UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
filed: September 30, 1994.
FRED PIECKNICK; DOROTHY PIECKNICK AND DAN PIECKNICK, TRADING AND DOING BUSINESS AS PIECKNICK TOWING
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA; PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE; COLONEL GLENN WALP, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS COMMANDER OF PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE; CAPTAIN THOMAS BERRYHILL, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS COMMANDER OF TROOP S; SERGEANT DUANE DURHAM, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS AN OFFICER OF TROOP S; FERDINAND W. AND DOROTHY PIECKNICK AND DAN PIECKNICK TRADING AND DOING BUSINESS AS PIECKNICK TOWING, APPELLANTS
Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. (D.C. Civil Action No. 93-cv-00393).
Present: Becker and Hutchinson, Circuit Judges, and Padova, District Judge*fn*
Opinion OF THE COURT
HUTCHINSON, Circuit Judge.
Appellants, Fred, Dorothy and Dan Piecknick, operators of Piecknick Towing (collectively "Piecknick"), appeal an order of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania dismissing their complaint, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In their complaint, Piecknick alleged that appellees, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Police, and several officials of the State Police*fn1 (collectively the "State Police"), deprived them of due process of law in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment when the State Police awarded towing jobs on state highways to a towing service which Piecknick alleges was not authorized to receive those jobs under a State Police assigned zone towing policy.*fn2 Piecknick's complaint sought damages pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 (West 1981).
We hold that the facts alleged in Piecknick's complaint fail to set out a deprivation of a property or liberty interest under the Fourteenth Amendment. Therefore, we will affirm the order of the district court, but on different reasoning.
I. Factual & Procedural History
Count I of Piecknick's complaint asserted a civil rights claim under section 1983 based upon a deprivation of due process as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.*fn3 It alleged that the State Police established a rotational policy and heavy duty service list with specific zones (Zones 1-3) specifying which towing company would be contacted to remove vehicles from accident scenes on interstate highways in Washington County, Pennsylvania. It also alleged that the State Police had established a policy and practice of limiting the assignment of towing services to a designated operator to only one zone. Piecknick is located in Washington County and was assigned to Zone 1. A map outlining the zones as they existed for the past four years and designating the operators in each zone was attached to the complaint.
The complaint alleged Insana Towing ("Insana"), a competitor, was assigned to Zone 2 but has been receiving assignments in Zone 1, the zone in which Piecknick claims it has acquired property or liberty interests from the actions of the State Police. According to the complaint, the State Police began referring towing in Zone 1 to Insana after operating for several years under a policy whereby Piecknick received all towing business in Zone 1.*fn4 Piecknick alleged that it was contrary to past policy and regulations for the State Police to refuse to refer all towing services in Zone 1 to Piecknick and instead to refer towing services to another towing company located in and assigned to a different zone. Piecknick argues that the State Police may not use Insana in Zone 1 because Insana was assigned on the map exclusively to Zone 2. According to Piecknick, this action unreasonably interfered with its right to carry on its business and resulted in a 50%, or $40,000 per year, reduction in its receipts.
The "regulation" that Piecknick relies upon is actually a guideline setting forth procedures for state troopers to follow in placing towing and wrecker calls for abandoned or disabled cars on state highways. The guideline was distributed to local towing services by State Police "to advise service garages of Pennsylvania State Police Policy in regard to wrecker calls in accident cases and laws pertaining to same." Appendix ("App.") at 15a. The guideline also states that "the Trooper shall contact the nearest available agency offering the required service." Id.*fn5 The guideline further states that the troop policy is to "call the nearest available [towing company] for required towing service on a rotational basis." App. at 15a. It states that troop personnel will not recommend a wrecker service and will first ask if a particular wrecker is desired. Id. The communications room supervisor, not the trooper on the road, makes the decision on the nearest available towing service. Id. at 16a. If the nearest available service is unable to immediately respond or does not have the proper equipment to do the job, the next nearest available service will be contacted. Id. This part of the guideline reiterates that "our policy is the nearest available to the scene on a rotational basis," id. at 17a (emphasis added and in original), and also states that if a trooper at the scene makes an informed observation that a particular on-scene wrecking service is unable to safely and expediently see to the removal of a vehicle, he may request the services of the next nearest available service capable of handling the job. Id.
