Tedesco et al v. Monroe County et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 9/29/17. (dw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JOHN TEDESCO and TINA TEDESCO,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:17-CV-01282
MONROE COUNTY, et. al.,
(MAGISTRATE JUDGE CARLSON)
Presently before this Court is: Magistrate Judge Carlson’s Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”) (Doc. 6) to Plaintiff John Tedesco’s (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Leave
to Proceed in forma pauperis (Doc. 3); Magistrate Judge Carlson’s sua sponte
recommendation that Plaintiff’s Complaint be dismissed (Doc. 6); and Plaintiff’s filings
(Docs. 8-9) which are construed as a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint. Because
Plaintiff’s financial means are sufficiently limited, Magistrate Judge Carlson’s
recommendation will be adopted, and Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma
pauperis will be granted. But, Plaintiff’s Complaint will be dismissed because the claims pled
either lack subject matter jurisdiction or are asserted against individuals who are immune
from suit. Finally, Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend will be denied because providing an
opportunity to amend would be futile.
A. Factual Background
The facts as constructed from Plaintiff’s pro se Complaint (Doc. 1) and the public
record can be summarized as follows:
Plaintiff John Tedesco and his wife, Tina Tedesco, were arrested in July of 2013 and
charged with a number of crimes related to the death of an elderly, disabled woman.
Ultimately, both John and Tina Tedesco were convicted of: third-degree murder; neglect of
care-dependent person; theft by unlawful taking; theft by failing to make required disposition
of funds received; and tempering with or fabricating physical evidence. Following their
convictions at trial in August of 2015, they were both sentenced to a term of incarceration
between 183 and 366 months. Now, Plaintiff seeks to sue the prosecutors who convicted
him and his wife.
Prior to Plaintiff’s trial, Plaintiff alleges that members of the District Attorney’s Office
“amended the criminal information and jury verdict slip” in an attempt to ensure that Plaintiff
was convicted of crimes never formally charged. (see, e.g., Doc. 1, at ¶ V.) Additionally,
Plaintiff claims that a number of his constitutional rights1, including his right to be free from
double jeopardy, were violated as a result of his prosecution. He contends that the
prosecutors were aware of these constitutional defects, but decided to proceed with the
criminal action because the defendants had a “malicious intent” to see him convicted. (Doc.
1-1, at 15.)
Following his sentencing on October 26, 2015, Plaintiff pursued an appeal seeking
to address the alleged defects in both his conviction and sentence. On September 19, 2017,
Plaintiff’s state court appeal ended when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court denied Plaintiff’s
Petition for Allowance of Appeal. Pa. v. Tedesco, No. 159 MAL 2017 (Pa. Sept. 19, 2017).
There are four Defendants named in the Complaint: (1) Monroe County; (2) Assistant
District Attorney for Monroe County Michael Mancuso in his individual and official
capacities; (3) Assistant District Attorney for Monroe County Kelly Lombardo in her
individual and official capacities; and (4) District Attorney for Monroe County David
Christine in his individual and official capacities. Plaintiff alleges that each Defendant had
a role in the “plot” to see his constitutional rights trampled.
Plaintiff sporadically identifies amendments to the United States
Constitution, but continually fails to provide any facts that would
demonstrate why the given amendment would be implicated.
B. Procedural History
Plaintiff filed the instant action and a Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis
in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on July 20, 2017.
Pursuant to the Prison Litigation Reform Act (“PLRA”), Magistrate Judge Carlson has
conducted an initial screening of Plaintiff’s Complaint and provided this Court with a R&R.
Magistrate Judge Carlson’s R&R was filed on July 21, 2017. It is Magistrate Judge Carlson’s
recommendation that Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis be granted
and Plaintiff’s Complaint be dismissed with prejudice for failure to state a claim upon which
relief can be granted. On August 3, 2017, Plaintiff filed timely objections to Magistrate
Judge Carlson’s R&R.
