enforcement officers who effect an arrest pursuant to a facially valid arrest warrant are immune from suit alleging a constitutional deprivation.
Plaintiff's claim against the federal government is grounded in the FTCA. It generally bars suits which "arise out of . . . false imprisonment, false arrest, malicious prosecution [or] abuse of process . . . [except where this conduct is committed by a] law enforcement officer". 28 U.S.C. § 2680(h). The liability of the United States under the FTCA arises only when the state in which the wrongful conduct occurred would impose liability under like circumstances. 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b); Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. 14, 23, 64 L. Ed. 2d 15, 100 S. Ct. 1468 (1980).
Pennsylvania, the state in which the complained-of conduct occurred, would not impose liability upon a governmental entity which mistakenly obtained or issued a valid arrest warrant. Specifically, The Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8541 et seq. limits municipal liability to claims arising out of automobile accidents, the care and custody of real and personal property, dangerous conditions created by trees, traffic control and street lighting, utility service facilities, improper street and sidewalk maintenance and the care, custody or control of animals. Claims not grounded in any of these specific theories of liability are barred by the Commonwealth's general retention of sovereign immunity. 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8541. Additionally, official conduct "authorized or required by law" is immunized. 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8546(2).
In the case at bar, plaintiff was arrested pursuant to a judicially authorized bench warrant which "commanded" the U.S. Marshal "or any authorized officer" to bring him to Philadelphia and answer the bank robbery indictment.
The agents who executed the raid on plaintiff's home were not at liberty to disregard this order; indeed, they were duty-bound to expeditiously comply with it. Moreover, they were neither obligated nor empowered to question its validity. See, Turner v. Raynes, 611 F.2d 92, 93 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 449 U.S. 900, 66 L. Ed. 2d 129, 101 S. Ct. 269 (1980) (sheriff need not determine "ultimate legal validity" of warrant before serving it); Atkins v. Lanning, 556 F.2d 485, 487 (10th Cir. 1977) (per curiam) (no liability where police officer makes an arrest pursuant to a valid warrant); Perry v. Jones, 506 F.2d 778, 780 (5th Cir. 1975) (same); Bezdek v. City of Elmhurst, 70 F.R.D. 636, 639 (N.D. Ill. 1976) (same).
Accordingly, because Pennsylvania would not impose liability upon a municipal entity for serving a judicially authorized, facially valid arrest warrant, we conclude that the United States is not liable under the FTCA. Brown v. United States, 653 F.2d 196, 201 (5th Cir. 1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 925, 102 S. Ct. 1970, 72 L. Ed. 2d 440 (1982).
Plaintiff's second cause of action, predicated directly upon the Constitution, is against the unknown agents of the FBI who executed the warrant. This claim fares no better.
We begin with the observation that the FTCA does not provide the only method to redress governmental wrongdoing. Carlson v. Green, 446 U.S. at 18-19, held that the 1974 amendments to the FTCA did not preclude a Bivens action against individual government agents. However, officials charged with misconduct under a Bivens theory still retain a shield of "qualified immunity". Id. at 19 and 21, n.7.
As noted supra, the scope of the qualified immunity which the individual FBI agents retain is determined by reference to objective criteria; i.e., whether they violated "clearly established" law. We again observe that the execution of a facially valid and judicially authorized search warrant cannot serve as a predicate for liability, Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. at 143-44, and conclude that defendants did not violate "clearly established" law. As such, we grant the defendants' motion as to Count II of the complaint.
The reasoning which supports our decision that plaintiff cannot prevail against the federal defendants also compels the conclusion that he likewise cannot prevail against the non-federal defendants. Accordingly, we dismiss the complaint as to them. See, Bryson v. Brand Insulations, Inc., 621 F.2d 556, 559 (3d Cir. 1980) (Court may dismiss an action "on its own initiative").
AND NOW, this 1st day of October, 1982, IT IS ORDERED that summary judgment is entered in favor of defendants, United States and Five Unknown Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and against plaintiff.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the remainder of the complaint is DISMISSED.