The opinion of the court was delivered by: JAMES MUNLEY, District Judge
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.
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.
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were "assisted and superseded" by Defendant Daril Zavislak, a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
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.
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.
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 ...