The R&R and Plaintiff’s objections are now ripe for review.
II. Legal Standards
Review of the Report and Recommendation
Where objections to a magistrate judge's R&R are filed, the Court must conduct a
de novo review of the contested portions. Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3
(3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)). This only applies to the extent that a
party's objections are both timely and specific. Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir.
In conducting a de novo review, a court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or
in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Althoug h the review
is de novo, the law permits the court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate
judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667,
675–76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v. United States Parole Comm’n, 849 F.
Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at
a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154
(1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the least, the court should rev iew uncontested portions
for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77
(M.D. Pa. 1998).
Motion to Dismiss
A court screening a Complaint pursuant to the Prison Reform Litigation Act uses
the same standard as it does for a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. See Shover v. York Cty.
Prison, No. 11-CV-2248, 2012 WL 720858, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 1, 2012).
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint,
in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed.
R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited
to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of their claims. See
Semerenko v. Cendant Corp., 223 F.3d 165, 173 (3d Cir. 2000).
“A pleading that states a claim for relief must contain . . . a short and plain
statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a).
The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair notice of what the . .
. claim is and the grounds upon which it rests. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93, 127
S. Ct. 2197, 167 L. Ed. 2d 1081 (2007) (per curiam ) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly,
550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955, 167 L. Ed. 2d 929 (2007)). Detailed f actual
allegations are not required. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S. Ct. 1955. However, mere
conclusory statements will not do; “a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's
entitlement to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009).
Instead, a complaint must “show” this entitlement by alleging sufficient facts. Id. “While
legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by
factual allegations.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950, 173 L. Ed.
2d 868 (2009). As such, “[t]he touchstone of the pleading standard is plausability.”
Bistrian v. Levi, 696 F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012).
The inquiry at the motion to dismiss stage is “normally broken into three parts: (1)
identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory
allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and
evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently
alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).
Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the
complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face,” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570, 127 S. Ct. 1955, m eaning enough
factual allegations “‘to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence
of’” each necessary element. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir.
2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S. Ct. 1955). “The plausibility standard is
not akin to a ‘probability requirement,’ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a
defendant has acted unlawfully.” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678, 129 S. Ct. 1937.
In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the
complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension
Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).
The Court may also consider “undisputedly authentic” documents when the plaintiff's
claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the
documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can
prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn
Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a com plaint's “‘bald
assertions’” or “‘legal conclusions.’” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906
(3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429–30
(3d Cir. 1997)).
A. Motion For Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis
Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis will be granted. The
decision whether to grant or deny in forma pauperis status rests within the sound discretion
of the district court. United States v. Holiday, 436 F.2d 1079, 1070-80 (3d Cir. 1971). To
qualify for such status, courts do not require penniless destitution, but rather look to
determine whether the plaintiff would be precluded from court due to a potential financial
burden imposed by the Court. See Ward v. Werner, 61 F.R.D 639, 639 (M.D. Pa. 1974)
(citing Adkins v. E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co., 335 U.S. 331, 339-40 (1948)). Notably,
there is “no fixed net worth which disqualifies a party as a pauper.” Id. at 640.
Plaintiff is presently employed, but his current compensation is only $15.00 per
month. As such, this Court agrees with and will adopt the recommendation provided by
Magistrate Judge Carlson: Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma pauperis will be
B. Recommendation To Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint
Pursuant to the PLRA, courts are required to screen complaints when a prisoner
wishes to proceed in forma pauperis. The screening required is comprehensive. Title 28
U.S.C. §1915 provides that the district court shall dismiss a complaint if the court
determines that the action is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary
relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A,1915(e)(2)(B).
