PHILADELPHIA – A federal appeals court affirmed a district court ruling last month, dismissing a plaintiff’s lawsuit against various defendants for alleged constitutional rights violations, state and criminal statutes.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit judges Patty Shwartz, Morton I. Greenberg and D. Brooks Smith upheld a decision from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, to dismiss the litigation filed by plaintiff Thermuthis Lee against defendants Francisco Martinez, Johnson Martinez, Maria Martinez, and 4326 Broad Street L.P.

Lee filed her original complaint in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, one which alleged violations of state and federal criminal statutes, and in a supplemental complaint, one claim under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983 for deprivation of her constitutional rights.

The complaint was predicated on a nuisance issue that Lee’s family experienced while they were tenants in Pennsylvania Housing Authority housing. Per the Section 1983 claim, the case was removed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for further proceedings.

Once situated in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Lee moved to join the case with a related case currently on appeal, join additional defendants and to compel discovery; in response, defendant 4326 Broad Street L.P. moved to dismiss. The District Court denied the motion to compel discovery as untimely, granted the motion to dismiss, and denied Lee’s motion to join additional defendants as moot. Lee then appealed

“Lee fails to state a facially-plausible claim for relief against any defendant, so the motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim was properly granted. Section 1983 is a method for vindicating federal rights violated by persons acting under the color of state authority,” the Third Circuit stated.

The federal appeals court explained in this case that none of the defendants is a state actor, and the Section 1983 claim had no factual allegations connecting the private parties to a state actor’s improper actions. Therefore, the Court ruled no plausible “nexus” between the defendants and a state actor was shown and the complaint failed to state a plausible claim for relief under Section 1983.

“The remainder of Lee’s federal claims invoke criminal statutes for which no private right of action exists. Thus, they do not state plausible claims for relief. Because no plausible federal claims exist, dismissal of Lee’s state law claims was within the District Court’s discretion,” the Third Circuit said.

“Here, the District Court was well within its discretion to deny Lee’s motion to compel discovery and interrogatories as untimely. And, Lee has made no showing that failure to join the additional defendants resulted in actual and substantial prejudice. Thus, the remaining motions were properly denied. Because no substantial question is raised on appeal, we will summarily affirm the District Court’s judgment,” the Third Circuit concluded.

Defendant Broad Street is represented by Timothy James Kepner of William J. Ferren & Associates, in Philadelphia.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit case 17-1106

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:16-cv-05757

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

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