they had resigned as a result of the stops and searches of the four individual plaintiffs' cars, no reasonable jury could conclude that the incidents of violence and threats to nonstriking workers, were not in fact the real reasons for their resignations.)
More importantly, the interest that McCreary Tire is asserting that the defendants infringed by their actions is not one which is secured to them by the federal constitution or federal law. McCreary Tire is essentially claiming a property interest in the output of its workers which was infringed by the stops and searches of the individual plaintiffs' cars. To admit such an extravagant proposition would be to make an employer an injured party in every case in which an employee suffered Section 1983 injury.
Secondly, McCreary Tire may be asserting that the police officers who set up the line around the McCreary Tire plant did so negligently because they were not adequately trained to quell the potential violence between picketing strikers and nonstriking employees without slowing down the entry of workers to the McCreary plant. Again, the "right to uninterrupted production" which is the premise on which McCreary bases its argument is not a federally recognized one. Nor would negligent conduct by the police officers be actionable. Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1986).
Third, McCreary Tire may be asserting, in a back-door attempt to avoid the general rule, that a litigant may sue for only his own constitutional injuries, United States v. Raines, 362 U.S. 17, 22, 4 L. Ed. 2d 524, 80 S. Ct. 519 (1960), that the police officers maliciously prosecuted the individual plaintiffs, and that this had the effect of injuring McCreary Tire. But this is nothing more than the first theory, stripped of the "antimanufacturer bias" element, and like the second theory, requires a federal right to unimpaired production, which we decline to create.
Apparently McCreary Tire's complaint rests solely on its sense that it was somehow unfair for the Pennsylvania State Police and Indiana Borough Police Department, on the scene of the strike due to acts of violence and threats of violence by strikers toward nonstrikers, to stop and cite nonstrikers and to confiscate their ballbats, saps, and clubs. The police officers' attempts to forestall escalation of the violence that had occurred in the strike to that date simply do not constitute a violation of any constitutional right of McCreary Tire.
Errett, Coon, Huey, Damico
Two actions by the police officers are challenged by plaintiffs: the initial stop and seizure of items from the plaintiffs' vehicles, and the filing of prosecutions for violations of 18 Pa.C.S. § 908. We review the actions of the officers under the standards set forth in Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982), and Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 97 L. Ed. 2d 523, 532, 107 S. Ct. 3034 (1987). The officers are entitled to summary judgment unless in light of clearly established precedent, the officers could not have reasonably believed that their actions were justified. This requires us to undertake two inquiries: the first, into the lawfulness of the officers' actions, and secondly, assuming that the actions were unlawful, whether their illegality is so clear that a jury would be justified in finding that the officers were "plainly incompetent or . . . knowingly violate[d] the law." See Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335, 341, 89 L. Ed. 2d 271, 106 S. Ct. 1092 (1986). An examination of the uncontested facts establishes that both inquiries must be answered in favor of the officers.
The officers who initially saw the offending items in each of the plaintiffs' vehicles were in a public place pursuant to lawful orders. From their places on the street, they observed items in plain view in plaintiffs' vehicles. Trooper Pedersen's actions in stopping plaintiff Huey's vehicle for an independent motor vehicle violation put her in the equivalent position, since an officer making a traffic stop has every right to look into the interior of the stopped vehicle. See New York v. Class, 475 U.S. 106, 89 L. Ed. 2d 81, 106 S. Ct. 960 (1986); Harris v. United States, 390 U.S. 234, 236, 19 L. Ed. 2d 1067, 88 S. Ct. 992 (1968). Next, the officers were entitled to use their reason and their awareness of the strike and its history of violence in concluding that the possession of a club, two socks containing glass bottles, a metal file (Erret), four baseball bats (Huey), a baseball bat (Coon), a golf club, a sawed-off baseball bat, and a slim jim (Damico) might be reasonably associated with criminal activity. Indeed, similar items had been previously confiscated from striking picketers, which plaintiffs point to as evidence of violent intent on the union strikers' part.
