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KEDRA v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

June 29, 1978

Dolores M. KEDRA, in her own right, Richard J. Rozanski and Elizabeth Rozanski, Husband and Wife, Patricia Kedra, Kenneth Kedra, Teresa Kedra, Michael Kedra, a minor, by his parent and natural guardian Dolores M. Kedra, Robert Kedra, a minor, by his parent and natural guardian Dolores M. Kedra, and James Kedra, a minor, by his parent and natural guardian Dolores M. Kedra
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, Joseph F. O'NEILL, Police Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia, JOSEPH GOLDEN, Chief Inspector, Homicide Division of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia, Captain Donald Patterson, Lieutenant Lesley Simmins, Lieutenant Augustus Miller, Sergeant John Tiers, Detective Richard Strohm, Detective James Richardson, Detective George Cassidy, Detective Michael Gannon, Officer James Brady, Officer Robert Pitney, Officer Jessie Vassor, Officer John J. D'Amico, Officer (first name unknown) Tuffo, and other unidentified members of the Philadelphia Police Department



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LUONGO

 This civil rights action arises out of an alleged series of brutal acts committed by Philadelphia policemen against the plaintiffs. The events set forth in the complaint span one and one-half years, from December 1975 to February or March 1977. The defendants have moved to dismiss. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b).

 I. The Factual Allegations

 Plaintiffs are Dolores M. Kedra; her children, Elizabeth, Patricia, Teresa, Kenneth, Joseph, *fn1" Michael, Robert, and James; and Elizabeth's husband, Richard J. Rozanski. Michael, Robert, and James Kedra are minors, and their mother sues on their behalf as parent and natural guardian.

 Defendants are the City of Philadelphia; Police Commissioner Joseph J. O'Neill; officials of the Police Department's Homicide Division -- Division Chief Donald Patterson, Chief Inspector Joseph Golden, Lieutenant Leslie Simmins, and Sergeant John Tiers; Homicide Detectives Richard Strohm, James Richardson, George Cassidy, and Michael Gannon; Police Lieutenant Augustus C. Miller; Police Officers James Brady, Robert Pitney, Jessie Vassor, and John J. D'Amico; an officer surnamed Tuffo; and other unidentified members of the Police Department. It is alleged that "at all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action [the City of Philadelphia] employed all of the individual defendants." It is further alleged that each of the individual defendants, "separately and in concert," acted under color of Pennsylvania law and, "pursuant to their authority as agents, servants, and employees of defendant City of Philadelphia, intentionally and deliberately engaged in the unlawful conduct described . . . ." They are sued "individually and in their official capacity" and "jointly and severally."

 The series of events set forth in the complaint *fn2" dates from December 22, 1975. On that evening, Richard Rozanski and Joseph and Michael Kedra were arrested at gun point without probable cause by defendants Vassor and D'Amico and taken to Philadelphia Police Headquarters (the Roundhouse). At the Roundhouse, they were separated and questioned for seventeen hours by defendants Strohm, Richardson, Cassidy, and Gannon. They were not informed of their constitutional rights and were refused requests for counsel. The complaint states --

 
"During the course of the interrogation, plaintiffs Richard Rozanski, Michael Kedra and Joseph Kedra were handcuffed, struck about the head, face, stomach, abdomen, arms and legs with fists and physical objects, were harassed and threatened with further physical violence by defendants Strohm, Richardson, Cassidy and Gannon; during the course of this interrogation, plaintiff Richard Rozanski's legs were held apart by two of the defendant detectives while he was kicked in the testicles, groin, buttocks and legs by defendant Strohm."

 Rozanski, and Michael and Joseph Kedra each sustained serious injuries as a result of the beatings.

 Meanwhile, defendant Richardson forcibly took Elizabeth Rozanski from her mother's house to the Roundhouse, where she was detained and questioned for seventeen hours by defendants Strohm, Gannon, Richardson, and Simmins. She was not advised of her rights. She was shown her husband, who had been beaten badly, and "was threatened with arrest in an attempt to coerce a false statement from her." A warrantless search of her bedroom was conducted by defendant Strohm "and others" without her consent and without probable cause.