During the screening of a complaint proceeding in forma pauperis, the court is also free to
consider questions related to subject matter jurisdiction and abstention. See Day v. Florida,
563 Fed. App’x. 878, 880, 881 n.2 (3d Cir. 2014) (per curiam).
While screening Plaintiff’s Complaint, Magistrate Judge Carlson identified four
grounds for dismissal: (1) Plaintiff is barred from suing officials for their role in a criminal
case which resulted in a conviction; (2) the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine deprives this case of
subject matter jurisdiction; (3) the Younger abstention doctrine advises against ruling upon
claims for injunctive relief; and (4) the Prosecutors named in the Complaint are entitled to
immunity from liability. Additionally, Magistrate Judge Carlson noted that while two parties
are named in the instant action–John and Tina Tedesco–the pleading was construed to
apply only to Mr. John Tedesco because as a non-lawyer Mr. Tedesco is only permitted to
Plaintiff has filed timely objections to each of the four bases for dismissal identified
by Magistrate Judge Carlson. Mr. Tedesco has also objected to the exclusion of his wife,
Tina, from these proceedings. Each objection raised by Plaintiff will be addressed below:
Plaintiff John Tedesco may not represent his wife Tina Tedesco in this action
Magistrate Judge Carlson correctly notes that this action is brought on behalf of both
John and Tina Tedesco. But, it is evident that the complaint and subsequent filings were
solely prepared by John Tedesco. “It is a well established principle that while a layman may
represent himself with respect to his individual claims, he is not entitled to act as an attorney
for others in a federal court.” Lutz v. Lavelle, 809 F. Supp. 323, 325 (M.D. Pa. 1991); see
28 U.S.C. §1654 (“In all courts of the United States, the parties may plead and conduct their
own cases personally, or by counsel. . . .”); FED.R.CIV.P. 11(a) (requiring that all pleadings,
motions, and submissions to federal courts be signed by an attorney of record, or by the
unrepresented party); see also DePonceau v. Pataki, 315 F. Supp. 2d 338, 341 (W.D.N.Y.
2004) (“[P]laintiffs have no statutory [or] constitutional right to be represented in federal
court by a non-lawyer.”). For this reason, Plaintiff John Tedesco will be unable to raise
claims on behalf of his wife Tina Tedesco.
Plaintiff has objected to Magistrate Judge Carlson’s R&R in so far that it would
preclude Plaintiff from raising claims on behalf of his wife. In doing so, Plaintiff solely relies
on the federal rule governing class action litigation: Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23.
However, reliance on Rule 23 is misplaced. This Rule does not obfuscate the prohibition
against pro se litigants representing others in federal court. Further, even if Rule 23 could
be applied to cure the deficiency in the structure of this action, class certification would fail.
See FED.R.CIV.P. 23(a)(1), (4). As such, Plaintiff may not include claims related to injuries
suffered by his wife in this action, and any claim predicated on the injury of Tina Tedesco
will be dismissed.
Plaintiff’s claims seeking damages or equitable relief for constitutional
violations related to his criminal proceeding are barred by Heck v. Humphrey
Plaintiff objects to Magistrate Judge Carlson’s R&R where it suggests that dismissal
is warranted as Plaintiff may not sue a state official for their role in a criminal case which
resulted in an undisturbed conviction. While Plaintiff’s objection discusses the differences
between the claims of malicious prosecution and false arrest, it is unclear what portion of
Magistrate Judge Carlson’s R&R Plaintiff found objectionable. So, even though Plaintiff’s
objection is not specific in nature, this Court will still review the recommendation of
Magistrate Judge Carlson for clear error. See Goney, 749 F.2d at 6-7; Cruz, 990 F. Supp.
375, at 376-77.
At bottom, Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends dismissing Plaintiff’s Complaint
as it is barred by the precedent set in Heck v. Humphery, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the
United State Supreme Court held that if the success of a §1983 damages suit brought by
a plaintiff would “necessarily imply the invalidity of his conviction or sentence,” the plaintiff
may only bring the claim where the conviction or sentence has been invalidated. 512 U.S.
at 486. This holding has been referred to as the “favorable termination rule.” See Curry v.
