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Prokop v. Supreme Court of Appeals

United States District Court, S.D. West Virginia, Charleston

December 19, 2016

ROBERT C. PROKOP, Plaintiff
v.
SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF WEST VIRGINIA, Defendant.

          RE-ISSUED PROPOSED FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION [1]

          Dwane L. Tinsley United States Magistrate Judge

         On November 5, 2014, the plaintiff, who is proceeding pro se, filed the instant Complaint (ECF No. 1).[2] This matter is assigned to the Honorable Joseph R. Goodwin, United States District Judge, and it is referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge for submission of proposed findings and a recommendation for disposition, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 1915A, the court is obliged to screen each case in which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity, and must dismiss the case if the complaint is frivolous, malicious, fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915A(a) and (b). A "frivolous" case has been defined as one which is based on an indisputably meritless legal theory. Denton v. Hernandez, 504 U.S. 25 (1992). A "frivolous" claim lacks "an arguable basis either in law or in fact." Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 325 (1989).

         Pro se complaints are held to less stringent standards than those drafted by attorneys, and the court is obliged to construe liberally such complaints. However, in Bell Atlantic Corp v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), the Supreme Court observed that a case should be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted if, viewing the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint as true and in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, the complaint does not contain “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” While the complaint need not assert “detailed factual allegations, ” it must contain “more than labels and conclusions” or a “formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action.” Id. at 555.

         The Supreme Court elaborated on its holding in Twombly in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), a civil rights case. The Court wrote:

Two working principles underlie our decision in Twombly. First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice. [Twombly, 550 U.S.] at 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955 (Although for the purposes of a motion to dismiss we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we “are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation” (internal quotation marks omitted). Rule 8 . . . does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions. Second, only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss. Id., at 556.
* * *
In keeping with these principles a court considering a motion to dismiss can choose to begin by identifying pleadings that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth. While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations. When there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief.

129 S.Ct. at 1949-50.

         A district court must also dismiss a claim if, at any time, it appears that the court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of the claim. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(h)(3); Duffield v. Memorial Hosp. Ass'n, 361 F.Supp. 398 (S.D. W.Va. 1973), aff'd sub. nom. Duffield v. Charleston Area Medical Ctr., 503 F.2d 512 (4th Cir. 1974); see also Bolin v. Chavez, 210 F.3d 389 (10th Cir. 2000) (permitting sua sponte dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure).

         Because the plaintiff's Complaint asserts a claim for relief over which this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction and otherwise fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted under the standards set forth in Twombly/Iqbal, the defendant has not been served with process and should not be required to appear or defend this matter.

         THE PLAINTIFF'S ALLEGATIONS

         The Complaint alleges that the plaintiff's rights under Article 3, section 14 of the West Virginia Constitution were violated in relation to his appeal of the September 25, 2013 Order of the Circuit Court of Mercer County denying a writ of habeas corpus.[3] The plaintiff's Complaint names the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia (the “SCAWV”) as the sole defendant. The Complaint further contains allegations relating to the conduct of the plaintiff's court-appointed counsel in his habeas appeal, alleging that there has been a “complete breakdown of communication between plaintiff and counsel.” (ECF No. 1 at 3). The plaintiff seeks an injunction by this federal court ...


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