Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

BROWN v. STEWART

January 11, 1996

WILLIAM A. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
BEVERLY STEWART, Individually and as City of Pittsburgh Police Officer; PAUL HOLECZY, ROBERT COCCO, and STAN HOLLAND, Individually and as Deputy United States Marshals; CHARLES KOZAKIEWICZ, Individually and as Warden of Allegheny County Jail; JOE GRICAR, Individually and as Correctional Officer of Allegheny County Jail, Defendants. IRENE S. KUZAK, Plaintiff, v. BEVERLY STEWART, Individually and as City of Pittsburgh Police Officer; PAUL HOLECZY, ROBERT COCCO, and STAN HOLLAND, Individually and as Deputy United States Marshals, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CINDRICH

 CINDRICH, District Judge

 This is a civil rights action based on mistaken identity that led to plaintiffs' arrest and to one plaintiff's extended detention. William A. Brown and Irene S. Kuzak were arrested on May 6, 1993 by defendants Beverly Stewart ("Stewart"), a City of Pittsburgh Police Officer; and Paul Holeczy, Robert Cocco, and Stanley Holland, Deputy Marshals of the United States Marshals Service ("Federal Defendants") (also referred to collectively as "the arresting defendants"). Brown was detained in the Allegheny County Jail almost two months and allegedly assaulted there, for which he seeks to hold Charles Kozakiewicz, Warden of the Allegheny County Jail and Joe Gricar, Correctional Officer of Allegheny County Jail ("County Defendants"), responsible. Plaintiffs assert that these defendants deprived them of rights under the Fourth and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Rights, Article I, §§ 8 and 11, of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, for which 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, and 1988 provide a remedy. All defendants are sued in their personal and official capacities.

 Before the Court are Stewart's motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, Federal Defendants' motion to dismiss or for summary judgment, and County Defendants' motion to dismiss. For the reasons stated below we deny in part and grant in part the Federal Defendants' motions, and deny Stewart's and the County Defendants' motions.

 FACTS

 On May 6, 1993, at approximately 10:30 a.m., Stewart and Federal Defendants appeared at the apartment shared by the plaintiffs and their two-and-a-half year old child at 139 Charles Street in the City of Pittsburgh. Their purpose was to serve an arrest warrant for a William "Billy" Brown, *fn1" a black male, with a birth date of January 8, 1949. Compl. P 5. Billy Brown was wanted for stabbing two people and threatening to kill one of them in September 1992. Kuzak, William Brown's common-law wife, answered the door. When the arresting defendants informed her of their purpose, she claimed that she did not know Billy Brown, because her husband had never been known as Billy Brown. Id. P 6. Stewart and Federal Defendants entered the apartment and found Brown in the bedroom. Brown alleges that Stewart and Federal Defendants pushed him to the floor and handcuffed him. Id. P 7. The arresting defendants showed Brown a photograph of a bearded black man and claimed that Brown was the man in the photograph. Id. P 8. Brown protested that he was not the man in the photograph. Id. Kuzak was also arrested and charged with hindering arrest. Id. P 10.

 Stewart and Federal Defendants maintained that they had arrested the correct man despite Brown's protestations to the contrary. Compl. P 12. The Allegheny County Bail Agency also told the officers that they had arrested the wrong man, but Stewart and Federal Defendants did not investigate these contentions. Id. PP 13, 14. Stewart and Federal Defendants did not check Brown's fingerprints against those of the Billy Brown sought in the arrest warrant. Id. P 15.

 Brown also alleges that while being transported from the Allegheny County Jail to the Allegheny County Jail Annex on May 10, 1993, he was assaulted by defendant Gricar, a corrections officer. Compl. PP 18, 19, 20, 21. Brown reported the incident to Warden Charles Kozakiewicz on or about May 12, 1993. Id. P 22.

 Brown contends that he was seized under a defective warrant and that no probable cause existed to execute the arrest warrant against him. Compl. PP 25, 26. He claims that Stewart and Federal Defendants knew or should have known that they were executing a warrant against the wrong person and that each Defendant violated clearly established constitutional or statutory rights of which a reasonable officer would or should have known. Id. P 27. Brown asserts that he was deprived of the rights to be free from physical abuse, coercion and intimidation; to be released on his own recognizance or reasonable bail; and to be free from false arrest and imprisonment. Id. His claims are expressed in three counts. Count One is for deprivation of unspecified constitutional rights. Count Two is for violation of rights protected by 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count Three is for conspiracy to violate civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1985. He pleads a Count Four, but this is for attorneys' fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 and does not constitute a separate cause of action.

 Plaintiff Kuzak originally made claims under the same causes of action by separate complaint. Her claims are based on her arrest, which she claims was done without probable cause, for hindering her husband's arrest. The court consolidated her action with her husband's on August 11, 1994, and considers them together below.

 STANDARD OF REVIEW

 Stewart and the Federal Defendants have filed motions to dismiss, or in the alternative, for summary judgment, and have submitted declarations, an affidavit, and evidentiary material. Plaintiffs have responded in kind. The court therefore considers itself at liberty to apply summary judgment standards to these motions.

 Summary judgment is mandated where the pleadings and evidence on file show there is no genuine dispute of material fact, and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). Summary judgment is appropriate against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case on which it will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). A genuine issue does not arise unless the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, would allow a reasonable jury to return a verdict for that party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248-49, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Id. at 248. In reviewing any facts alleged to create a genuine issue, if the Court concludes that "the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the non-moving party, there is no 'genuine issue for trial,'" and summary judgment must be granted. Matsushita Elec. Ind. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986). We may not weigh evidence or determine credibility on summary judgment, however, since the process does not lend itself to this type of determination. Country Floors, Inc. v. Gepner and Ford, 930 F.2d 1056, 1061-62 (3d Cir. 1991).

