Nicholas Malfitano Apr. 19, 2016, 11:52am


PHILADELPHIA – The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has ruled in agreement with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, in dismissing the complaint of a senior citizen alleging abuse and harassment against his residence’s management, and preventing its further amendment.

In a per curiam decision reached April 13, judges Julio M. Fuentes, Thomas I. Vanaskie and Anthony J. Scirica upheld the District Court’s ruling that Eugene A. Chatman’s lawsuit failed to state a claim, and should be dismissed.

In June 2015, Chatman first filed a complaint along with a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, which the District Court granted. But because the facts alleged in the complaint appeared to duplicate those listed in prior complaints which had been dismissed as frivolous, the district court notified Chatman that the court was inclined to dismiss the case under federal law.

However, the district court provided Chatman with an opportunity to amend the complaint to present a meritorious claim, so therefore, Chatman filed an amended complaint. However, the district court concluded in July that the amended complaint was subject to dismissal for failure to state a claim, and that further amendment of the complaint would be futile. Chatman filed a timely notice of appeal with the Third Circuit.

Chatman’s original complaint contained allegations that “the property manager was harassing the plaintiff” and that a certain money order was missing from his account. Chatman attached as exhibits documentation connected to a previously-unsuccessful state court action against defendant Western Manor Apartments.

In the instant amended complaint, Chatman alleged that he is a veteran of the Korean War and cancer patient, and referenced his other court cases. Chatman also pointed to claims of “harassment and abuse of a government patient (never compensated)" and “harassment and abuse of a senior citizen.”

Though called upon to liberally construe the facts in a case like this, the Third Circuit believed dismissal of the complaint was warranted, due to the lack of substance associated with the complaint’s allegations.

“With these bare allegations, Chatman has neither expressed how the defendants violated his federal rights nor identified any causes of action against them,” the Third Circuit said. “Therefore, we conclude that the District Court properly dismissed the action for failure to state a claim, as allowing Chatman an additional opportunity to amend his complaint would have been futile.”

Within Chatman’s notice of appeal, he asserted in a statement that, “The violation of federal rights by government officials acting under color of law is actionable via Section 1983,” and argued a “serious violation” of legal procedure in the process.

“The notice of appeal also contains references to his state court action against Western Manor Apartments. Portions of the notice of appeal appear to contain material outside of the record on appeal,” the Third Circuit stated. “However, to the extent that Chatman is now belatedly attempting to amend his complaint by alleging claims against the judges who ruled against him in his cases, we note that judges are immune from suit based on actions performed solely in their judicial capacities.”

“Thus, even if these allegations had been considered below, the result would remain the same, as further allowance to amend his complaint to add these claims against the judges would be futile. For these reasons, we will affirm the District Court’s order,” the Third Circuit said.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 15-2809

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-00810

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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