 On that same evening, Dolores Kedra voluntarily went to the Roundhouse "where she was illegally interrogated, coerced into signing a release authorizing the search of her house and forcibly detained" for nine hours by Strohm, Richardson, Cassidy, Gannon, "and other unidentified defendants."

 Seven days later, on the morning of December 29, 1975, defendants Brady and Pitney went to the Kedra home, demanding to see Richard Rozanski and "falsely stating that they had papers for his appearance in Court on the following day." All of the plaintiffs except Dolores Kedra, the mother, were at home at the time. The policemen "attempted to drag [Rozanski] out of the house," but Rozanski and Kenneth Kedra shut and locked the door. Rozanski asked to see a warrant, but Brady and Pitney did not have one. Brady and Pitney then secured the aid of other policemen who, without a warrant or probable cause and "through the use of excessive force," "broke open the door with the butt end of a shotgun and forced their way into the house with shotguns, handguns, blackjacks, and nightsticks in hand." Defendants Brady, Pitney, Miller, Tiers, "and ten to fifteen other defendant members of the Philadelphia Police Department" conducted a thorough search of the house and, while doing so, physically assaulted Patricia, Joseph, Michael, and Kenneth Kedra, inflicting serious injuries. They also attempted to confiscate a camera and note pad being used by Joseph Kedra. It is alleged further that --

 
"The defendants unlawfully detained plaintiffs within the house by blocking off both the front and rear doors, holding plaintiffs in fear of life and limb by visibly displaying shotguns, handguns and nightsticks, and through threats of violence, coercion and abusive language."

 Rozanski and Joseph, Michael, and Kenneth Kedra were taken to the Roundhouse in a police van, and Kenneth was beaten while being led to the van. At the Roundhouse, Michael and Kenneth were "unlawfully detained" for twenty-four hours, and Rozanski "was struck in the face by defendant Strohm" and was denied repeated requests for counsel. "Without just or probable cause," Rozanski was charged with murder, burglary, and receiving stolen goods, and Kenneth and Joseph were charged with assault and battery, harboring a fugitive, and resisting arrest. In defending these charges, they incurred attorney's fees. All three later were acquitted on all counts.

 With respect to the December 1975 events, the complaint sets forth the following general allegations:

 
"17. At all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action, plaintiff Richard Rozanski, through his attorney, offered to voluntarily surrender to the Philadelphia Police; the defendants chose, however, to engage in the course of conduct described in detail above, the purpose and effect of which was to knowingly, intentionally and deliberately deprive plaintiffs of rights secured by the Constitution of the United States.
 
18. All of the aforementioned acts were committed by defendants intentionally, deliberately and maliciously, pursuant to their authority as agents, servants and employees of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia.
 
19. The aforementioned acts were committed with the consent and knowledge and at the direction of defendants Joseph F. O'Neill in his capacity as Police Commissioner of the City of Philadelphia.
 
20. The aforementioned acts were committed with the knowledge and consent and at the direction of defendant Joseph Golden in his official capacity as Chief Inspector of the Homicide Division of the Police Department of the City of Philadelphia.
 
21. The aforementioned acts were committed with the knowledge and consent and at the direction of Captain Donald Patterson, Chief of the Homicide Division of the Philadelphia Police Department, Lieutenant Lesley Simmins and Sergeant John Tiers, in their official capacities as supervisory officials of the Philadelphia Police Department.
 
22. The defendants named in Paragraphs 18, 19, 20 and 21 are and were at all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action in a position to exercise direct supervision of the defendant officers and detectives and did in fact exercise such control and supervision at all times material to plaintiffs' cause of action.
 
23. All of the aforementioned acts were committed without just or probable cause with regard to each of the plaintiffs."

 The complaint alleges further that "defendants have engaged and continue to engage in a systematic pattern of harassment, threats and coercion with the intention of, and having the effect of depriving plaintiffs of . . . . rights and privileges . . . ." As part of this "pattern," Michael Kedra was arrested in June 1976 and was beaten by defendant Strohm, "who handcuffed plaintiff's hands behind his back, and struck him in the chest and stomach with a nightstick and fist." James Kedra has been "harassed and threatened without cause" by defendants D'Amico, Brady and Pitney, and in February or March 1977 "was grabbed by the shirt" by Tuffo and Pitney "and threatened with physical violence."

