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Savokinas v. Pittston Township

August 16, 2006

MIKE SAVOKINAS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
PITTSTON TOWNSHIP, TONY ATTARDO, JOHN PAGLIANITE, JOSEPH ADAMS, AND POLICE CHIEF STEVE RINALDI, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Defendants Pittston Township, Tony Attardo, John Paglianite, Joseph Adams and Police Chief Steve Rinaldi's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 8). For reasons set forth below, I will grant the motion in part and deny it in part. The Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Mike Savokinas was a law enforcement officer for Pittston Township for almost nine (9) years. (Doc. 1, ¶ 1.) On January 10, 2006, Plaintiff was terminated. Id. Plaintiff's job was covered by a Collective Bargaining Agreement ("CBA") containing a "just cause" provision. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 11, 13.) The CBA applicable to Plaintiff's employment contains a grievance procedure. (Doc. 10.)

On January 17, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging violations of his due process rights. (Doc. 1.) On February 14, 2006, Defendants filed the present Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. 8.) This motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

LEGAL STANDARD

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting all factual allegations in the complaint as true and "drawing all reasonable inferences in the plaintiff's favor, no relief could be granted under any set of facts consistent with the allegations in the complaint." Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts Inc., 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents where the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached a copy of the document to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume that the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. West Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 (3d Cir. 1998), nor credit a complaint's "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions." Morse v. Lower Marion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of the claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. In order to survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred. See Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993). The defendant bears the burden of establishing that the plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

1. Procedural Due Process

To establish a cause of action for a procedural due process violation, Plaintiff must first prove that a person acting under color of state law deprived him of a protected property interest; and second, he must show that the procedures available to him failed to provide him with due process of law. See, e.g., Alvin v. Suzuki, 227 F.3d 107, 116 (3d Cir. 2000). Furthermore, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has repeatedly held that, "in cases in which 'a due process claim is raised against a public employer, and grievance and arbitration procedures are in place, . . . those procedures satisfy due process requirements.'" Leneny v. City of Pittsburgh, 183 F.3d 220, 228 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Dykes v. Southeastern Pa. Trans. Auth., 68 F.3d 1564, 1571 (3d Cir. 1995)). Thus, "[i]n order to state a claim for failure to provide due process, a plaintiff must have taken advantage of the processes that are available to him or her, unless those processes are unavailable or patently inadequate." Alvin, 227 F.3d at 116 (emphasis added).

a. Post-termination Process

Defendants argue that Plaintiff's procedural due process claims must be dismissed because Plaintiff has failed to take advantage of the processes available under the CBA. With respect to Plaintiff's claims that he ...


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