Piecknick claims that it is entitled to receive all towing calls in Zone 1 because it is located closest to the state highway.*fn6 According to the State Police, its towing policy, as expressed in the guideline, does not require exclusive use of only one towing service in each zone. It reasons that this appears from the fact that more than one towing service was assigned to each zone as well as from use of the phrase "rotational basis" and the other provisions in the policy giving a trooper discretion to call another towing service if he or she believes one service may not be able to handle the job.
Piecknick's complaint alleged it complained in writing to the State Police and was later informed that an investigation had been undertaken "under the auspices of [one of the State Police defendant appellees,] Captain Berryhill." Complaint at P 14, App. at 11a. It never received any report of the investigation's findings or response to its attorney's inquiry. The complaint failed to allege that any individual State Police defendants were involved in the decision to use Insana in Zone 1, beyond a general allegation that using Insana on a rotational basis was "ratified and approved by the named officers in a chain of command." Complaint at P 15, App. at 12a.
The State Police moved to dismiss the complaint on several grounds, including lack of subject matter and personal jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (2) and failure to state a claim under Rule 12(b)(6). Piecknick stipulated to the dismissal of the Pennsylvania State Police in its corporate capacity as a state agency and clarified its intention to limit its claims to those against individual defendants.
In an order dated November 29, 1993, the district court granted the State Police's motion and dismissed the complaint. In an accompanying opinion, the court held that Piecknick had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted against any of the defendants. Opinion dated November 29, 1993 at 3. The court first concluded that the section 1983 claims against the individual defendants in their official capacities were barred by the Eleventh Amendment. Id. (citing Will v. Michigan Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 105 L. Ed. 2d 45, 109 S. Ct. 2304 (1989) ("neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are persons under § 1983")). With respect to the individual defendants' personal liability, the court recognized that "government officials performing discretionary functions generally are shielded from liability for civil damages if their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Id. at 4 (citing Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 73 L. Ed. 2d 396, 102 S. Ct. 2727 (1982)). The court held that Piecknick's allegations as to the personal liability of the individual defendants "fail to sufficiently allege a violation of clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Id. Thus, it granted the State Police's motion to dismiss the section 1983 claim under Rule 12(b)(6) as to the individual defendants' personal liability. It also dismissed the state law claims without prejudice for lack of subject matter jurisdiction or, perhaps more properly, pendent or supplemental jurisdiction. Piecknick filed a timely notice of appeal.
II. Jurisdiction & Standard of Review
The district court had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C.A. §§ 1331 and 1343 (West 1993). We have jurisdiction over the appeal from the district court's final order under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 (West 1993).*fn7
We exercise plenary review over the district court's dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). We must accept as true all of the factual allegations in the complaint as well as the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from them, and dismissal is appropriate only if "no relief could be granted under any set of facts which could be proved." Ransom v. Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3d Cir. 1988); Jordan, 20 F.3d at 1261.
III. Property or Liberty Interest Under the Fourteenth Amendment
A. Property Interest
To establish a section 1983 civil rights claim, a plaintiff "must demonstrate that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under state law and "'that the conduct deprived him of rights, privileges or immunities secured by the Constitution.'" Carter v. City of Philadelphia, 989 F.2d 117, 119 (3d Cir. 1993) (quotation omitted). Where a section 1983 plaintiff claims a procedural due process violation, his claim is dependent upon the denial of a constitutionally protected property or liberty interest. See U.S. Const. amend. XIV, § 1; Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332, 47 L. Ed. 2d 18, 96 S. Ct. 893 (1976); Carter, 989 F.2d at 119-20.
