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BECKERMAN v. SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP

October 13, 2005.

MARK BECKERMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
SUSQUEHANNA TOWNSHIP, KEVIN SCOTT, OFFICER JOHN DOE, ERIC NELSON, and MICHAEL PETERS, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: WILLIAM CALDWELL, Senior District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

We are considering the Defendants' motion for summary judgment (doc. 21).*fn1 The Plaintiff, Mark Beckerman, filed this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claiming violations of his Fourth Amendment right to be free from malicious prosecution, his First and Fourth Amendment rights to travel, his First Amendment right of access to the courts, and his Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. It arises from various interactions that Beckerman has had with the Susquehanna Township Police Department over a number of complaints that Plaintiff has made concerning his neighbor's dogs.*fn2

  II. Facts*fn3

  A. Incident on May 26, 2003

  On May 26, 2003, Defendant Kevin Scott responded to a complaint made by the Plaintiff against his neighbor, Michael Peters. In his police report, Scott wrote that Beckerman told him that while walking past Peters' house with his puppy, Peters' two dogs approached and he feared they would attack his puppy. (Doc. 22, Def. Brief in Support, Ex. C). He further reported that Beckerman claimed that an argument followed which resulted in Peters pushing him. (Id.). Defendant Scott noted that Plaintiff only wanted him to speak to Peters, which he did. (Id.). He reported that Beckerman was satisfied. (Id.).

  The Plaintiff, however, maintains that his puppy was actually attacked by the dogs and that Peters hit him from behind while he was defending his puppy. (Doc. 30, Ex. A. Beckerman Affidavit, ¶¶ 5-6). He further contends that he wanted Defendant Scott to issue a citation (Id. at ¶¶ 10-11), but instead Scott told Plaintiff to only walk his puppy behind his house and not on the public streets. (Id. at ¶ 9). Defendant Scott maintains that he suggested to Beckerman that walking his puppy behind his house, and not in front of Peters' house, may help to avoid further conflict. (Doc. 22, Def. Brief in Support, Ex. B, ¶ 4). He states that he did not order Plaintiff to stay off public roads with his puppy. (Id.).

  B. Incident on November 23, 2003

  On November 23, 2003, Defendant Scott responded to a complaint from Mr. Peters regarding the Plaintiff. Peters informed Scott that while he and his family were hanging Christmas lights, Beckerman began to yell at them and said that he would kill the Peters' dogs. Plaintiff was cited for harassment and the charge was eventually dismissed.

  C. Incident on December 18, 2004

  On December 18, 2004, Defendant Eric Nelson responded to a complaint from Beckerman about his neighbor's dogs. In his report, Nelson noted that the Plaintiff was complaining about Peter's dogs roaming at large while he was working on a fence which bordered the Peters' property. (Doc. 22, Def. Brief in Support, Ex. F). Plaintiff maintains, however, that he was attacked by the dogs. (Doc. 30, Ex. A. Beckerman Affidavit, ¶ 25). Nelson then spoke with Mr. Peters' daughter, Megan Peters, who admitted that the dogs ran away when she let them out. When he was informed of this, Plaintiff insisted that someone be cited and Nelson cited Megan Peters. Defendant Nelson informed the Plaintiff that he could be present for the citation hearing. (Doc. 22, Def. Brief in Support, Ex. E, ¶ 4). When Plaintiff informed him that he wanted to bring an attorney, Nelson told him that it would not be necessary because Defendant Nelson would present the case against Megan Peters. (Id.).

  III. Standard of Review

  Summary judgment is appropriate "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 a judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 324, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 2552, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 273 (1986). In reviewing the evidence, facts and inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587, 106 S. Ct. 1348, 1356, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 553 (1986). Summary judgment must be entered in favor of the moving party "[w]here the record taken as a whole could not lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." 475 U.S. at 586-87, ...


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