Yachera, 835 F.3d 373, 378 (3d Cir. 2016). Specif ically, the Court in Heck stated:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional conviction or
imprisonment, or for other harm caused by actions whose unlawfulness would
render a conviction or sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal, expunged by
executive order, declared invalid by a state tribunal authorized to make such
determination, or called into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
habeas corpus, 28 U.S.C. § 2254. A claim for damages bearing that
relationship to a conviction or sentence that has not been so invalidated is not
cognizable under § 1983.
512 U.S. at 486-87. In other words, “a prisoner’s civil rights suit for damages is barred
unless he can demonstrate that his conviction or sentence has been invalidated.” Holmes
v. Dreyer, 431 Fed. App’x 69, 70 (3d Cir. 2011) (per curiam). Notably, “a prisoner’s §1983
action is barred (absent prior invalidation) – no matter the relief sought (damages or
equitable relief), no matter the target of the prisoner’s suit. . .– if success in the action would
necessarily demonstrate the invalidity of [a Plaintiff’s] confinement. . . .” Wilkinson v.
Dotson, 544 U.S. 74, 81-82 (2005).
Here, Plaintiff appears to claim that he was maliciously prosecuted, denied effective
legal counsel, wrongly convicted, and denied Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment protections.
But, Plaintiff has failed to show that his conviction or sentence has been invalidated. As
such, Heck’s “favorable termination” rule applies and bars plaintiff’s claims for damages and
equitable relief arising from his criminal prosecution. For this reason, Plaintiff’s claims
related to his prosecution or subsequent imprisonment will be dismissed.2
The Rooker-Feldman doctrine deprives this case of subject matter jurisdiction
As properly identified by Magistrate Judge Carlson, this Court does not have
jurisdiction to review the constitutionality of Plaintiff’s detention at this time due to the
implication of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine. At its core, the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
provides that federal district courts lack subject matter jurisdiction to sit in direct review of
state court decisions. See Day, 563 Fed. App’x at 880 (citing Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi
Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005). “The doctrine is derived from 28 U.S.C.
§1257 which states that ‘[f]inal judgments or decrees rendered by the highest court of a
state in which a decision could be had, may be reviewed by the Supreme Court. . . .’” Gary
v. Braddock Cemetery, 517 F.3d 195, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). “Since Congress has never
conferred a similar power of review on the United States District Courts, the Supreme Court
Notably, all claims raised by Plaintiff will be Heck barred because all
claims raised by plaintiff seek to demonstrate the invalidity of his
confinement and/or sentence and he has failed to show that his conviction
has been invalidated.
has inferred that Congress did not intend to empower District Courts to review state court
decisions.” Desi’s Pizza, Inc. v. City of Wilkes Barre, 321 F.3d 411, 419 (3d Cir. 2003). This
doctrine applies equally to criminal and civil decisions rendered by a state court. In order
for this Doctrine to apply, there are four requirements that must be met: “(1) the federal
plaintiff lost in state court; (2) the plaintiff complain[s] of injuries caused by [the] state-court
judgments; (3) those judgments were rendered before the federal suit was filed; and (4) the
plaintiff is inviting the district court to review and reject the state judgments." Great W.
Mining and Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 166 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal
Here, as suggested by Magistrate Judge Carlson, all four factors are met. Plaintiff
was prosecuted and convicted in state court. Additionally, Plaintiff’s current Complaint, filed
after his conviction in state court, alleges in part that the judgment of the state court violated
his constitutional rights3, and thus caused injury. Finally, Plaintiff both expressly and
implicitly requests this Court review the decision of the state court.4 In fact, Plaintiff’s
complaint reads more like a habeas petition than an action under 42 U.S.C. §1983. See
Abdus Shahid v. Borough of Eddystone, No. 11-2501, 2012 WL 1858954, at *8 (E.D. Pa.
