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TRAVELERS SOC. CLUB v. PITTSBURGH

May 5, 1988

The Travelers Social Club, Robert Johns, David Casinelli, Dean Ferrell and Walter M. Nelson, Jr., Plaintiffs,
v.
City of Pittsburgh; Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement; Ronald M. Sharpe, Chief, Pittsburgh Police, Department; Kevin Mellott, Assistant Fire Chief for the City of Pittsburgh; Sam Cagney; Anthony Hildebrand; Victor Joseph; Robert Pires; Benjamin Sledge; Unknown Officers of the City of Pittsburgh Police Department; and Unknown Officers of the Pennsylvania State Police Bureau of Liquor Control Enforcement, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: DIAMOND

 This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 brought by The Travelers Social Club, a private non-profit club which possesses a liquor license and whose members are almost exclusively gay men and lesbians ("Club"); Robert Johns, the Club's steward; and three Club members, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against various state and city law enforcement agencies as well as individuals associated with those agencies. Presently before the court is plaintiffs' request for preliminary injunctive relief. For the reasons set forth below, this request will be denied.

 Background

 This action is based upon an inspection or "raid" of the Club by the various defendants on Valentine's Day, 1988, at approximately 5:00 A.M. The asserted purpose of the raid was to determine whether the Club was selling liquor to minors or selling liquor after hours in violation of the Pennsylvania Liquor Code, ("Liquor Code") 47 P.S. §§ 4-406 and 4-493(1) (1987).

 The plaintiffs allege in their complaint, and sought to prove at the preliminary injunction hearing held before this court, that the various defendants violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights by engaging in assaultive and insultive behavior while conducting this raid. Plaintiffs also claim that they continue to be harmed because their fear of another similar raid has chilled their First Amendment right freely to associate at the Club and that the resulting dropoff in attendance at the Club since the raid threatens the Club's viability. Plaintiffs seek a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining and restraining the defendants from engaging in assaultive and insultive behavior when conducting raids in the future and a declaratory judgment stating that defendants' assaultive and insultive behavior on February 14, 1988, violated plaintiffs' constitutional rights. *fn1"

 Before addressing the merits of the plaintiffs' claim for preliminary injunctive relief, however, the court must determine whether the plaintiffs have presented the court with a justiciable case or controversy. Specifically, because plaintiffs' claim for prospective relief is rooted in conduct which has occurred in the past, the court must determine whether the plaintiffs have standing to seek that form of relief based either on the harm that has already occurred, continuing harm, or the threat of future harm.

 Discussion

 Article III of the Constitution requires that a plaintiff allege an actual case or controversy in order to invoke the jurisdiction of federal courts. Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 94-101, 20 L. Ed. 2d 947, 88 S. Ct. 1942 (1968). In the context of a plaintiff seeking injunctive relief, this case or controversy requirement has come to be analyzed in terms of whether a plaintiff has standing to seek that form of relief. The development and crystallization of this specific standing doctrine can be traced to a series of Supreme Court decisions beginning with O'Shea Littleton, 414 U.S 488, 38 L. Ed. 2d 674, 94 S. Ct. 669 (1974), and culminating with City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 75 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 1660 (1983).

 The Court stated that "plaintiffs in the federal courts 'must allege some threatened or actual injury resulting from the putatively illegal action before a federal court may assume jurisdiction. . . .' Abstract injury is not enough. It must be alleged that the plaintiff 'has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct injury' as the result of the challenged statute or official conduct. . . . The injury or that threat of injury must be both 'real and immediate' not 'conjectural' or 'hypothetical.'" Id. at 493-94 (citations omitted).

 Specifically addressing claims for injunctive relief, the Court stated that "past exposure to illegal conduct does not in itself show a present case or controversy regarding injunctive relief, however, if unaccompanied by any continuing, present adverse effects." Id. at 495-96. The Court recognized that, "of course, past wrongs are evidence bearing on whether there is a real and immediate threat of repeated injury. But here the prospect of future injury rests on the likelihood that respondents will again be arrested for and charged with violations of the criminal law and will again be subjected to bond proceedings, trial, or sentencing before [the judicial officers]." Id. at 496. The Court concluded that such a prospect would improperly take the Court into "the area of speculation and conjecture." Id.

 In Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 46 L. Ed. 2d 561, 96 S. Ct. 598 (1976), various individuals and organizations brought a class action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Mayor of Philadelphia, the Police Commissioner, and others alleging a pervasive pattern of illegal and unconstitutional mistreatment by police officers directed against minority citizens in particular and against all Philadelphia residents in general. 423 U.S. at 364-67. The Court, after reiterating the O'Shea analysis discussed above, determined that the plaintiffs lacked standing to seek injunctive relief because their "claim to 'real and immediate' injury rests . . . upon what one of a small, unnamed minority of policemen might do to them in the future . . . ." Id. at 372. The Court concluded that "this hypothesis is even more attenuated than those allegations of future injury found insufficient in O'Shea to warrant invocation of federal jurisdiction." Id.

 Likewise, in City of Los Angeles v. Lyons, 461 U.S. 95, 75 L. Ed. 2d 675, 103 S. Ct. 1660 (1983), an individual brought suit against the City of Los Angeles and four of its policemen seeking damages, injunctive and declaratory relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The complaint alleged that the plaintiff was stopped by the defendant officers for a traffic or vehicle code violation and that although he offered no resistance or threat whatsoever, the officers, without provocation or justification, seized him and applied a "chokehold" *fn2" rendering him unconscious and causing damage to his larynx. Id. at 97-98.

 In addition to seeking damages, Lyons sought an injunction barring the use of chokeholds in the future when police officers are not threatened by the use of deadly force. Id. at 98. Lyons based his claim for injunctive relief on the fact that officers routinely apply the chokehold in situations where they are not threatened by the use of deadly force, that many people have been injured as a result of the chokeholds, and that he had a justifiable fear that another contact with the ...


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