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DOURIS v. DOUGHERTY
March 15, 2002
JAMES GEORGE DOURIS AND HELENE DOURIS
JOHN DOUGHERTY, JOSEPH KISSEL, WILLIAM DOUCETTE, DOYLESTOWN BOROUGH, JAMES C. DONNELLY, RUTH ANN EYNON, AND BERTHA SKERLE.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joyner, District Judge.
According to the complaint, on November 18, 1999, Plaintiff
James Douris was inside the building located at 50 Main Street
in Doylestown Borough, which apparently houses the Bucks County
Department of Weights and Measures and the Federal E.M.A.
("FEMA"), to obtain various public records which he intended to
use in defending a summary parking meter violation action.
(Complaint, ¶ s12-15). Plaintiffs aver that on that date, Mr.
Douris asked John Dougherty, the Director of Emergency Services
for Bucks County, how Bucks County used its FEMA money.
(Complaint, ¶ 16). Mr. Dougherty then purportedly informed
Defendants Joseph Kissel and William Doucette of the Doylestown
Borough Police Department that Plaintiff was trespassing by
being in a restricted area of the building. Plaintiffs'
complaint goes on to allege that Officers Kissel and Doucette
then "physically seized, arrested, handcuffed, searched and
violently dragged Plaintiff out of the public building, for
trespassing, and in doing so injured him." (Complaint, s17-19).
Given that this arrest was allegedly without "a reasonable
basis, warrant, consent or authority," Plaintiffs aver in Count
I of their complaint that it was in violation of Mr. Douris'
"federally secured rights, immunities and privileges to liberty,
free speech, unreasonable search and seizure, equal protection,
procedural due process and substantive due process as secured by
the United States Constitution under the First, Fourth, Ninth
and Fourteenth Amendments" and is thus actionable under
42 U.S.C. § 1983.
In addition, Plaintiffs contend that Defendants Eynon and
Skerle, who are parking enforcement officers for the Borough of
Doylestown, prosecuted them for parking at expired meters
despite purportedly "knowing the parking enforcement policy and
practice was contrary to clearly established state law," and
that Defendants Donnelly and Doylestown Borough should be held
liable for their alleged failure to properly train and/or
supervise its police and parking enforcement officers.
(Complaint, ¶ s30-47).
Standards Applicable to Rule 12(b)(6) Motions
In resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to
state a claim upon which relief may be granted, the court
primarily considers the allegations in the complaint, although
matters of public record, orders, items appearing in the record
of the case and exhibits attached to the complaint may also be
taken into account. Chester County Intermediate Unit v.
Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3rd Cir. 1990). In
so doing, the court must accept as true the facts alleged in the
complaint, together with all reasonable inferences that can be
drawn therefrom and construe them in the light most favorable to
the plaintiff. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100,
103 (3rd Cir. 1990); Hough/Loew Associates, Inc. v. CLX Realty
Co., 760 F. Supp. 1141 (E.D.Pa. 1991). The court's inquiry is
directed to whether the allegations constitute a statement of a
claim under Rule 8(a) and whether the plaintiff has a right to
any relief based upon the facts pled. Dismissal under
Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim is therefore limited to
those instances where it is certain that no relief could be
granted under any set of facts that could be proved. Ransom v.
Marrazzo, 848 F.2d 398, 401 (3rd Cir. 1988); Angelastro v.
Prudential-Bache Securities, Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944
(3rd Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 935, 106 S.Ct. 267, 88
L.Ed.2d 274 (1985).
As noted above, Plaintiffs seek to hold Defendants liable
under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides in pertinent 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. . . .
The purpose of Section 1983 is to provide a civil cause of
action to protect persons against the misuse of power possessed
by virtue of state law and made possible because the defendant
was cloaked with the authority of the state. Del Signore v.
McKeesport, 680 F. Supp. 200, 203 (W.D.Pa. 1988). Section 1983
does not create a cause of action in and of itself; rather it
provides redress for certain violations of rights arising under
the federal constitution or laws of the United States which are
caused by persons acting under color of state law. Lee v.
Gateway Institute & Clinic, Inc., 732 F. Supp. 572, 575 (W.D.Pa.
1989), citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 140, 99 S.Ct.
2689, 2692, 61 L.Ed.2d 433 (1979).
To make out a claim under Section 1983, a plaintiff must
demonstrate that the conduct of which he is complaining has been
committed under color of state or territorial law and that it
operated to deny him a right or rights secured by the
Constitution and laws of the United States. Gomez v. Toledo,
446 U.S. 635, 640, 100 S.Ct. 1920, 1923, 64 L.Ed.2d 572 (1988);
Mark v. Borough of Hatboro, 51 F.3d 1137, 1141 (3d Cir. 1995),
cert. denied, 516 U.S. 858, 116 S.Ct. 165, 133 L.Ed.2d 107
(1995). The plaintiff must also establish that it was the acts
of the defendant which caused the constitutional deprivation.
See: Rizzo v. Goode, 423 U.S. 362, 370-371, 96 S.Ct. 598, 604,
46 L.Ed.2d 561 (1976); Duchesne v. Sugarman, 566 F.2d 817, 831
(2d Cir. 1977).
The traditional definition of action under color of state law
requires that one liable under § 1983 have exercised power
possessed by virtue of state law and made possible only because
the wrongdoer is clothed with the authority of state law.
Abbott v. Latshaw, 164 F.3d 141, 146 (3d Cir. 1998). To act
"under color of" state law for § 1983 purposes does not
necessarily require that the defendant be an officer of the
State. Rather, it is enough that the defendant is a willful
participant in joint action with the State or its agents.
Dennis v. Sparks, 449 U.S. 24, 101 S.Ct. 183, 186, 66 L.Ed.2d
185 (1980). A person may therefore be found to be a state actor
when (1) he is a state official, (2) he has acted together ...