May 22, 2012) (explaining that a federal district court does not have jurisdiction when a
Plaintiff brings an action under 42 U.S.C. §1983 seeking to reopen a state criminal case to
determine that he was wrongfully convicted). Rooker-Feldman will apply in this case
While not immediately clear from Plaintiff’s Complaint, it appears that
Plaintiff argues that the judgment itself violated the Due Process Clause
of the Fifth Amendment, and that the Court’s sentence was discriminatory.
Plaintiff expressly requests that the court “release [his] wife and myself
due to our illegal incarceration and constitutional violations.” (Doc. 1, at ¶
VI.) Such relief would only be provided following a substantive review of
the actions taken by the state court. This request is improperly brought
under 42 U.S.C. §1983 instead of 28 U.S.C. §2254. Further, Plaintiff
contends in his Complaint that no “appeal” has been pursued until this
point because his lawyers feared they would appear “incompetent.” This
suggests that Plaintiff acknowledges this action is intended to serve as an
appeal. (Doc. 1-1, at 23.)
because: (1) Plaintiff, having been convicted, was the “loser” in the state court proceeding;
(2) Plaintiff is claiming injury resulted from the state court judgment; (3) Plaintiff filed his
federal complaint after the state court rendered judgment; and (4) Plaintiff is inviting
appellate review of the state court’s judgment.
Plaintiff objects to Magistrate Judge Carlson’s analysis and argues the RookerFeldman doctrine does not apply in this case. Thus, Plaintiff contends that this Court has
jurisdiction to hear this matter. Specifically, Plaintiff states that he is “not asking [for] what
would amount to appellate review, [but is] stating that [his] constitutional rights have been
violated.” (Doc. 7, at 5). Unfortunately, the relief explicitly requested by Plaintiff–namely
release from custody–would require this Court to review the decision of the state trial court
for reversible error. See Bolus v. Cappy, 141 Fed. App’x 63, 65 (3d Cir. 2005) (“In order for
us to grant the injunction, we would have to conclude that the state court made an incorrect
factual or legal determination regarding Plaintiff’s custody and would have to effectively
reverse his state decision or void its ruling.”) This Court must not conduct such inquiry.
Because the Rooker-Feldman elements are satisfied, this Court must dismiss any
claim raised by Plaintiff that improperly invites this Court to act as an appellate court within
the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As such, Plaintiff’s claims related to the conduct of the
state court will be dismissed because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
Notably, however, Rooker-Feldman will not bar claims related to injury caused by the
actions of defendants that are separate and apart from the state-court judgment itself.5 See
Great W. Mining and Mineral Co., 615 F.3d at 167; see also Coles v. Granville, 448 F.3d
853, 859 (6th Cir. 2006); Davani v. Va. Dep’t. of Transp., 434 F.3d 712, 719 (4th Cir. 2006).
For example, a claim made by Plaintiff that the state court judgment itself
constituted a Fifth Amendment violation is barred. But, a claim that a
prosecutor is liable under a theory of malicious prosecution is not barred
by Rooker-Feldman because in this scenario the Plaintiff was not harmed
by the state court judgment itself. Rather, the Plaintiff would be claiming
injury due to the actions of the defendants. See generally, Great W.
Mining and Mineral Co., 615 F.3d at 166-68 (discussing the injury
requirement of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine).
Barring such claims would violate the principles of Rooker-Feldman. Therefore, Magistrate
Judge Carlson’s R&R is too broad where it suggests that any claim relating to the state
criminal prosecution should be dismissed.
The Younger Abstention Doctrine is inapplicable in this case
Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends that this Court abstain from hearing Plaintiff’s
case because of the abstention doctrine established in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37
(1971). At bottom, the Younger abstention doctrine provides that “a federal district court has
the discretion to abstain from exercising jurisdiction over a particular claim where resolution
of that claim in federal court would offend principles of comity by interfering with an ongoing
state proceeding.” Addiction Specialists, Inc. v. Twp. of Hampton, 411 F.3d 399, 408 (3d
Cir. 2005). As Magistrate Judge Carlson properly notes in his R&R, there are three factors
that must be present for a district court to abstain under the Younger doctrine. Kendall v.
