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KRIER v. AMODIO

November 17, 1977

STEVEN KRIER
v.
ANTHONY AMODIO, individually and as a police officer of the City of Philadelphia, and DENNIS LINSO, individually and as a police officer of the City of Philadelphia, and JOSEPH O'NEILL, Individually and as Police Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia, and the CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, MICHAEL A. KERR v. ANTHONY AMODIO, WILLIAM DANKS, JOHN MURPHY, JOSEPH O'NEILL and THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, MARK HARDER v. WILLIAM DANKS, Individually and as a police officer of the City of Philadelphia, and LEONARD McCABE, Individually and as a police officer of the City of Philadelphia, and JOSEPH O'NEILL, Individually and as Police Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia, and the CITY OF PHILADELPHIA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LORD, III

 These three civil rights actions against various Philadelphia police officers, Police Commissioner Joseph O'Neill and the City of Philadelphia ("City") arise out of the same incident, during which each plaintiff alleges he was beaten without provocation by two or more officers. The complaints, the answers, the motions and the supporting briefs are identical in each case, with the exception of the individual officers involved and the specific physical injuries alleged.

 In each case, the defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint asserting: (1) that this court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over all defendants in their individual capacities, except the City; (2) that we lack jurisdiction over the City; (3) that plaintiff fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted; and (4) that we should not take pendent jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims. We will address the motions in the three cases jointly, considering the defendants' claims in the above order.

 I. JURISDICTION OVER INDIVIDUAL DEFENDANTS:

 Each plaintiff alleges that at or about 2:00 A.M. on August 24, 1975, the defendant officers entered a private residence in Philadelphia after advising the occupants that they were under arrest; beat the plaintiff without provocation; failed to provide him with medical attention; and refused to allow him to make telephone calls, thereby depriving him of his civil rights and causing him personal injury. Each plaintiff asserts that Philadelphia Police Commissioner Joseph O'Neill supervises and controls police officers, implying that he was negligent in that supervision, and apparently asserts that O'Neill failed to provide medical attention and to allow a telephone call, thereby depriving him of his civil rights and causing him personal injury.

 Clearly, each individual defendant is a "person" for purposes of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1985, *fn1" under which plaintiffs here sue for damages and declaratory and injunctive relief. It has been established, furthermore, that police officers are not absolutely immune from liability under these sections of the Civil Rights Act. Kauffman v. Moss, 420 F.2d 1270 (3d Cir. 1970).

 Once the requirement of color of state law has been satisfied, there is no reason to distinguish between the defendants' individual and official liability under these statutes. Although requiring state action, this liability extends to officials who act beyond their authority, Basista v. Weir, 340 F.2d 74 (3d Cir. 1965), and can in that sense be "individual." Courts have seen no need to categorize this liability as either "individual" or "official" and we see no need to engage in that inquiry here.

 II. JURISDICTION OVER THE CITY:

 It is settled that municipalities are not "persons" within the definition of sections 1983 and 1985 and hence are not liable under those statutes. City of Kenosha v. Bruno, 412 U.S. 507, 37 L. Ed. 2d 109, 93 S. Ct. 2222 (1973); Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492, 81 S. Ct. 473 (1961). We do not consider in the instant cases the possibility of establishing jurisdiction against the City by means of an implied cause of action under the fourteenth amendment, with jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Each complaint alleges that defendants deprived plaintiff of his constitutional rights. But each does so in terms reproducing the language of § 1983, and none of the complaints mentions the fourteenth amendment specifically. We conclude, consequently, that no direct cause of action has been stated, and we will grant the motions to dismiss the complaints against the City.

 III. FAILURE TO STATE A CAUSE OF ACTION:

 With respect to the defendant officers, we find that plaintiffs have stated a cause of action. We are fully cognizant of the general requirement that facts be pleaded specifically in civil rights complaints. See, e.g., Rotolo v. Borough of Charleroi, 532 F.2d 920 (3d Cir. 1976); Curtis v. Everette, 489 F.2d 516 (3d Cir. 1973), cert. denied, 416 U.S. 995, 94 S. Ct. 2409, 40 L. Ed. 2d 774 (1974); Negrich v. Hohn, 379 F.2d 213 (3d Cir. 1967). Here, however, each plaintiff has alleged specific acts of the officers to have been unconstitutional conduct, thereby meeting the requirement of specificity. Gray v. Creamer, 465 F.2d 179, 182 n.2 (3d Cir. 1972).

 The allegations as to O'Neill are bewilderingly ambiguous. Except for specific beatings by specific officers, all defendants are lumped together as a unitary target. Thus, "defendants" failed to provide medical assistance or permit telephone calls. Does this mean that O'Neill was guilty of this conduct? Was he there? Did he participate? Did he approve with knowledge? Did he direct it? We just don't know and from the complaint, neither can anyone else. Such fuzzy, amorphous pleading represents a prime example of the type condemned as insufficient in Negrich. As to supervision, there is not even a general allegation that O'Neill was negligent. There is only the allegations that his duties include supervision. Were we to permit this complaint to stand against O'Neill's motion to dismiss, "specificity" would disappear from our legal vocabulary. Nor can O'Neill be held liable ...


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