United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
July 27, 2004.
DOUGLAS MURPHY, Plaintiff,
STEWART PAINTIN, et al., Defendants.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: CLARENCE NEWCOMER, Senior District Judge
ORDER AND REASONING
AND NOW, this day of July, 2004, upon consideration of
Defendant Paintin's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint (Doc. 27), it is hereby ORDERED that Defendant's Motion
is DENIED. The Court finds, however, that Plaintiff's Amended
Complaint must be DISMISSED with PREJUDICE as to Defendants
Paintin, Cody, Hogan, Mahon, Riley, Chester County Clerk of
Courts, and all other Defendants previously dismissed in the
Court's February 2, 2004 Order. Plaintiff's Amended Complaint may
go forward only as against Defendants Brose, Hanna, Martynick,
Dinniman, and Chester County. The Marshal shall serve Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint on these Defendants.
Plaintiff brings this case under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff
claims violations of the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and
Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and of state tort
law. On February 2, 2004, the Court dismissed all Defendants,
except for Defendant Paintin, and ordered the Complaint served
upon him. Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which includes
the Defendants previously dismissed in the February Order, Defendant Paintin, and ten new Defendants.
I. Defendant Paintin
Plaintiff alleges § 1983 and tort claims against Defendant
Paintin. In Defendant Paintin's Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint, Paintin argues that he did not act under of
color of state law, and therefore, § 1983 jurisdiction is
lacking. Defendant Paintin's argument, however, does not address
other applicable law.
Generally, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, pubic defenders are not held
liable because they do not act under color of state law. Polk
County v. Dodson, 454 U.S. 312, 321 (1981). However, if a
plaintiff alleges that a public defender conspired with a state
actor, that public defender can be held liable under § 1983.
Tower v. Glover, 467 U.S. 914, 923 (1984). In order for this
type of § 1983 allegation to survive, it must be factually
specific enough to demonstrate a meeting of the minds or a mutual
understanding between the conspirators. White v. Bloom,
621 F.2d 276, 281 (8th Cir. 1980); Smith v. Bacon, 699 F.2d 434,
436-37 (8th Cir. 1983); Deck v. Leftridge, 771 F.2d 1168, 1170
(8th Cir. 1985).
Plaintiff alleges that, during his trial, Paintin conspired
with several state actors to deprive Plaintiff of his
constitutional rights. The allegations in his Amended Complaint
are specific enough to demonstrate a meeting of the minds and therefore, can survive a motion to dismiss. "A motion to dismiss
may be granted only when, `accepting all well-pleaded allegations
in the complaint as true, and viewing them in the light most
favorable to plaintiff, plaintiff is not entitled to relief.'"
Estate of Gleiberman v. Hartford Life Ins. Co., 94 Fed. Appx.
944, 946 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Maio v. Aetna, Inc.,
221 F.3d 472, 481-82 (3d Cir. 2000)). The question is not whether
Plaintiff will prevail, but whether he can present evidence to
support his allegations. Maio, 221 F.3d at 482. Ordinarily,
Plaintiff would be able to present evidence to support his § 1983
allegations; here, however, Plaintiff has run into a timing
In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim
is two years. Petaccio v. Davis, 76 Fed. Appx. 442, 444-45 (3d
Cir. 2003) (indicating that statute of limitations for a § 1983
claim is governed by state personal injury statute of
limitations). See also 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524 (2004). A §
1983 claim accrues when a prudent person knows or has reason to
know of the injury which forms the basis of his § 1983 claim.
MacNamara v. Hess, 67 Fed. Appx. 139, 143 (3d Cir. 2003).
In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff states that Defendant
Paintin represented Plaintiff in a criminal trial from October 2,
2000 to March 28, 2001. Plaintiff claims that Paintin conspired
with Defendant Hogan, the prosecutor, during the trial. Plaintiff asserts that, during Paintin's representation, he
attempted to get Paintin to withdraw from his case. From these
allegations, it is clear that Plaintiff knew of the injury
forming the basis of his claim on or before March 28, 2001. It is
also clear that Defendant Paintin withdrew from Plaintiff's
representation immediately after the trial, which indicates that
Paintin was not a participant in any continuing acts. Plaintiff
filed this suit on January 5, 2004, nine months after the
applicable statute of limitations had run on his allegations
against Defendant Paintin. Therefore, Plaintiff's § 1983 claim
against Defendant Paintin is time-barred and must be dismissed
Plaintiff also filed the following tort claims against
Defendant Paintin: failure of a duty to act,*fn1 fraudulent
representation, fraudulent intent, fraudulent concealment,
conspiracy, malpractice, malicious prosecution, and malicious use
of process. The statute of limitations for all of the above named
torts is two years. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524 (2004).
Because Plaintiff filed this suit two years and nine months after
these alleged torts occurred, Plaintiff's claims are time-barred,
and must be dismissed with prejudice as against Defendant
Paintin. II. Defendants Dismissed in the Court's February 2, 2004
The Court's February Order dismissed Defendants Andes, Merrick,
Stoffer, Meanix, Wagner, Norcini, Carroll, Ost Prisco, Chester
County Public Defender's Office, and Chester County Court of
Common Pleas. The Court's Order instructed Plaintiff that his
claims against these Defendants were dismissed as legally
frivolous. These Defendants will remain excluded. Plaintiff's
claims against the above named Defendants are dismissed with
III. New Defendants in Plaintiff's Amended Complaint
Plaintiff sued the following ten additional Defendants in his
Amended Complaint: Brose, Hogan, Cody, Mahon, Riley, Hanna,
Martynick, Dinniman, Chester County, and the Chester County Clerk
of Courts. Defendant Brose represented Plaintiff in his criminal
proceedings from February 3, 2004 to some time in April of 2004.
Defendant Hogan is a Chester County prosecutor, and represented
the Commonwealth in Plaintiff's trial. Defendants Cody, Mahon and
Riley are judges in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.
Defendants Hanna, Martynick, and Dinniman are Chester County
Plaintiff's claims against Defendant Hogan are dismissed, as
Defendant Hogan is shielded from liability through the doctrine
of prosecutorial immunity. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409,
427 (1976) (holding prosecutors receive absolute immunity from § 1983 liability when acting within the scope of
their duties). Plaintiff's claims against Defendants Cody, Mahon,
and Riley are dismissed, as they are shielded from liability
through the doctrine of judicial immunity. Pierson v. Ray,
386 U.S. 547, 554 (1967) (holding judges acting within their judicial
jurisdiction receive absolute immunity from liability). Defendant
Chester County Clerk of Courts is also shielded from liability
through the doctrine of judicial immunity. Hughes v. Long,
242 F.3d 121, 125 (3d Cir. 2001) (holding functionaries of judicial
system receive absolute immunity from § 1983 suits while
performing their job tasks and exercising their discretion).
Claims against Defendants Brose, Hanna, Martynick, Dinniman, and
Chester County may proceed. The Marshal shall serve Plaintiff's
Amended Complaint upon these Defendants.
AND IT IS SO ORDERED.