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Nudelman v. Borough of Dickson City Police Dep't

April 12, 2006

HAROLD NUDELMAN, PLAINTIFF
v.
BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT; WILLIAM STADNITSKI, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE POLICE CHIEF/OFFICER FOR THE BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY; PHILLIP F. DAVITT, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY; AND THOMAS LOGAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER FOR THE BOROUGH OF DICKSON CITY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court for disposition is the Defendants' joint Partial Motion to Dismiss the Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The parties have fully briefed this motion and it is ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, we will grant the motion in part.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiff Harold Nudelman was police officer with the Borough of Dickson City Police Department for thirty-one years, until a work related injury rendered him incapable of performing his duties as of January 29, 2003. At all relevant times, Defendant William Stadnitski was the Chief of Police of Dickson City, and Defendants Phillip Davitt and Thomas Logan were police officers in Dickson City. On September 27, 2004, Nudelman filed suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Docket Number 04cv2159 (J. Munley), against the Borough, the Borough Council, and the Borough Police Department claiming that he was wrongfully terminated, and Stadnitski subjected him to discrimination and retaliation.

At the time he filed suit, Nudelman was employed by Millennium Packing Service, Inc. in Dickson City. After the filing, Defendants Stadnitski and Davitt engaged in a pattern of issuing baseless traffic citations to Millenium's employees and business invitees. On or about November 26, 2004, Davitt stopped a Millenium truck for a tail light violation and refused to allow the truck to proceed one mile to the company's facility for repairs. A Millenium employee on the scene called Nudelman to assist with the repair, and when he arrived, Davitt and Logan verbally abused and falsely imprisoned him. They issued him a criminal citation for disorderly conduct, and he was subsequently acquitted of this charge after trial. While Davitt and Logan detained the truck for approximately two and one half hours, they repeatedly conferred with Stadnitski over the phone. Davitt and Logan issued the citation even though the incident occurred in Scranton, outside of their jurisdiction.

Based on the above incident, Nudelman filed the instant twelve count Complaint. In Count I, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, he alleges that the defendants violated his First Amendment rights when they initiated the above actions in retaliation for his previous lawsuit. In Count II, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, he alleges that the defendants deprived him of his Fourteenth Amendment liberty interest in his reputation. In Count III, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, he alleges the defendants' actions were performed pursuant to an official policy of the Police Department. In Count IV, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, he maintains that the defendants seized him without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. In Count V, pursuant to Pennsylvania common law, he avers that the defendants falsely arrested him. In Count VI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, he asserts that the defendants maliciously prosecuted him in violation of his federal constitutional rights. Count VII is a Pennsylvania common law malicious prosecution claim. Count VIII is a Pennsylvania common law assault and battery claim. Count IX is a Pennsylvania common law false imprisonment claim. Count X is a Pennsylvania common law intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. Count XI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, seeks to impose supervisory liability on Stadnitski. Finally, Count XII is a Pennsylvania common law defamation claim.

II. Jurisdiction

Since a federal question is before the Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, this court has jurisdiction over this dispute pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331. This court also has supplemental jurisdiction over the plaintiff's claims that arise under state law, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a), as these claims are "part of the same case or controversy" as the plaintiff's federal claims. A federal district court exercising supplemental jurisdiction over state law causes of action must apply the substantive law of the State as interpreted by the State's highest court. Erie R.R. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 78 (1938); Paolella v. Browning-Ferris, Inc., 158 F.3d 183, 189 (3d Cir. 1998).

III. Standard

When a 12(b)(6) motion is filed, the sufficiency of a complaint's allegations are tested. The issue is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, if true, support a claim upon which relief can be granted. In deciding a 12(b)(6) motion, the court must accept as true all factual allegations in the complaint and give the pleader the benefit of all reasonable inferences that can be fairly drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

IV. Discussion

The defendants seek dismissal of Counts II, IV, V, VI, and XII. Regarding Count II, they argue that Nudelman has not sufficiently averred a deprivation of a protected liberty interest because he has no protected liberty interest in his reputation. They argue that Counts IV-VI do not set forth false arrest claims because Nudelman failed to allege he was 'seized.' Similarly, they argue that we should dismiss Count VI because the complaint does not set forth the requisite nexus between the legal process and the seizure to state a malicious prosecution claim. Finally, the defendants argue that Count XII does not set forth a defamation claim because statements in a criminal complaint are absolutely privileged. We will address each issue seperately.

A. Count II: Liberty Interest in Reputation

Nudelman advances Count II pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983 ("section 1983") for alleged violations of his Due Process ...


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