 The complaint asserts that "as a result of the aforementioned actions, plaintiffs have suffered and continue to suffer severe emotional distress."

 II. The Suit and the Motion

 Plaintiffs' complaint was filed on November 23, 1977. The action is brought under the Constitution and the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986. Jurisdiction is based on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343. As a basis for their civil rights claims, the plaintiffs assert that defendants' actions deprived them of the following federal "rights, privileges and immunities":

 
"(a) The right of free speech and the right to peacably [sic] assemble under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
 
(b) The right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.
 
(c) The prohibition against compulsory self-incrimination under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
 
(d) The right to be free from deprivation of life, liberty or property without due process of law under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.
 
(e) The prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments."

 Without explanation, the complaint also cites the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and Article 1, §§ 1, 8, and 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Plaintiffs also invoke the pendent jurisdiction doctrine to assert additional claims under Pennsylvania law "for false arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault and battery, trespass to real and personal property and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress." Plaintiffs seek compensatory and punitive damages in excess of $10,000 and attorneys' fees and costs.

 All of the named defendants have filed the motion to dismiss. It is based on several grounds *fn3" and raises questions of procedure as well as jurisdictional and substantive issues under the civil rights laws. In addition, the pendent state claims raise jurisdictional issues not discussed in the motion which should be examined in this opinion.

 III. Procedural Questions

 Defendants' motion raises two matters that essentially are procedural. First, they contest Dolores Kedra's prosecution of the case on behalf of her minor sons, Michael, Robert, and James. Second, they contend that there has been an improper joinder of parties.

 A. Suit on behalf of the minor children

 In the list of plaintiffs in the caption of the complaint, Michael, Robert, and James Kedra are each listed as "a minor, by his parent and natural guardian, DOLORES M. KEDRA." Defendants contend that Dolores Kedra is seeking to assert her children's rights and that she lacks standing to do so. They also argue that, because she asserts no rights of her own with respect to these children's claims, the Court lacks jurisdiction over the claims.

 Defendants' contentions on this matter are frivolous. The complaint makes abundantly clear that Michael, Robert, and James are plaintiffs in their own right and that their mother merely is acting as their representative since, as minors, they lack capacity to sue. *fn4" In light of the allegations of injury to Michael, Robert, and James, defendants do not, and could not, contend that these minors lack standing. There are no jurisdictional problems presented by their claims. The only real question, therefore, is whether suit by these children through a representative is procedurally proper. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 17(c), which specifically contemplates such a procedure, *fn5" answers that question affirmatively.

 
B. Joinder
 
Defendants contend that there has been an improper joinder of parties under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20(a), which provides:
 
"All persons may join in one action as plaintiffs if they assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all these persons will arise in the action. All persons . . . . may be joined in one action as defendants if there is asserted against them jointly, severally, or in the alternative, any right to relief in respect of or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences and if any question of law or fact common to all defendants will arise in the action. A plaintiff or defendant need not be interested in obtaining or defending against all the relief demanded. Judgment may be given for one or more of the plaintiffs according to their respective rights to relief, and against one or more defendants according to their respective liabilities."
 
Defendants argue that plaintiffs' claims against them do not "arise[e] out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences" because they stem from events spanning a fourteen or fifteen month period. *fn6"
 
The joinder provisions of the Federal Rules are very liberal. As the Supreme Court noted in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966),
 
"Under the Rules, the impulse is toward entertaining the broadest possible scope of action consistent with fairness to the parties; joinder of claims, parties and remedies is strongly encouraged."
 
383 U.S. at 724 (footnote omitted).
 
The reason for the liberality is that unification of claims in a single action is more convenient and less expensive and time consuming for the parties and the court. Mosley v. General Motors Corp., 497 F.2d 1330, 1332 (8th Cir. 1974). In recognition of this attitude, the "transaction or occurrence" language of Rule 20 has been interpreted to "permit all reasonably related claims for relief by or against different parties to be tried in a single proceeding. Absolute identity of all events is unnecessary." Id. at 1333.

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