"One alleging a property interest in a benefit protected by due process must go beyond showing an unsubstantiated expectation of the benefit." Carter, 989 F.2d at 120. "To have a property interest in a benefit, a person clearly must have more than an abstract need or desire for it. He must have more than a unilateral expectation of it. He must, instead, have a legitimate claim of entitlement to it." Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564, 577, 33 L. Ed. 2d 548, 92 S. Ct. 2701 (1972). Such property interests are "created and their dimensions are defined by existing rules or understandings that stem from an independent source such as state law." Id.
"A person's interest in a benefit is a 'property' interest for due process purposes if there are such rules or mutually explicit understandings that support his claim of entitlement to the benefit[.]" Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593, 601, 33 L. Ed. 2d 570, 92 S. Ct. 2694 (1972). "The plaintiff must demonstrate entitlement to a property interest created expressly by state statute or regulation or arising from government policy or a mutually explicit understanding between a government employer and an employee." Carter, 989 F.2d at 120. In this case, the existence of a property right is an issue of state law. See Abercrombie v. City of Catoosa, 896 F.2d 1228, 1231 (10th Cir. 1990) (tow service owner's claim of property interest created by Oklahoma's wrecker statute was issue of state law). Thus, we must examine the State Police towing policy and any applicable statutes or regulations to determine if a property right exists. Id.
The guideline that Piecknick calls a regulation is not a regulation with any force of law. It was never promulgated in accordance with the notice and hearing procedures required for regulations. See Commonwealth Documents Law, 45 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 501-907 (1991); Pa. Stat. Ann. tit. 45, §§ 1201-08 (1991); see also infra typescript at 25-26. It is no more than a policy statement setting forth procedures that state troopers should follow when handling towing calls for disabled or abandoned vehicles on state highways. The guideline itself states its purpose is merely "to advise service garages of Pennsylvania State Police Policy in regard to wrecker calls in accident cases and laws pertaining to same." App. at 15a. The guideline uses the express term "policy" in stating "our policy is the nearest available to the scene on a rotational basis." Id. at 17. The guideline makes no commitments to any particular service or zone; rather, it states only that the trooper will call the nearest available service on a rotational basis.
We do not believe that this guideline creates an enforceable contract between the towing services on the list and the State Police or otherwise gives any particular towing service a right to receive all the towing business along the highways adjacent to or in any particular zone. It is too vague and indefinite for that purpose and to enforce it as Piecknick asks would be likely to interfere with traffic safety and mobility on our state and interstate systems as disputes arose about a particular towing company's proximity, availability and capability to handle and respond to all the calls for towing within a particular zone. We will, nevertheless, consider whether the guideline was created to satisfy any other governing state statute or regulation that could create a property interest, or whether the guideline itself or the parties' mutually explicit understanding based upon the State Police's past practices have given Piecknick a property interest in the towing business on highways near his place of business within Zone 1. See Carter, 989 F.2d at 120.*fn8
In Pritchett v. Alford, 973 F.2d 307, 317-18 (4th Cir. 1992), the court of appeals held that a wrecking service had a constitutionally protected property right that prevented its removal from the South Carolina State Highway Department's wrecking service rotation list without prior notice or an opportunity to be heard. In that case, however, state regulations required maintenance of the list:
The regulations required every highway patrol district to establish wrecker zones and "wrecker-rotation" lists for the zones, S.C. Code Regs. § 63-600(A)(8), and directed that the lists should be administered fairly and in a manner designed to ensure that all wrecker services on the list have an equal opportunity to the towing business arising from the rotation list. § 63-600(A)(10).
Id. at 317; see also Abercrombie, 896 F.2d at 1232 (operator of wrecker service had property interest under Oklahoma law in equal number of referrals by city where state statute provided that list of wreckers must be maintained and that agency should use nearest available wrecker on list on alternating basis); Gregg v. Lawson, 732 F. Supp. 849, 853-54 (E.D. Tenn. 1989) (wrecker service taken off state rotational wrecker list pursuant to order prohibiting owners with felony record from being on list had constitutionally protected property interest in remaining on list because relevant agency regulations were more than mere internal matter and set forth formal procedures for removal or suspension from list to compel compliance with regulations). These cases are distinguishable. In all of them, a state statute or regulation gave a towing operator a property interest. Here, there is no Pennsylvania statute or regulation governing towing or wrecker services.*fn9
Piecknick's reliance on Pataula Electric Membership Corp. v. Whitworth, 951 F.2d 1238, 1242-43 (11th Cir.), cert. denied, 121 L. Ed. 2d 225, 113 S. Ct. 302 (1992), is similarly misplaced. There, the court of appeals held that the lowest bidder may have a property interest in an award of a contract if a state statute and regulation requiring competitive bidding and awards were to be made to the lowest bidder on contracts for state services. The property interest arose from the state statute requiring competitive bidding and a rule requiring that contracts be awarded to the lowest bidder. Id. Here there is no such statute or rule.
