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Bernstein v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT


January 15, 1986

SANFORD BERNSTEIN, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, JAMES MCCARTHY, COUNTY OF LEHIGH, WILLIAM PLATT, ANTHONY PADRONE, WULF HEUSINGER, THOMAS MURTAUGH, DONALD LAYTON, DALE YEAGER, MICHAEL ALVIN, JIMMY H. COLEMAN, NANCY H. BERNSTEIN, CATASAUQUA POLICE DEPARTMENT, ALLENTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT, WOODROW KEISER

ON APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COUR FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

Author: Gibbons

Before SEITZ and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges, and BARRY, District Judge*fn*

GIBBONS, Circuit Judge:

Sanford Bernstein appeals from a final judgment dismissing his federal and pendent state law claims. In his complaint Bernstein alleged that the defendants -- the County of Lehigh, its prosecutor, and various other individuals and entities -- conspired, in violation of sections 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986 of title 42 of the United States Code and in violation of Pennsylvania law, to cause him to be falsely charged with and convicted of criminal solicitation of the murder of his ex-wife.

The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the County of Lehigh on the ground that since it had no policy of encouraging the kind of conspiracy alleged there was no basis for imposing on it liability premised upon the principle of respondeat superior. It likewise granted summary judgment in favor of the county prosecutor, holding that he was absolutely immune from suit. As to the remaining defendants, it granted summary judgment on statute of limitation grounds. Because the claims against all these defendants were untimely, the district court correctly dismissed them.*fn1

We agree with the district court that the gravamen of Bernstein's complaint, no matter which of the federal statutes he relies on, is that the defendants conspired to cause him to be falsely arrested and imprisoned. His cause of action arose in March 1980 when he knew, or with reasonable diligence should have known, of the conspiracy.*fn2

We have already held that section 1981 actions based on allegedly unlawful acts committed in Pennsylvania brought in federal district courts located in Pennsylvania are governed by the two-year statute of limitations prescribed by 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5524 (Purdon 1981). See Goodman v. Lukens Steel Co., No. 84-1478, slip op. at 15-16 (3d Cir. Nov. 13, 1985). Bernstein filed his complaint on July 18, 1983, over three years after his cause of action arose. Consequently, his section 1981 claim is time-barred.

As for his section 1981, 1985, and 1986 claims, Bern urges that we not apply to them the same two-year statute of limitations. However, he advances, and we know of, no persuasive reasons for applying a different statute of limitations. We hold that 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5524 (Purdon 1981) also bars these claims.

Finally, Bernstein contends that the district court erred in dismissing his pendent state law claims. There was no error. See United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 726-27 (1966). No federal court order is required to accomplish a transfer of those claims to an appropriate state court pursuant to 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5103(b)(2) (Purdon Supp. 1985).

The judgment appealed from will therefore be affirmed.


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