 The County Defendants have moved only to dismiss. In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), we follow the maxim that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 2 L. Ed. 2d 80, 78 S. Ct. 99 (1957). Under this legal standard, we accept all pleaded facts as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran, & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384-85 (3d Cir. 1994).

 We note the heightened pleading standard for evaluating the sufficiency of civil rights complaints. Frazier v. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, 785 F.2d 65, 67 (3d Cir. 1986). We are aware that the United States Supreme Court has held that a federal court may not apply a heightened pleading standard in civil rights actions against municipalities. Leatherman v. Tarrant County Narcotics Intelligence and Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 113 S. Ct. 1160, 122 L. Ed. 2d 517 (1993) However, the Court in Leatherman left open the question of whether a heightened pleading standard may be applied in cases involving individual government officials. 122 L. Ed. 2d at 523. Therefore, we will continue to apply the heightened pleading standard in cases brought against governmental officials in their personal capacities. Complaints satisfy this standard if they allege the specific conduct violating the civil rights at issue, the time and place of the unlawful conduct, and the identity of the responsible officials. Colburn v. Upper Darby Township, 838 F.2d 663, 666 (3d Cir. 1988), cert. denied, 489 U.S. 1065, 103 L. Ed. 2d 808, 109 S. Ct. 1338 (1989).

 DISCUSSION

 This case easily and logically separates into two events and their associated claims and defenses: the arrest and the detention. The County Defendants had nothing to do with Brown's arrest. Similarly, Stewart and the Federal Defendants had nothing to do with Brown's detention after delivering him to the police station for processing. We address the motions according to this structure.

 A. Arresting Defendants' Motions as to William Brown

 1. Federal Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or for Summary Judgment

 a. Challenge to Section 1983 Claim: Not Acting under Color of State Law

 Federal Defendants first assert that they are not subject to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because they are federal officials acting in their official capacities under federal law. Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss, or in the Alternative, for Summary Judgment, Doc. No. 10, ("Fed. Defs' Br.") at 8. They cite 28 U.S.C. § 566(e)(1)(B) as their federal authority, which simply states that "the United States Marshals Service is authorized to-- . . . (B) investigate such fugitive matters, both within and outside the United States, as directed by the Attorney General." Id. The Federal Defendants thus at least had general federal statutory support for their actions.

 The only other information before the court about the Federal Defendants' authority is declaration testimony that they were acting as part of "Operation Trident," which "consisted of federal-state agencies making a concerted effort to apprehend federal-state felony offenders. Plaintiff's arrest on a state felony warrant was made as part of this effort by the Marshals Service with Pittsburgh Police Department Officers." Declaration of Robert Cocco, attached to Fed. Defs' Br., P 3.

 In our examination of this operation to determine whether action under color of Commonwealth law can be attributed to Federal Defendants,

 
a showing that actions "were under color of state law," . . . does not require that the challenged action be pursuant to a state statute. Rather, the question is "whether there is a sufficiently close nexus between the State and the challenged action," Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., 419 U.S. 345, 351, 42 L. Ed. 2d 477, 95 S. Ct. 449 (1974), or whether the state "has so far insinuated itself into a position of interdependence" that there is a "symbiotic relationship" between the actor and the state such that the challenged action can "fairly be attributable to the state." Krynicky [v. Univ. of Pittsburgh, 742 F.2d 94, 99 (3d Cir. 1984)].

 Johnson v. Orr, 780 F.2d 386, 390 (3d Cir.), cert. denied sub nom. McDaniel v. Johnson, 479 U.S. 828, 93 L. Ed. 2d 56, 107 S. Ct. 107 (1986). *fn2" Simply put, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has accepted the principle that "federal officials who conspire or act jointly with state officials may be liable under § 1983." Jorden v. Nat'l Guard Bureau, 799 F.2d 99, 111 n.17 (3d Cir. 1986), cert. denied sub nom. Sajer v. Jorden, 484 U.S. 815, 98 L. Ed. 2d 30, 108 S. Ct. 66 (1987), citing Knights of the Ku Klux Klan v. East Baton Rouge Parish, 735 F.2d 895, 900 (5th Cir. 1984).

 Here, the Federal Defendants arrested plaintiff William Brown on a Pennsylvania warrant for Pennsylvania crimes with the active and immediate participation of Pittsburgh police officers. Upon his arrest, plaintiff was delivered to the Pittsburgh police and was detained in the Allegheny County Jail. Thus, while the Federal Defendants' underlying identity as agents of the federal government is unquestioned, the actions they took in participating in the arrest of plaintiff Brown are so bound up with the operation of Commonwealth law that, at least on the current record, we find action under color of state law attributable to them. There is no evidence about (1) the level and source of supervision between local or Commonwealth officers and United States Marshals or (2) the text of any agreements between such entities which might alter this conclusion. Since the Federal Defendants appear to have derived the grounds for making the subject arrest from Commonwealth law in this particular case, their actions can legitimately be labelled as taking place under color of state law. But see Amoakohene v. Bobko, 792 F. Supp. 605 (N.D. Ill. 1992) (Chicago police not subject to § 1983 even though arrest made under city ordinance, city arrest forms filled out, and detention in city jail; defendants were on detail to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration drug task force pursuant to agreement, were subject to DEA supervision, and were engaging in anti-drug duties when arrest made).

 Finally, we note that the Federal Defendants would not be dismissed even if they were found to have been acting solely under federal law in making the arrest, and thus outside the scope of section 1983. Persons allegedly deprived of constitutional rights by federal officials may seek relief through causes of action derived directly from the Constitution. Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 29 L. Ed. 2d ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.