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Retzler v. Wallace

June 24, 2009

WESTLEY RETZLER AND LAURA WARDEN, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
EDWARD WALLACE, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Schiller, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Westley Retzler has filed fifteen Complaints in this District. In each case, Retzler is proceeding pro se and has been granted in forma pauperis (IFP) status. Retzler's handwritten Complaints name a myriad of individuals and entities, with many Defendants named in multiple lawsuits. The Complaints are best described as a hodgepodge of alleged wrongs perpetrated against him (and his sometimes co-Plaintiff Laura Warden) by private citizens, public officials, and the government of Bucks County.

The above-captioned case centers around the failure of Bristol Township officials to respond to Plaintiffs' claims of harassment and illegal activity against them by members of the community. This lawsuit names seventeen different individuals and entities as Defendants. Four motions to dismiss are currently before this Court. For the reasons below, the motions are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

According to Retzler, "[o]n several occasions over the last few years since 2000 the police have simply not responded or ignored crimes that have been committed against plaintiffs." (Compl. at 2.) Retzler details a number of incidents to support this allegation. For example, he claims that on September 1, 2006, he called the Bristol Township Police after two young males forced Retzler's car into oncoming traffic, clipped the door handle of his vehicle, and then proceeded to yell at Retzler and to kick his car. (Id. at 2-3.) Retzler called the police, but the officer who arrived on the scene, Officer Edward Wallace, showed no interest in the damage to Retzler's car. Retzler's follow-up with the Bucks County Detectives has not resulted in any criminal charges being filed.

On September 5, 2006, Retzler called the police because somebody had set off large professional fireworks near Plaintiffs' property, which "rattled everything in the home," but the police failed to respond. (Id. at 2.)

On October 19, 2006, during a Bristol Township Council meeting, Retzler claimed that Bristol Township Police Chief James McAndrew called Retzler "a [expletive deleted] nut" in need of "a psychiatric evaluation." (Id. at 4.)

Retzler also laments the unprofessional behavior of Bristol Township police officers, alleging that he witnessed officers, including Officer Wallace, manhandle a "Negro homeless man dragging him outside put him on the ground outside their vehicle beat him while he was on the ground then without resistence used excess force to put the Negro male into the patrol car." (Id. at 4-5.)

The bulk of the remaining pages of the Complaint lists eleven separate incidents, from June 14, 2005 to July 1, 2006, in which Retzler alleges wrongs suffered by him and Warden at the hands of Bristol Township police officers. Most of the incidents allege property damage and assaults accompanied by a failure to take action on Retzler's behalf, despite repeated requests.

As a result of the reign of terror visited upon Retzler and Warden "since 1998," they seek damages for, inter alia, deprivation of their quality of life, defamation, mental anguish, alienation of affection, conspiracy to deprive them of their civil rights, conspiracy to harass, failure to respond, and failure to prosecute. Ultimately, the Court understands Plaintiffs' Complaint as alleging civil rights violations and therefore brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

Retzler and Warden filed for IFP status on September 2, 2008 and their requests were granted on September 12, 2008. The Complaint in this action was filed September 12, 2008.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In reviewing a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim, a district court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party. See Bd. of Trs. of Bricklayers and Allied Craftsman Local 6 of N.J. Welfare Fund v. Wettlin Assocs., Inc., 237 F.3d 270, 272 (3d Cir. 2001). A court should read the allegations in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and determine whether a reasonable reading indicates that relief may be warranted. Umland v. PLANCO Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59, 64 (3d Cir. 2008). A court need not credit "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). Because Retzler is acting pro se, this Court must construe his Complaint liberally and apply the applicable law, even if Retzler failed to mention it by name. See Alston v. Parker, 363 F.3d 229, 234 (3d Cir. 2004); Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003).

"Factual allegations [in a complaint] must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must include "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570. Although the federal rules impose no probability requirement at the pleading stage, a plaintiff must present "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s]" of a cause of action. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2007). Simply reciting the elements will not suffice. Id. at 231.

Because Retzler is proceeding in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915 applies. Under that statute, a court shall dismiss an action if it is frivolous or malicious, fails to state a claim, or seeks monetary relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B) (2008). The frivolousness prong of the statute permits judges to examine the factual allegations of the complaint and dismiss claims whose factual contentions are clearly baseless. Guarrasi v. Gibbons, ...


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