This case is also distinguishable from Stana v. School District of City of Pittsburgh, 775 F.2d 122 (3d Cir. 1985). There, a school district, pursuant to a state statute providing that all teaching positions in the school district must be filled from the three highest ranking people, had an established policy concerning placement and ranking on a state-required eligibility list. Id. at 124. Local school district policy provided that names on the list would be returned for four years. This Court concluded that because remaining on the eligibility list was a prerequisite to a teaching position, the school district had created a constitutional property interest and a legitimate claim of entitlement to remaining on the eligibility list. Id. at 125, 126-27; cf. Newark Branch, NAACP v. Town of Harrison, New Jersey, 940 F.2d 792, 810-12 (3d Cir. 1991) (fire fighter applicants who were tested and added to hiring eligibility list for municipal fire fighter position did not have protected property interest in their ranking on list).
Because there is no governing state statute or regulation in the case now before us, we next consider whether the guideline itself, or the parties' mutual understanding, is definite enough to create a property interest entitled to the constitutional protection of due process. In O'Hare Truck Service, Inc. v. City of Northlake, 843 F. Supp. 1231, 1233 (N.D. Ill. 1994), the district court held that a towing service did not have a property right in maintaining its name on an informal rotation list because "the 'mutually explicit understandings' that constitute property interests under the holding of Perry cannot be based on the representations of government officials who are not authorized to make such representations." Id. at 1233 (quotation and citation omitted); see also Durham v. Jones, 698 F.2d 1179, 1181 (11th Cir. 1983) (per curiam) (maintaining name on sheriff's informal rotating list of wrecker services did not amount to property interest because it was mere unilateral expectation on wrecker owner's part). In O'Hare, the city's governing body was the only agency authorized to make such commitments and create such entitlement; hence, there could be no property right unless it had reviewed and expressed its approval of the practice of using the rotation list after observing the applicable law. O'Hare, 843 F. Supp. at 1233, 1235. Here, as in O'Hare, no state agency with statutory authority to do so has approved or authorized the State Police's towing policy in this case in the manner state law requires for the promulgation of a binding regulation.
We believe White Plains Towing Corp. v. Patterson, 991 F.2d 1049 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 126 L. Ed. 2d 144, 114 S. Ct. 185 (1993), is particularly instructive here. There the State Police divided an eleven mile stretch of state highway into three zones and assigned each zone to one towing company that would, when summoned, provide service. Id. at 1053. These assignments gave a single towing company an exclusive right to towing referrals in its own zone.*fn10 Id. Under that system, the State Police always dispatched the towing company assigned to the zone unless a disabled motorist requested another. The State Police assigned a towing company to a zone for anywhere from two days to a year. The parties stipulated that the towing dispatch system was not specifically authorized by, or codified in, any state statute or regulation and that participation in the program was not contractual. Id.
The court of appeals held that the unilateral expectations of the towing service were insufficient to create a property interest. Id. at 1062. It did so based on a Conclusion that New York law presumes a contract for services which makes no specific provision for duration is terminable at will. Thus, it held that a state police assignment of a particular area of highway to a towing company was not a property right because the assignment system was not specifically authorized by any statute or regulation but was merely an informal system that did not even specify the duration of the assignment. Id.
