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Hillman v. Eyster

February 14, 2007

LORRAINE HILLMAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CHRIS R. EYSTER, ET AL., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Pending are two Motions for Summary Judgment, one filed by Defendants, Chris R. Eyster, Chief of Police Ralph C. Freedman, and Ross Township ("Township Defendants"), and the other by Defendant Joan Maleski. (Docket Nos. 62 and 65). Plaintiff, Lorraine Hillman, initiated this lawsuit against Defendants asserting violations of 42 U.S.C. §1983, false imprisonment, assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, abuse of process, and civil conspiracy resulting from Plaintiff's involuntary commitment. (Docket No. 1). Based on my opinion set forth below, Township Defendants' Motion (Docket No. 65) is granted, and Joan Maleski's Motion (Docket No. 42) is granted.

OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

I. Standard of Review

Summary judgment may only be granted 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 judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). Rule 56 mandates the entry of summary judgment, after adequate time for discovery and upon motion, against the party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).

In considering a motion for summary judgment, this Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chemical Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence creates no genuine issue of material fact. Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir. 1987). The dispute is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id. Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record, if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id. at 324. Summary judgment must therefore be granted "against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial." White v. Westinghouse Electric Co., 862 F.2d 56, 59 (3d Cir. 1988), quoting Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322.

II. Count I - Section 1983

Section 1983 does not create substantive rights. See, 42 U.S.C. §1983.*fn1 Rather, section 1983 provides a remedy for the deprivation of rights established elsewhere in the Constitution or federal laws. Estate of Smith v. Marasco , 318 F.3d 497, 505 (3d Cir. 2003). There are two essential elements to a §1983 claims:

(1) whether the conduct complained of deprived a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States; and

(2) whether the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law.

Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 184 (3d Cir. 1993). In this case, Plaintiff complains that the conduct of all of the Defendants violated her Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights. (Docket No. 1). Defendants first argue that Plaintiff cannot succeed on her §1983 count because she cannot prove the second element - that the conduct complained of was committed by a person acting under color of state law.

A. Color of Law

Defendants Eyster and Maleski first challenge only the second element. (Docket No. 67, pp. 6-16; Docket No. Docket No. 62, pp. 4-5). As all parties acknowledge, a private individual can act "under color of law" when he conspires with or engages in activity with state officials to deprive a person of a constitutional right. See, Abbott v. Latshaw, 164 F.3d 141, ...


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