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MANION v. SARCIONE

October 3, 2001

JOHN MANION
V.
ANTHONY SARCIONE, ET AL.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bartle, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff has brought this civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Anthony Sarcione, the District Attorney of Chester County, and Joseph Daniels ("Daniels"), a Chester County detective. Included in the complaint are various supplemental state law claims.*fn1 Before the court is the motion of defendants to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Defendants also assert absolute and qualified immunity.

We accept as true the well-pleaded factual allegations in the complaint and draw in plaintiff's favor any reasonable inferences therefrom. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73, 104 S.Ct. 2229, 81 L.Ed.2d 59 (1984); Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1391 (3d Cir. 1994). Of course, we need not accept bald assertions or legal conclusions. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

Plaintiff, a 10th grade teacher at Bishop Shanahan Roman Catholic High School in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, claims that a female student falsely accused him of "assaultive behavior and sexual misconduct and harassment." The student filed a complaint with the Chester County Detectives, who are part of the District Attorney's Office. Defendant Daniels thereafter conducted an investigation which, while in progress, became known to the school Principal, faculty, and student body. On June 8, 2000, Daniels sent the following letter to the Principal of the school on the official letterhead of the District Attorney's Office:

Dear Sister:

My investigation of the complaint filed by 10th Grade student [Jane Doe] has been concluded with the determination that the conduct of Bishop Shanahan teacher John Manion was improper, and that [Jane Doe's] description of the event was credible. I have also concluded that Manion's conduct, while inappropriate, did not meet the requirements for a criminal charge of Simple Assault or related sexual offenses.
I appreciate your cooperation and assistance with the investigation.
Very truly yours, Joseph Daniels Chester County Detective

Plaintiff contends that as a result of this letter he was defamed and his privacy was invaded, both without his being afforded procedural and substantive due process under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Section 1983 reads in relevant part:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.

42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The statute itself does not create any substantive rights. It simply provides a remedy for vindicating rights established under the Constitution or laws of the United States. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 271, 114 S.Ct. 807, 127 L.Ed.2d 114 (1994); Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 144 n. 3, 99 S.Ct. 2689, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979); Mark v. Borough of Hatboro, 51 F.3d 1137, 1141 (3d Cir. 1995).

The Fourteenth Amendment protects persons against deprivation of life, liberty and property without due process of law. The Supreme Court has held that damage to reputation, unaccompanied by some tangible loss such as termination of employment, does not constitute a loss of liberty or property which is constitutionally protected. Paul v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693, 712, 96 S.Ct. 1155, 47 L.Ed.2d 405 (1976). Defamation by a person acting under color of state law without some alteration in the protected status of the individual defamed is not "sufficient to invoke the procedural guarantees contained in the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment." Id. at 711, 96 S.Ct. 1155. In other words, ...


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