In Lipinski v. Dietrich, 578 F. Supp. 235, 238 (N.D. Ind. 1984), the court decided that even if a contract could be implied between a towing service and a municipality to retain the service's name on a list of towing services that police would call on a rotating basis, the implied contract was unenforceable under state law because it was impossible to ascertain the contract's terms. In addition, the court concluded there was no mutually explicit understanding between the parties because neither the police nor the towing service had made any explicit representations about the term of the list's continued existence or the towing service's continuing availability, as required by Roth and Perry. Id.
We believe the reasoning of White Plains Towing and Lipinski is persuasive. Applying that reasoning to the facts, we note that here Piecknick does not have an exclusive right to provide towing in Zone 1 because other towing services may be called if Piecknick is not available. Furthermore, the right to tow in the zone is dependent on availability, and the towing guideline itself does not set aside an exclusive territory for any towing service. These facts weaken Piecknick's case because they belie Piecknick's contention that a map setting forth zones in which certain nearby operators are to be called on the basis of availability permits an inference that a towing service listed in one zone cannot operate in another.
We further note that the guideline's policy specifically contemplates the use of other services on a "rotational basis." See App. at 17a ("Our policy is the nearest available on a rotational basis."). Whatever this ambiguous phrase may mean, plainly it does not mean that Piecknick or anyone else has an exclusive right to all the towing services the State Police need to call on in Zone 1 or anywhere else. State Police officers at the scene are permitted, in their discretion, to decide whether any particular wrecking service they have called is unable to safely and expeditiously remove the disabled vehicle after the wrecker arrives on the scene and, in that case, they may call the next nearest available towing service.
Not only does the guideline lack a prohibition against using a towing service assigned to a zone other than the one assigned to it on the map, but it fails to set any particular term during which a towing service will continue to get assignments within its primary zone. Pennsylvania law, like that of New York, presumes that a contract for services having no specific term is terminable at will. See, e.g., Booth v. McDonnell Douglas Truck Servs., Inc., 401 Pa. Super. 234, 585 A.2d 24, 27 (Pa. Super.), alloc. denied, 597 A.2d 1150 (Pa. 1991); Darlington v. General Elec., 350 Pa. Super. 183, 504 A.2d 306, 309 (Pa. Super. 1986). Thus, as in White Plains Towing, whatever rights Piecknick may have had are terminable at will. See White Plains Towing, 991 F.2d at 1062; Lipinski, 578 F. Supp. at 238. We recognize that Pennsylvania's strong presumption in favor of employment at will has been weakened in some cases involving the rights of public employees, see 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§ 1422, 1423 (West 1991); see also Krajsa v. Keypunch, Inc., 424 Pa. Super. 230, 622 A.2d 355, 359-60 (Pa. Super. 1993), but we do not believe those cases apply to situations such as this where the state directs third parties facing an emergency need for a service to an independent contractor. Piecknick has no rights as an employee of the state because he is a mere supplier of services. See San Bernardino Physicians' Servs. Medical Group v. County of San Bernardino, 825 F.2d 1404, 1409-10 (9th Cir. 1987) (professional corporation of physicians' four-year contracts, containing automatic one year extension, with county-operated medical center to provide emergency services which could be terminated only "for cause," did not create property interest and analogy to employment contracts failed because corporation was not employee of state, but rather was mere supplier of services).
The guideline at issue here is not a regulation having the force of law. The towing policy does not prohibit the State Police from using Insana as a towing service in Zone 1 simply because Insana may also service Zone 2. The State Police are not required to continue towing assignments to an area designated in the zone map for any particular period of time, and there was no mutual understanding that Piecknick, as a Zone 1 operator, was exclusively entitled to the Zone 1 towing. Piecknick cannot point to any other governing state law or regulation that creates a federally protected property interest guaranteeing it the right to provide towing services in Zone 1, to the exclusion of other towing services which may also be represented in other zones. Accordingly, Piecknick has not alleged any property interest entitled to protection under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
B. Liberty Interest
The right to hold specific private employment and to follow a chosen profession free from unreasonable governmental interference comes within both the 'liberty' and 'property' concepts of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Greene v. McElroy, 360 U.S. 474, 492, 3 L. Ed. 2d 1377, 79 S. Ct. 1400 (1959); see also Truax v. Raich, 239 U.S. 33, 41, 60 L. Ed. 131, 36 S. Ct. 7 (1915) ("the right to work for a living in the common occupations of the community is of the very essence of the personal freedom and opportunity that it was the purpose of the [Fourteenth] Amendment to secure"); Cowan v. Corley, 814 F.2d 223, 227 (5th Cir. 1987).
