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WAKSHUL v. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA

March 24, 1998

GARY L. WAKSHUL AND KAREN WAKSHUL, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, POLICE OFFICERS KENNETH FLEMING AND JEAN LANGAN, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRODY

 Anita B. Brody, J.

 March 24, 1998, Decided

 Plaintiffs Gary and Karen Wakshul bring this suit against the City of Philadelphia ("the City") and two police officers, Kenneth Fleming ("Fleming") and Jean-Pierre Langan ("Langan"), asserting federal civil rights claims and state law claims for assault, battery, conspiracy, infliction of emotional distress, and loss of consortium. Currently pending before me are two motions for summary judgment, one filed by Fleming and Langan, and one filed by the City.

 I. Factual Background

 The following facts are either not in dispute, or are presented in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, the nonmoving party. *fn1" The events at issue occurred on July 13, 1995, while Gary Wakshul was working in the normal course of his employment as a court officer for the Honorable Anne E. Lazarus, in the Court of Common Pleas for the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia County. At approximately 3:00 p.m. on July 13, 1995, defendants Philadelphia Police Officers Kenneth Fleming and Jean-Pierre Langan, dressed in civilian clothes, entered City Hall Courtroom 602 while court was in session. Fleming and Langan were there in the normal course of their employment, having been called to testify as witnesses. Gary Wakshul approached Fleming and Langan and asked them to state their business, because there was a pending sequestration order for all witnesses testifying in the proceeding before Judge Lazarus. After Fleming and Langan refused to either state their business or leave the courtroom, Wakshul attempted to escort them from the courtroom. Fleming and Langan physically assaulted and battered Wakshul in open court.

 As a result of this incident, Judge Lazarus brought a disciplinary action against Fleming and Langan. Following a Police Board of Inquiry Hearing on February 24, 1997, Fleming and Langan were disciplined by the Philadelphia Police Department.

 Gary and Karen Wakshul filed suit in June 1996 in the Court of Common Pleas for Philadelphia County. The Complaint alleges that Fleming and Langan physically assaulted and battered Gary Wakshul, negligently and intentionally inflicted emotional distress, and acted in conspiracy with the City of Philadelphia in committing these torts. The Complaint further alleges that in assaulting and battering Gary Wakshul, Fleming and Langan violated his constitutional rights to be free from excessive force, from summary punishment, and from deprivation of liberty without due process. *fn2" The Complaint also alleges that the City of Philadelphia, as a matter of policy and practice failed to adequately discipline, train, or otherwise direct Officers Fleming and Langan, and, therefore, violated Gary Wakshul's constitutional rights to be free from excessive force, deprivation of liberty without due process, and summary punishment, as protected by the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Finally, the Complaint alleges that, as a result of the defendants' tortious acts against her husband, Karen Wakshul has suffered loss of consortium. In August 1996, the City removed the action to this court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1441. The City and Officers Fleming and Langan have filed two separate motions for summary judgment.

 II. Discussion

 A. Standard for Summary Judgment

 Rule 56(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that summary judgment is appropriate if "the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986). The party moving for summary judgment "bears the initial responsibility of informing the district court of the basis for its motion, and identifying those portions of 'the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any,' which it believes demonstrate the absence of a genuine issue of material fact." Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323.

 Once the moving party has filed a properly supported motion, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(e). The nonmoving party "may not rest upon the mere allegations or denials of the [nonmoving] party's pleading," id., but must support its response with affidavits, depositions, answers to interrogatories, or admissions on file. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 324; Schoch v. First Fidelity Bancorporation, 912 F.2d 654, 657 (3d Cir. 1990).

 To determine whether summary judgment is appropriate, I must determine whether any genuine issue of material fact exists. An issue is "material" only if the dispute "might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law." See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202, 106 S. Ct. 2505 (1986). An issue is "genuine" only "if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Id. Thus, my inquiry at the summary judgment stage is only the "threshold inquiry of determining whether there is the need for a trial," that is, "whether the evidence presents a ...


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