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Ceraso v. Pennsylvania Dep't of Education

November 9, 2007


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Nora Barry Fischer



Currently pending before this Court is the State Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Complaint. Docket No. 5. As a preliminary matter the Court notes that in considering a motion to dismiss it must accept as true all allegations in Plaintiff's Complaint, and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to Plaintiff. See Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989). Furthermore, the Court finds that it must employ less stringent standards in considering Plaintiff's pro se pleadings than when considering the work product of an attorney. Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972).

In light of the foregoing standard for a motion to dismiss, and the more lenient standard to be applied to pro se pleadings, and upon consideration of Defendant's motion to dismiss, and for the reasons that follow, Defendants' motion [DE 5] is GRANTED.


The Plaintiff, Frank Ceraso (hereafter "Plaintiff"), claims that since 1970 he was employed as a certified teacher at several school districts in western Pennsylvania. See Docket No.1, at ¶9. In 1993, Plaintiff was charged with a criminal offense, which occurred away from the educational setting and did not involve any fellow teachers or students. Plaintiff admits he plead guilty to a summary offense.*fn2 Id. at ¶10. On or about November 13, 1996, Defendant, the Pennsylvania Professional Standards and Practices Commission (the "Commission") revoked Plaintiff's professional teaching certification*fn3 . Id. at ¶14. Plaintiff claims that he has attempted numerous times to have his certification reinstated and that he has submitted to an appeals process which is governed by the same agencies which revoked his certification.*fn4 Id. at ¶15. Plaintiff further alleges in his compliant that Defendants have "engaged in a conspiracy of denial" by revoking his teaching certification. Id. at ¶16.


At the outset, the Court finds that the behavior of Plaintiff, in appearing nude, and then in a thong, at a hotel swimming pool, and attempting to coerce a female lifeguard into the men's locker room, See Docket No. 5-3, Ex. 3, at 15, n.2, is outrageous and unacceptable behavior, and that the arbitration panel acted reasonably in revoking his professional teacher's certification based upon Plaintiff's "reprehensible and inexcusable" actions. Docket No. 5-3, Ex. 3, at 15.

A. Plaintiff's Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 - Barred by the Statute of Limitations

Plaintiff seeks recovery against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The limitations period for civil actions brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is determined by state law. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 272-76 (1985). Under Pennsylvania law, the applicable limitations period for civil rights actions asserted under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is two years. See 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5524.

The date when a civil rights action accrues, or begins to run, is a matter of federal law. Albright v. Oliver, 510 U.S. 266, 280 n.6 (1994) (J. Ginsburg, concurring). A claim accrues when the plaintiff becomes aware, or should have become aware, of both the fact of injury and its causal connection to the defendant. See Delaware State College v. Ricks, 449 U.S. 250, 258 (1980) (it is the wrongful act that triggers the start of the limitations period); Keystone Ins. Co. v. Houghton, 863 F.2d 1125, 1127 (3d Cir. 1988) (a federal cause of action accrues when the plaintiff is aware, or should be aware, of the existence of and source of injury, not when the potential claimant knows or should know that the injury constitutes a legal wrong).

Plaintiff's Complaint is signed and dated June 20, 2007. Due to the two-year limitations period, Plaintiff cannot impose liability against Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for events that occurred prior to June 20, 2005. Plaintiff's initial revocation of his teaching license occurred on November 13, 1996, and the final decision on his appeal, upholding the revocation of his license, occurred on July 30, 2001. Consequently, Defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 with respect to the events in Plaintiff's Complaint, as they are far beyond the two-year statute of limitations period.

B. Failure to State a Claim Against State Entities

Plaintiff has named two state entities, the Pennsylvania Department of Education (hereafter, the "Department") and the Commission, as defendants in his Complaint. See Docket No.1 at ¶¶ 2 and 3. For 42 U.S.C. § 1983 purposes, neither of these state entities is a "person." See Wolfe v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 334 F.Supp.2d 762, 776 n.11 (E.D. Pa. 2004)(citing Will v. Michigan Department of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 64-71 (1989)); Bey v. Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, 98 F.Supp.2d 650, 657 (E.D. Pa. 2000). The eleventh amendment, absent a state's consent, bars civil rights cases in federal court that name the state as a defendant. See Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 66 ...

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