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Jones v. City of Scranton

November 7, 2006


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo


Presently before the Court is Defendants City of Scranton and the Scranton Police Department's Motion to Dismiss the Plaintiffs' Complaint. (Doc. 15.) For the reasons set forth below, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted. The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331.*fn1


The facts as alleged in Plaintiffs' Complaint are as follows.

Plaintiffs were members of a group tour run by the company Adventures Unlimited. (Doc. 1 ¶ 10.) The tour group arrived at the Hilton Scranton & Conference Center ("the Hilton") on Friday, February 17, 2006, and were assigned a block of rooms on the fifth floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 13.)

At or around 9:30 p.m. on February 18, 2006, Plaintiffs were in the hallway on the fifth floor of the Hilton along with one of the group leaders, Gregory Sanford. (Doc. 1 ¶ 15.) At or around that time, these individuals were approached by hotel manager Paul Scimes and another hotel employee and were asked where "the brawl" was located on their floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 16.) In response, Gregory Sanford informed the manager that he had not heard any noise and that there was no fight or brawl occurring on that floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 17.)

Shortly thereafter, two police officers entered the fifth floor hallway and began inquiring about the location of the fight. (Doc. 1 ¶ 18.) Gregory Sanford then assured these police officers that there was no fight on the floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 19.) A few minutes later, four additional police officers, accompanied by a black K-9 dog, arrived on the floor. (Doc. 1 ¶ 19.) These officers approached Gregory Sanford and began pointing their fingers in his face, shouting loudly and demanding identification, which Mr. Sanford produced. (Doc. 1 ¶ 20.)

The police officers then attempted to grab Gregory Sanford, but were unsuccessful as he was able to enter room 502, which was not his own room. (Doc. 1 ¶ 21.) While Gregory Sanford was in room 502, Plaintiff Kimm Jones asked if he could speak to Gregory. (Doc. 1 ¶ 22.) The police officers told Plaintiff Kimm Jones to be quiet and proceeded to push him in the chest towards the hallway wall. (Doc. 1 ¶ 22.) Plaintiff Kimm Jones then exclaimed that he had asthma, but the same police officer again pushed him in the chest. (Doc. 1 ¶ 23.)

At that same time, Kimm Jones said that "none of this is necessary" and asked the police officers why the K-9 dog was present. (Doc. 1 ¶ 24.) He was then told to "shut up" and that the dog was "trained to bite." (Doc. 1 ¶ 25.) Plaintiff Christine Jones-Combs, who was standing nearby, then stated "This is getting out of hand! My husband didn't do anything wrong!" (Doc. 1 ¶ 25.) A police officer then pushed Mrs. Jones-Combs into the wall, with his arm against her breasts, in an attempt to prevent her from reaching out to or touching her husband. (Doc. 1 ¶ 27.) This police officer then assisted another in pushing Mr. Jones against the wall and handcuffing him. (Doc. 1 ¶ 28.) At no time was Plaintiff Kimm Jones read his Miranda rights or told he was under arrest. (Doc. 1 ¶ 29.) The police officers then began shouting "Everyone out of the hall!", to which Mrs. Jones-Combs responded that she would not go anywhere without her husband. (Doc. 1 ¶ 30.)

A short time later, Gregory Sanford left room 502 and proceeded to enter his own room. (Doc. 1 ¶ 31.) The police officers followed him, knocked on his door, and requested entry. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 31-32.) Gregory Sanford admitted the police officers. (Doc. 1 ¶ 32.) He was then told by Defendant police officers that he must leave the hotel within thirty (30) minutes or face arrest. (Doc. 1 ¶ 33.)

At this point, Plaintiff Kimm Jones was escorted in handcuffs from the elevator through the front lobby of the Hilton, and was placed into a police cruiser outside. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 36-37.) Plaintiff Christine Jones-Combs was also escorted by the police officers out of the hotel, where she was told that her husband would be issued a citation for disorderly conduct. (Doc. 1 ¶¶ 36, 38.)

On April 7, 2006, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint against Defendants City of Scranton, the Scranton Police Department, and six "John Doe" police officers. (Doc. 1.) Defendants City of Scranton and Scranton Police Department (hereinafter "the Municipal Defendants") filed their Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs' Complaint on May 11, 2006. (Doc. 15.) A Brief in Support of this Motion to Dismiss was filed by the Municipal Defendants on May 22, 2006. (Doc. 18.) Plaintiffs filed a Brief in Opposition on June 6, 2006. (Doc. 22.) Defendants filed their Reply Brief on June 30, 2006. (Doc. 25.) On September 29, 2006, the Court issued an Order amending the caption of the case to replace the unnamed "John Doe" Defendants with the names of the now identified officers (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Officer Defendants"). (Doc. 37.)

This motion is fully briefed and ripe for ...

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