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Hoffenberg v. Grondolsky

April 27, 2010

STEVEN JUDE HOFFENBERG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JEFF GRONDOLSKY ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RENÉE Marie Bumb United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

IT APPEARING THAT:

1. On September 21, 2009, the Clerk docketed Plaintiff's complaint in this matter. See Docket Entry No. 1. The complaint consisted of a 100-page submission (encompassing 371 incomprehensible paragraphs), and was accompanied by Plaintiff's application to proceed in this matter in forma pauperis. See id.

2. On September 30, 2009, this Court issued a memorandum opinion and order granting Plaintiff in forma pauperis status and dismissing the complaint, without prejudice, for failure to comply with the requirements of Rules 8, 18 and 20. See Docket Entry No. 2 (explaining to Plaintiff the shortcomings of his complaint and providing Plaintiff with detailed guidance as to the requirements of Rules 8, 18 and 20). The Court also directed the Clerk to administratively terminate this matter, subject to reopening in the event Plaintiff submited his amended complaint. See id. The Court also directed the Clerk to serve Plaintiff with a blank civil complaint form and strongly encouraged Plaintiff to utilize the form in order to control the volume and content of his amended pleading. See id. at 13 and n.2.

3. In response, Plaintiff filed, not an amended complaint, but a host of motions. See Docket Entries Nos. 3, 4, 6 and 7,

4. On October 14, 2009, and November 5, 2009, the Court denied Plaintiff's motions and extended his time to file his amended complaint. See Docket Entries Nos. 4 and 8.

5. On November 16, 2009, Plaintiff filed his amended complaint, accompanied by another host of motions. See Docket Entries Nos. 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16. The amended complaint presented a copy of Plaintiff's original complaint (i.e., the very same 371-paragraph narrative consisting of conclusory statements) made even less understandable by Plaintiff's numerous handwritten comments entered between the lines and/or on margins. See Docket Entry No. 10.

6. Therefore, on December 17, 2009, the Court issued a memorandum opinion and order dismissing the amended complaint for failure to comply with the requirements of Rules 8, 18 and 20, and denying Plaintiff's second round of motions. See Docket Entry No. 18. Moreover, even though Plaintiff's amended complaint was virtually incomprehensible, the Court deciphered two claims in that complaint and dismissed these claims with prejudice, granting Plaintiff leave to amend as to the remainder of the claims. See id. In the process of addressing Plaintiff's claims, the Court reinterated to Plaintiff the pleading requirements of Rule 8, as explained by the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), and Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), and by the Court of Appeals in Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203 (3d Cir. 2009), and Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court's order concluded with an unambiguous directive - that Plaintiff's second amended complaint had to be a clear and concise document. See id. at 13.

7. On January 5, 2010, Plaintiff filed his second amended complaint, a 56-page submission consisting of 203 paragraphs, accompanied by 39 pages of exhibits written up by Plaintiff between the lines and on the margins. See Docket Entry No. 20. The relevance of these exhibits to Plaintiff's claims was just as incomprehensible as the content of Plaintiff's second amended complaint, since these 203 paragraphs presented, effectively, a stream of consciousness laden with legal citations. See id.

8. Therefore, on February 23, 2010, this Court issued another memorandum opinion and order dismissing Plaintiff's second amended complaint. See Docket Entry No. 23. However, just as during its dismissal of Plaintiff's first amended complaint, the Court took a guess as to certain claims that the Court could decipher and explained to Plaintiff that these allegations did not state a cognizable claim. Specifically, the Court observed:

A few claims that the Court might have distilled include: (a) an allegation that Plaintiff was denied access to the courts because Plaintiff cannot present the Court with additional paperwork (since this paperwork was, allegedly, taken from Plaintiff by his prison officials); (b) an allegation that Plaintiff was denied access to the courts because, in a certain medical malpractice action (which Plaintiff seemingly instituted), a certain witness or a certain defendant filed an affidavit, the content of which Plaintiff considered fraudulent; and (c) an allegation that Plaintiff's rights were violated because, for a certain period of time, Plaintiff was moved from the general prison population to solitary confinement. If the Court deciphered these allegations correctly, none of them states a cognizable claim, since prisoners have no due process right in being in general population (unless the solitary confinement is extremely lengthy), see Sandin v. Conner, 515 U.S. 472, 478 (1995); Olim v Wakinekona, 461 U.S. 238, 245-46 (1983); Meachum v. Fano, 427 U.S. 215, 224-25(1976), and an allegation that an adversary of a certain litigant defrauds his/her respective tribunal has nothing to do with the access to the courts claim: no provision in the United States Constitution guarantees a litigant that his/her witnesses or adversaries would be truthful during their court proceedings. Cf. Briscoe v. LaHue, 460 U.S. 325, 330-346 (1983) (police officer who testifies in criminal trial enjoys absolute witness immunity for false testimony); Kulwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d 1454, 1467 and n.16 (3d Cir. 1992) (witness who testifies in judicial proceeding is absolutely immune for false testimony); Williams v. Hepting, 844 F.2d 138, 143 (3d Cir. 1988) (witness is entitled to absolute immunity from civil liability under § 1983 for perjured testimony at preliminary hearing and suppression hearings). Similarly, Plaintiff's alleged inability to file additional paperwork in this matter (i.e., in the matter where the round of pleadings currently at bar is packed into a 95-page submission, being the shortest package Plaintiff thus far managed to produce) in no way denies Plaintiff access to the courts: Plaintiff, being a pro se litigant, is not required to provide the Court with any legal citations or legal memoranda. Moreover, at this initial stage, i.e., at the stage of screening, the Court takes all Plaintiff's allegations as true, without requiring Plaintiff to provide any exhibits or factual proof. Since the Court subjects Plaintiff's pleadings to facial rather than factual review, Plaintiff, in order to state a claim, must merely assert, clearly and concisely, what exactly each defendant did and when, and the specific injury that Plaintiff suffered as a result of these actions. Thus, if this matter is dismissed upon screening, it would be because Plaintiff fails to assert facts stating a claim, not because he cannot produce any evidence or legal citations, etc.

Id. at 3, n.1.

The Court's order concluded with the following unambiguous directive:

Because the Court is concerned that the filing of yet another amended complaint will result in an equally, if not more, incomprehensible submission, . . . Plaintiff [must] submit a list of legal claims which Plaintiff wishes to assert. After each claim, Plaintiff shall set forth in no more than one page the facts he alleges that support ...


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