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KRAUSE v. PASSARO

September 21, 2005.

JAMIE KRAUSE, t/d/b/a KRAUSE TRUCKING, INC., Plaintiff
v.
CURTIS PASSARO, TONY MARTINELLI, SEAN ROBBINS, and DARIL ZAVISLAK, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Before the court for disposition is the defendants' motion for summary judgment in the instant civil rights action. The parties have briefed their positions, and oral argument has been held. The matter is thus ripe for disposition.

Background

  The facts of this case are largely undisputed and are as follows. On January 14, 2002, a driver was hauling wheat in plaintiff's tractor trailer. At approximately 1:30 p.m., Defendant Curtis Passaro, a Motor Carrier Enforcement Officer employed by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, pulled over the tractor trailer near Mifflinville, Columbia County, near the truck's destination, Brandt Mills Inc. Compl. ¶ 15. The truck was hauling #2 Red Wheat. Compl. ¶ 16. Passaro cited the driver for carrying too much weight and contacted Defendant Tony Martinelli, an Environmental Protection Specialist with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, who subsequently arrived on the scene. The press also arrived. Compl. ¶ 17. Martinelli issued a citation for hauling food stuffs in a vehicle used to transport waste in violation of 75 PA.C.S.A. § 4909(a)(1). The driver had hauled demolition waste in the truck to a landfill in Ohio and was hauling the wheat to the mill on the return trip. Passaro told the press about the situation, and the press reported that Krause had been hauling "garbage" before hauling the wheat. Compl. ¶ 18. Passaro and Martinelli then telephoned plaintiff from the scene and told him they were going to dump the wheat in a landfill and confiscate the truck. Compl. ¶ 19.

  Passaro and Martinelli then took the truck, dumped the wheat at a landfill and held the truck in a secret location for nine months. They never held a forfeiture hearing on the truck. They charged Plaintiff Jamie Krause for the landfill fees and fined him $10,000.00. The complaint asserts that Passaro and Martinelli were "assisted and superseded" by Defendant Daril Zavislak, a Special Investigator with the Office of Chief Counsel of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Compl. ¶ 21. During this time period, Defendant Sean Robbins, an attorney for the Department of Environmental Resources was contacted by plaintiff and plaintiff's counsel regarding the return of the tractor trailer. Compl. ¶ 25.

  The seizure of the truck for nine months allegedly caused the plaintiff to enter into bankruptcy. It was eventually repossessed and the plaintiff's business is now defunct. Compl. ¶ 24. Plaintiff was eventually found not guilty of violating 75 PA.C.S.A. § 4909(A)(1). Compl. ¶ 35. He had originally been found guilty of the charge by a district justice and then appealed to the Court of Common Pleas of Columbia County which found him not guilty. The defendants are alleged to have kept the truck because they believed plaintiff would agree to drop the appeal in return for the truck. Compl. ¶ 35-37.

  Plaintiffs subsequently brought the instant action asserting deprivations of his First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights for retaliation, unlawful searches and seizures, deprivation of procedural and substantive due process and for conspiracy to deprive him of these rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("section 1983"). Subsequently, we granted in part a motion to dismiss filed by the defendants. We dismissed plaintiffs' substantive due process claim. Remaining in the case are plaintiffs' claims of: deprivation of procedural due process and equal protection; violation of the First Amendment and Fourth Amendment and defamation.

  At the close of discovery, defendants filed the instant motion for summary judgment, bringing the case to its present posture. After a careful review, and for the reasons that follow, we will grant the motion for summary judgment.

  Standard of review

  Granting summary judgment is proper 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 judgment as a matter of law. See Knabe v. Boury, 114 F.3d 407, 410 n. 4 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing FED. R. CIV. P. 56(c)). "[T]his standard provides that the mere existence of some alleged factual dispute between the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be no genuine issue of material fact." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).

  In considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324.

  Jurisdiction

  As this case is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for constitutional violations we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.") We have ...


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