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Hines v. Proper

July 6, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge Kane)


Presently before the Court is Defendants' "Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and/or Strike Impertinent Material Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(f)" (Doc. No. 7) and all responsive papers thereto. On May 16, 2006, this Court heard oral argument on the matter sub judice. Having been fully briefed, the matter is now ripe for disposition. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion will be granted.

I. Background*fn1

Plaintiff is an African-American woman who resides and maintains a business in Susquehanna Township, Pennsylvania. Defendants are both police officers with the Susquehanna Township Police Department. In early November 2005 Defendant Proper telephoned Plaintiff and accused her of committing a crime involving "pocketbooks, credit cards, Victoria's Secret, [and ] Piercing Pagoda . . . ."*fn2 Defendant Proper advised Plaintiff to voluntarily report to the police station, but Plaintiff declined to report.

On November 21, 2005, Defendants, along with an officer from Lower Paxton Township, sought Plaintiff at her home. Upon entering her house, Defendants advised Plaintiff that she was under arrest, showed her a warrant for her arrest, and read her her Miranda rights. When Plaintiff left the room in search of her telephone, the officers followed her. The Lower Paxton police officer prevented Plaintiff's husband from helping her locate her telephone, stating that she "[was] in [their] custody". (Compl. ¶ 17.) After following Plaintiff into the kitchen, the unnamed Lower Paxton police officer noted that Plaintiff was "'not the one on the video.'"*fn3 (Id. ¶ 19.) The officers informed Plaintiff that she had been misidentified and left her house. That evening, Chief of Police Martin telephoned Plaintiff to apologize for the incident.

Plaintiff also complains of several incidents that allegedly occurred contemporaneously with the above. Plaintiff alleges that Chief Martin told her that "they had video pictures of Plaintiff's daughter in Philadelphia at a "Target" [store] and that they were looking at her." (Compl. ¶ 24.) The Chief allegedly told Plaintiff that her daughter's boyfriend had a warrant out for his arrest. Thereafter, Defendants Proper and Thornton visited the boyfriend at his place of employment, but did not arrest him. Plaintiff further alleges that her grandson was questioned by his Middle School counselor about Plaintiff's whereabouts. Plaintiff asserts that the Principal of her granddaughter's elementary school told Plaintiff's daughter that she was not welcome at the school and that her child would have to leave.

The Principal rescinded that order, but advised Plaintiff's daughter not to come to the school again, "given the nature of the problems [at the school]". (Compl. ¶ 14.) Plaintiff does not allege that Defendants instigated or were involved in the above incidents at school. In fact, Plaintiff makes no attempt to connect the alleged incidents at school with her brief November 21, 2005 arrest.

II. Standard of Review

A motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to show that no claim has been stated. Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980). "A court may dismiss a complaint only if it is clear that no relief could be granted under any set of facts that could be proved consistent with the allegations." Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 73 (1984). However, "a court need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). "The issue is not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claims." Lake v. Arnold, 112 F.3d 682, 688 (3d Cir. 1997) (citing Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974), overruled on other grounds by Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800 (1982)).

III. Discussion

Plaintiff claims that Defendants falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted her in violation of the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Plaintiff also asserts state claims of false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and civil conspiracy.*fn4 (Doc. No. 1.)

A. False Arrest Claims

Defendants offer three arguments in support of their motion to dismiss Plaintiff's false arrest claims: (1) that Plaintiff was never seized for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment; (2) that Defendants had probable cause to arrest Plaintiff; and (3) that Defendants enjoy qualified immunity from Plaintiff's claims. (Doc. No. 9.) The Court will address each argument in turn.

A seizure is "a show of authority that restrains the liberty of a citizen, or a government termination of freedom of movement intentionally applied." Gallo v. City of Philadelphia, 161 F.3d 217, 223 (3d Cir. 1998) (internal citations omitted). A seizure triggering the Fourth Amendment's protections occurs only when government actors have, "by means of physical force or show of authority, . . . in some way restrained the liberty of ...

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