before the state court-that he is
somehow entitled to release from prison because he is a 'Secured Party Sovereign'-is 'the
epitome of frivolous.'").
For the foregoing reasons, the Court will dismiss the second amended complaint. Although
plaintiff cannot cure the defects in his second amended complaint, it is possible that he could
state a claim based on the conditions in which he was confined at the Bucks County Jail in
December of 2016, but the present complaint fails to do so because the personal involvement of
any individual defendant is unclear. Accordingly, plaintiff will be given leave to file a third
The Court already rejected as frivolous plaintiff's allegation that his "plea is void because he
reserved his rights under the Uniform Commercial Code and/or because he [did] not consent to a
contract with the Commonwealth." (September 18, 2017 Mem., ECF No. 6 at 2 n.2.) The Court
also explained to plaintiff that he may not challenge his conviction in a civil rights action
because his conviction has not been reversed, vacated, or otherwise invalidated. (Id. at 11.)
That is so regardless of whether habeas relief is still available to plaintiff. See Williams v.
Consovoy, 453 F.3d 173, 179 (3d Cir. 2006).
amended complaint in the event he can state a plausible basis for a claim against an appropriate
defendant or defendants. An appropriate order follows.
BY THE COURT:
GERALD A. MCHUGH, J.
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