Russell, 572 F.3d 126, 131 (3d Cir. 2009). One such requirement is that there be an
ongoing state proceeding that is judicial in nature. Id. When Magistrate Judge Carlson
issued his R&R on July 21, 2017, Plaintiff’s appeal related to his state criminal conviction
and sentence were still pending. But, on September 19, 2017, the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court ended Plaintiff’s appeal when the Court denied his Petition for Allowance of Appeal.
Thus, Plaintiff’s case is no longer “ongoing” in state court.
For this reason, Magistrate Judge Carlson’s recommendation will not be adopted as
it relates to the application of the Younger abstention doctrine.
Prosecutors named in the Complaint are entitled to immunity
Finally, Magistrate Judge Carlson recommends dismissing Plaintiff’s claims against
the prosecutors named in the Complaint because they are entitled to immunity. Magistrate
Judge Carlson reasoned that it is well-settled that a prosecutor is provided absolute
immunity for their acts as advocates. See, e.g., Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 485-86 (1991)
(noting that prosecutors are provided absolute immunity for claims related to initiating or
conducting prosecutions.); Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993) (explaining
that “acts undertaken by a prosecutor in preparing for initiation of judicial proceedings or for
trial, and which occur in the course of his role as an advocate for the state, are entitled to
the protections of absolute immunity.”) In fact, the Supreme Court has made clear that
prosecutors are absolutely immune from liability for “acts that are intimately associated with
the judicial phase of the criminal process, such as initiating a prosecution and . . .
presenting the State’s case.” Yarris v. County of Delaware, 465 F.3d 129, 135 (3d Cir. 2006)
(citing Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 431 (1976)). For this reason, it is Magistrate
Judge Carlson’s recommendation that this Court dismiss Plaintiff’s claims against the
prosecutors named in the Complaint.
Plaintiff has objected to this recommendation contending that the prosecutors named
in the Complaint are not owed immunity. While unclear, it appears that Plaintiff claims that
a prosecutor is not owed immunity when he prosecutes a criminal defendant or when he
amends the charges against a criminal defendant during or prior to trial. Plaintiff is incorrect.
Magistrate Judge Carlson was correct in his finding that it is well-settled that prosecutors
acting as advocates are entitled to absolute immunity. Because the named prosecutors are
owed absolute immunity related to the filing of charges and the prosecution of a criminal
case, Magistrate Judge Carlson’s recommendation will be adopted and Plaintiff’s claims
against the named prosecutors will be dismissed.
C. Leave to Amend
The precedent in the Third Circuit is clear: “in civil right cases, district courts must
offer amendment–irrespective of whether it is requested–when dismissing a case for failure
to state a claim unless doing so would be inequitable or futile.” Fletcher-Harlee Corp. v.
Pote Concrete Contractors, 482 F.3d 247, 251 (3d Cir. 2007); see, e.g., Darr v. Wolfe, 767
F.2d 79, 80-81 (3d Cir. 1985); Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270, 1276 (3d Cir. 1970)
(specifically noting the leniency provided to pro se filers). In this case, the Complaint fails
to state a single viable civil rights claim due to profound defects in both form and substance.
Further, the proposed amendment to Plaintiff’s Complaint (Doc. 9) would not cure any of
its fundamental defects. For these reasons, leave to amend would be futile. Therefore,
Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend will be dismissed. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229,
235 (3d Cir. 2004).
For the above stated reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Proceed in forma
pauperis will be granted, but Plaintiff’s Complaint will be dismissed in its entirety. Further,
because amendment would be futile, Plaintiff’s Motion for Leave to Amend will be denied.
An appropriate order follows.
September 29, 2017
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. Richard Caputo
United States District Judge
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