"The Constitution only protects this liberty from state actions that threaten to deprive persons of the right to pursue their chosen occupation. State actions that exclude a person from one particular job are not actionable in suits . . . brought directly under the due process clause." Bernard v. United Township High Sch. Dist. No. 30, 5 F.3d 1090, 1092 (7th Cir. 1993). "'It is the liberty to pursue a calling or occupation, and not the right to a specific job, that is secured by the Fourteenth Amendment.'" Id. (quoting Wroblewski v. City of Washburn, 965 F.2d 452, 455 (7th Cir. 1992)).
In Cowan, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit considered a case in which a wrecking company had alleged a property or liberty interest because the local sheriff, in disregard of a service call list, gave certain wrecker companies preferential treatment in the assignment of calls. After complaining to the sheriff, the plaintiff was expelled from the wrecker association and was therefore barred from receiving further county business. Although it concluded there was probably no property interest, the court of appeals held that the district court should have considered whether a liberty interest existed. Cowan, 814 F.2d at 228. The court of appeals expressed no opinion on the existence of any liberty interest but simply reversed the district court's order granting dismissal of the section 1983 complaint for failure to state a claim and remanded it to consider, in the first instance, whether the complaint alleged a protected liberty interest. Id. at 227-28.
There are at least two other district court cases on point. In Nall v. Pitre, No. 88-965 (M.D. La. June 9, 1989), a towing service filed a section 1983 claim against a sheriff after he removed the tower's wrecking service from the rotating call list without allowing the towing service an opportunity to be heard. The Sheriff moved for summary judgment, arguing that the towing service had not established a constitutionally protected liberty or property interest. After considering evidence that the towing company had been on the list for nine years, evidencing an understanding sufficient to create a property interest, the district court held there were questions of fact about the intentions of the parties that precluded summary judgment. The court recognized that no contract nor binding rule or regulation accompanied the list, which was developed and used without public notice, but it nevertheless determined there was a genuine dispute of material fact from which an agreement could be inferred. Id., slip op. at 2-3. Specifically, the court denied the motion for summary judgment in order to give the plaintiff a chance to prove the existence of a custom or practice from which a mutual understanding sufficiently definite enough to create a property interest could be inferred in the absence of official rules or regulations governing towing. Applying Cowan, the court also reasoned, in the absence of any property interest, the owner of a towing service might have a liberty interest that would make his complete removal from the rotation list an unreasonable governmental interference with his right to pursue a livelihood. Id. at 3. But see Stana, 775 F.2d at 125 n.1 (removal from teacher eligibility list could implicate liberty interest in following chosen profession but where plaintiff has not alleged publication of the list, she cannot claim deprivation of liberty interest).
Nall is distinguishable. Piecknick was not threatened with a loss of its right to engage in the towing business. It was not completely removed from the towing rotation call list, and it remained in the Zone 1 rotation. The police merely substituted Insana for a company with which Piecknick had formerly shared Zone 1 rotation.
Cowan is also distinguishable. There, the towing company became unable to compete for its fair share of the local towing business because the sheriff gave preferential treatment to plaintiff's competitors, and the towing business ultimately lost all ability to compete by virtue of being summarily expelled from the towing association that receives all county business. See Cowan, 814 F.2d at 225.