The request to plaintiff Damico to open his trunk does not change the nature of the police actions. There is no assertion that Damico did anything other than give his uncoerced consent to the request. We conclude that the officers made no search which required justification under the fourth amendment, much less one which offended the fourth amendment. See Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 735-742, 75 L. Ed. 2d 502, 103 S. Ct. 1535 (1983) (Opinion of Rehnquist, J.)
Turning to the second requirement of the Harlow-Anderson test, we observe in dictum without extended analysis that if the vehicle stops in this case were held to violate the federal constitution, the actions of the officers were objectively reasonable.
The conduct which plaintiffs allege the officers and troopers to have taken in this matter is so far from the type of oppressive or outrageous action against which Section 1983 provides a remedy, that to consider this a jury question would be to make every acquittal or dismissal of criminal charges grounds for imposing liability on the prosecuting officer.
Filing of Charges
After the seizures of items from plaintiffs' vehicles, prohibited offensive weapons charges were filed against the plaintiffs. None of the plaintiffs was arrested on the scene or as a result of charges filed against them; all received citations in the mail, presumably also notifying them of the preliminary hearing date. Assuming this conduct to be allegedly in violation of the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, for lack of probable cause, we must examine whether in light of pre-existing law the unlawfulness of filing prohibited offensive weapons charges was apparent. Anderson v. Creighton, 97 L. Ed. 2d at 531. The only plaintiffs' claims with which we should concern ourselves are Coon and Huey, the possessors of the seized baseball bats, since it was not only objectively reasonable but also plainly correct to decide that slim jims, clubs, socks filled with glass bottles, and a sawed-off baseball bat were prohibited offensive weapons in Pennsylvania.
The baseball bats properly seized from Coon and Huey were held not to be prohibited offensive weapons under Pennsylvania law because they served a common lawful purpose. Precedent had clearly established that baseball bats were not "instruments of crime" under 42 Pa.C.S. § 907, the companion statute to the ones under which Coon and Huey were charged. Commonwealth v. Senyszyn, 266 Pa. Super.. 480, 405 A.2d 535 (1979). However, at least one court had held that common ax handles could be prohibited offensive weapons depending on the circumstances in which they were possessed. Commonwealth v. Morrison, 19 Pa. D. & C. 3d 72 (Blair C.P. 1981). We cannot say therefore, that without legislative or judicial guidance, the officers were unreasonable in charging Coon and Huey as they did.
The Suppression Hearing
The last Section 1983 charge against the defendants advanced by the individual plaintiffs is alleged to be malicious prosecution for purposes of chilling their right to cross a picket line. This would require an examination of the subjective states of mind of the prosecuting officers which is unnecessary in light of the objective reasonableness of the police in filing the charges. Lee v. Mihalich, 847 F.2d 66, 72 n.13 (3d Cir. 1988). A further observation may be made, however, regarding the prosecutions against Erret and Damico, which were held for court at the magistrate's level but dropped after the suppression hearing court excluded the seized items.
In Pennsylvania, after a charge is held for court, it becomes the duty of the county prosecutor, the District Attorney, to supervise and prosecute criminal charges. 16 P.S. § 1402; 42 Pa.C.S. § 8931. As such, malicious motives by the defendants in this matter would be irrelevant, since the decision to prosecute after the establishment of a prima facie case is entirely out of their hands. The dictum by the majority in Malley v. Briggs, 475 U.S. 335 n. 7, 106 S. Ct. 1092 to the effect that a police officer who presents a search warrant affidavit lacking in probable cause is not insulated by the approval of that warrant by a judicial officer is not to the contrary, since in that context the affiant is the moving party in obtaining a warrant. In the prosecution of an established criminal action, on the other hand, an officer's desire to go forward or drop the charges is of no legal significance.
An appropriate order will follow.
BY THE COURT,
Date: March 29, 1989
AND NOW, this 29th day of March, 1989, it is
ORDERED, that the defendants' Motions for Summary Judgment are granted. The complaint if dismissed and the Clerk is directed to mark this matter closed.
BY THE COURT.