UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
January 20, 2011
MACEO JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF,
THE COUNTY OF WASHINGTON,*FN1 DEFENDANT.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: David R. Homer U.S. Magistrate Judge
REPORT-RECOMMENDATION and ORDER
Presently before this Court is an application to proceed in forma pauperis and a civil rights complaint filed by Maceo Johnson ("plaintiff" or "Johnson"). Dkt. Nos. 1-2. Johnson has not paid any fee relating to this action. Johnson seeks recovery of damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged deprivation of his constitutional rights. Id. at 3, 6.
Because the pleading submitted by Johnson fails to satisfy the basic pleading requirements established by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the complaint fails to establish a cause of action under 42 U.S.C.§ 1983, the Court will give Johnson leave to file an amended complaint should he wish to avoid the dismissal of his action.
A. Defendant Hon. Stan L. Pritzker
Johnson names Honorable Stan L. Pritzker, Washington County Family Court Judge, as a defendant. Johnson claims that Judge Pritzker directed that plaintiff withdraw a motion to dismiss a petition filed by the Washington County Department of Social Services. According to Johnson, because he refused to withdraw the motion to dismiss, Judge Pritzker withdrew Johnson's court-appointed counsel. See Compl. at 3. For the reasons stated below, the claims against Judge Pritzker should be dismissed pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and N.D.N.Y.L.R. Rule 5.4(a).
Section 1915(e), as amended, directs that the Court:
(2) [S]hall dismiss the case at any time if the court determines that *** (B) the action ... (I) is frivolous or malicious; (ii) fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted; or (iii) seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B).
"Judges enjoy absolute immunity from personal liability for 'acts committed within their judicial jurisdiction.'" Young v. Selsky, 41 F.3d 47, 51 (2d Cir. 1994) (emphasis added) (quoting Pierson v. Ray, 386 U.S. 547 (1967)). "The absolute immunity of a judge applies however erroneous the act may have been, and however injurious in its consequences it may have proved to the plaintiff." Young, 41 F.3d at 51 (internal quotation marks omitted). Accordingly, defendant Pritzker should be dismissed from this action with prejudice because he is absolutely immune from liability in this Section 1983 action.
(B) Rules Governing Pleading Requirements.
Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading which sets forth a claim for relief shall contain, inter alia, "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." See Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). The purpose of this Rule "is to give fair notice of the claim being asserted so as to permit the adverse party the opportunity to file a responsive answer, prepare an adequate defense and determine whether the doctrine of res judicata is applicable." Hudson v. Artuz, 1998 WL 832708, *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 30, 1998) (quoting Powell v. Marine Midland Bank, 162 F.R.D. 15, 16 (N.D.N.Y.1995) (McAvoy, C.J.) (other citations omitted)).
Moreover, Rule 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides, in part:
(b) Paragraphs; Separate Statements. All averments of claim or defense shall be made in numbered paragraphs, the contents of each of which shall be limited as far as practicable to a statement of a single set of circumstances; and a paragraph may be referred to by number in all succeeding pleadings. Each claim founded upon a separate transaction or occurrence and each defense other than denials shall be stated in a separate count or defense whenever a separation facilitates the clear presentation of the matters set forth.
The purpose of Rule 10 is to "provide an easy mode of identification for referring to a particular paragraph in a prior pleading ...." Sandler v. Capanna, No. 92-4838, 1992 WL 392597, *3 (E.D.Pa. Dec. 17, 1992) (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure, § 1323 at 735 (1990)).
A complaint that fails to comply with these Rules presents too heavy of a burden for the defendants in shaping a comprehensive defense, provides no meaningful basis for the Court to assess the sufficiency of plaintiff's claims, and may properly be dismissed by the Court. Gonzales v. Wing, 167 F.R.D. 352, 355 (N.D.N.Y. 1996) (McAvoy, C.J.). As the Second Circuit has stated, "[w]hen a complaint does not comply with the requirement that it be short and plain, the Court has the power to, on its own initiative, ... dismiss the complaint." Salahuddin v. Cuomo, 861 F.2d 40, 42 (2d Cir. 1988). "Dismissal, however, is usually reserved for those cases in which the complaint is so confused, ambiguous, vague, or otherwise unintelligible that its true substance, if any, is well disguised." Hudson, 1998 WL 832708, *2 (citation omitted). In those cases in which the Court dismisses a pro se complaint for failure to comply with these Rules, it should afford the plaintiff leave to amend the complaint to state a claim that is on its face non-frivolous. See Simmons II v. Abruzzo, 49 F.3d 83, 86-87 (2d Cir. 1995).