In Bolus v. Walp, the second district court case, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment to Pennsylvania State Police officials in an action challenging a State Police towing policy in Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania. There, the plaintiff, Bolus Towing, alleged that the State Police failed to comply with the provisions of the Pennsylvania State Police Field Regulations Manual. The section Bolus Towing relied on provided that the police should contact the nearest available towing service when towing service is needed. After an accident on Interstate 81, the driver of the disabled vehicle asked the state police to contact the truck owner to authorize a towing service to tow the vehicle. There was evidence that the owner of the disabled vehicle requested a particular towing service to do the towing, but the identity of the service the owner requested was not clear and the vehicle's owner changed his mind in favor of Bolus Towing after Bolus arrived on the scene and asked for the job. One of the police officers on the scene refused to allow Bolus Towing to carry out the job unless it compensated the other towing company previously called. The court observed that the Pennsylvania State Police Field Regulations were not promulgated in compliance with the Commonwealth Documents Law, 45 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §§ 501, 1201-08 (1991), and thus the public was not invited to hearings or to comment upon them. Relying on Chrysler Corp. v. Brown, 441 U.S. 281, 301, 60 L. Ed. 2d 208, 99 S. Ct. 1705 (1979), the district court held that the Field Regulations provided no substantive rights*fn11 because they were not promulgated pursuant to any mandate or delegation of legislative authority. Bolus, slip op. at 6 (citing Chrysler Corp., 441 U.S. at 301). The Field Regulations were merely internal departmental regulations, or interpretive rules, governing the police themselves. Id.
Here, as in Bolus, the towing policy in Washington County was not promulgated in compliance with the Commonwealth Documents Law. Thus, the State Police again argue that it does not have the force of law needed to create a property or liberty interest. Piecknick responds that compliance with the Documents Law is not controlling in regard to Piecknick's liberty interest claim because Piecknick's claim relies on an established custom and practice concerning the division of tow work in Washington County rather than the written policy itself. It argues the custom is itself sufficient to support a due process claim.
The Commonwealth Documents Law distinguishes between a "regulation" and a "statement of policy." It states that the latter may consist of "any document, except . . . a regulation, promulgated by an agency which sets forth substantive or procedural personal or property rights, privileges, immunities, duties, liabilities or obligations of the public or any part thereof, and includes, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, any document interpreting or implementing any statute enforced or administered by such agency." 45 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 501. An agency's policy statement must be promulgated in accordance with the Commonwealth Documents Law if it is to establish a standard of conduct with the force of law. Compare Orbera v. Commonwealth, 91 Pa. Commw. 438, 497 A.2d 693, 695-96 (Pa. Commw. 1985) with Pennsylvania Human Relations Comm'n v. Norristown Area Sch. Dist., 473 Pa. 334, 374 A.2d 671, 679 (Pa. 1977). Because of our Conclusion that the Washington County towing guideline does not create any "substantive or procedural personal or property rights," 45 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 501, the Documents Law is indeed inapplicable. Nevertheless, we agree with Piecknick that failure to follow the Documents Law does not bar consideration of whether the towing guideline or any policy, practice or custom that arose out of it or out of a mutual understanding between the parties created a property or liberty interest.
Ultimately, however, we believe Piecknick's argument fails. Although Piecknick's complaint alleges that it was the custom and practice of the State Police, over the past four years, to use only Zone 1 designated operators to perform towing in Zone 1, there is no allegation that this custom was to continue for any term. Adding Insana, a Zone 2 designated operator, to the operators who the police could call on to perform towing services in Zone 1 is not an unreasonable interference with Piecknick's right to pursue its chosen occupation. This case is distinguishable from those in which a person's license to pursue a chosen occupation is revoked or substantially interfered with, see Herz v. Degnan, 648 F.2d 201 (3d Cir. 1981), or where there is harm to an individual's reputation, see Chilingirian v. Boris, 882 F.2d 200 (6th Cir. 1989). See also Durham, 698 F.2d at 1181 (sheriff did not affect towing company's right to operate towing service or ability to perform towing for other law enforcement agencies where it refused to place towing service on call list). It is the liberty to pursue a particular calling or occupation and not the right to a specific job that is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. See Bernard, 5 F.3d at 1092.
Accordingly, we hold that no liberty interest has been alleged in this case.*fn12
For the foregoing reasons, we will affirm the district court's order dismissing the complaint under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6).*fn13