The opinion of the court was delivered by: SCALERA
This civil rights complaint comes before the court on defendants' motion for summary judgment.
Plaintiff avers in his pro se complaint that on August 19, 1970 at approximately 1:00 a.m., he and two friends, Robert Hooper, a cousin, and James McDermott, were at his home, the White Oak Apartments, Ross Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. He left his apartment to drive his car from a parking area to the front of the apartment building. As he was driving in the parking area, his vehicle was stopped by the defendants. He was arrested, handcuffed, and placed in the police car. Plaintiff avers that he saw his two companions handcuffed and being led by other police officers and the superintendent of the White Oak Apartments, Langis, from the front door of the building toward the police cars.
Defendants aver that they had gone to the White Oak Apartments to serve an arrest warrant on Theresa Arrigo, alleged to be a tenant of Apartment 402, and to investigate a complaint filed by Langis about a disturbance. Defendants state that they arrived at Apartment 402 while a disturbance was in progress and were refused entry into the apartment. The officers gained entry into the apartment by Langis' pass key. Upon entry, defendants encountered McDermott and Robert Hooper. Plaintiff had fled from the apartment by a porch door which faces the parking area and attempted to escape in his car. Plaintiff was apprehended when the squad car blocked his path.
On November 10, 1970, plaintiff filed a motion to suppress evidence in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County
and sent copies to the district attorney and to plaintiff's counsel, the public defender. The motion sought the suppression of blank checks and check identification cards of a person named Beere, and other evidence seized by the defendants during the August 19, 1970 search of plaintiff's automobile. On February 9, 1971, when plaintiff's case was called for trial, plaintiff's motion to suppress was mistakenly returned to the record room of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas in the erroneous belief that the trial had been continued. In fact, the trial had not been postponed and the trial commenced that day. Apparently, neither the public defender, the district attorney, nor the presiding judge were aware of plaintiff's suppression motion. On the following day, February 9, 1971, the jury returned a guilty verdict and plaintiff was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 7 1/2 to 15 years.
On March 23, 1971, after plaintiff had obtained new counsel, a motion was filed requesting leave to file a motion for a new trial out of time. The basis of the motion was that plaintiff's pro se motion to suppress evidence had been overlooked by the court and the attorneys. On April 30, 1971, a hearing was held on the motion for a new trial and the issue was taken under advisement. The state court reversed plaintiff's conviction for the worthless check and false pretenses offenses and granted a new trial for the reason the plaintiff's motion to suppress evidence had been overlooked. On February 11, 1972, plaintiff pleaded guilty to the worthless check and false pretenses charges and was sentenced to a 1 to 2-year term on each of the counts, the sentences to run concurrently.
Plaintiff's complaint in the case sub judice, accompanied by a motion to proceed in forma pauperis, was received by this court on June 21, 1972 and was ordered filed with the clerk on August 15, 1972, when plaintiff's motion to proceed in forma pauperis was granted.
Plaintiff avers that his action arises under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, specifically 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and the laws of the United States of America.
Mindful that allegations of a pro se complaint are to be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers, Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 92 S. Ct. 594, 30 L. Ed. 2d 652 (1972), we construe the plaintiff's complaint to state three separate causes of action: (1) false arrest accompanied by a false imprisonment; (2) unlawful search of plaintiff's car and apartment; and (3) an unlawful state conviction. For these civil rights violations, plaintiff seeks $250,000 from the defendants.
At a pretrial conference, defendants moved for summary judgment on the following grounds: (1) the statute of limitations bars plaintiff's claim; (2) the plaintiff is collaterally estopped from raising these claims by virtue of his guilty plea in the state courts; (3) the plaintiff's claim was extinguished by his death; and (4) the complaint fails to state a cause of action upon which relief may be granted. Both parties have filed briefs.
The Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 et seq., contains no statute of limitation. The limitation to be applied is that which would be applicable in the courts of the state in which the federal court is sitting had the action been brought in the state. The court in ...