(C) Allegations Contained in the Complaint.
A review of the complaint reveals that it clearly fails to satisfy the requirements of the above-mentioned federal rules. It appears that Johnson is claiming unfair treatment by Washington County employees during the pendency of a family court matter. Other than a reference to a proceeding on September 8, 2010, Johnson does not include any dates or specific acts of alleged wrongdoings by the named defendants. See Dkt No.
1. Instead, Johnson states that his claims are supported by the Washington County Family Court record. Dkt. 1 at p. 2 ¶ 16.
(D) In Forma Pauperis Application.
As to Johnson's application to proceed in forma pauperis, after reviewing the file, the Court finds that Johnson may properly proceed with this matter in forma pauperis.
In sum, Johnson's complaint, as drafted, fails to comply with the pleading requirements of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and is not susceptible of a meaningful response by the defendants. Johnson is advised that unless he files an amended complaint within thirty (30) days from the date of the filing of this Order, this action may be dismissed.*fn2
Any such amended complaint, which shall supersede and replace in its entirety the previous complaint filed by Johnson, must contain a caption that clearly identifies, by name, each individual and/or entity that Johnson is suing in the present lawsuit, and must bear the case number assigned to this action. The body of Johnson complaint must contain sequentially numbered paragraphs containing only one act of misconduct per paragraph. Thus, if Johnson claims that his civil and/or constitutional rights were violated by more than one defendant, or on more than one occasion, she shall include a corresponding number of paragraphs in her amended complaint for each such allegation, with each paragraph specifying (i) the alleged act of misconduct; (ii) the date on which such misconduct occurred; (iii) the names of each and every individual who participated in such misconduct; (iv) where appropriate, the location where the alleged misconduct occurred; and, (v) the connection between such misconduct and Johnson's civil and/or constitutional rights.
Johnson's amended complaint shall be filed with the Court within thirty (30) days from the date of the filing of this Order. *fn3 Johnson shall state in the single amended complaint filed in accordance with the terms of this Order all claims that he wishes this Court to consider as a basis for awarding relief. Johnson's failure to file an amended pleading will result in dismissal of this action without further Order of the Court.
WHEREFORE, it is hereby RECOMMENDED that the claims against Washington County Family Court Judge Stan L. Pritzker be DISMISSED pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) and N.D.N.Y.L.R. 5.4(a); and it is further ORDERED, that Johnson's in forma pauperis application is granted; and it is further ORDERED, that Johnson may file with the Court within thirty (30) days from the date of the filing of this Order, an amended complaint which complies fully with Rules 8 and 10 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the terms of this Order as detailed above; and it is further ORDERED, that if Johnson fails to comply fully with this Order by submitting an amended complaint within thirty (30) days of the filing date of this Order, this action may be dismissed; and it is further ORDERED, that upon the filing of the amended complaint, the Clerk forward the file to the Court for further review, and it is further ORDERED, that the Clerk serve a copy of this Order along with a copy of the Pro Se Assistance Program brochure on Johnson by regular mail.
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1), the parties may lodge written objections to the foregoing report. Such objections shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court. FAILURE TO OBJECT TO THIS REPORT WITHIN FOURTEEN DAYS WILL PRECLUDE APPELLATE REVIEW. Roldan v. Racette, 984 F.2d 85, 89 (2d Cir. 1993); Small v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 892 F.2d 15 (2d Cir. 1989); 28 U.S.C §636(b)(1); Fed R. Civ. P. 72, 6(a), 6(e).
IT IS SO ORDERED.