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McDaniel v. City of Lewistown

September 16, 2009

JASMINE MCDANIEL, PLAINTIFF
v.
THE CITY OF LEWISTOWN, MIFFLIN COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sylvia H. Rambo United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is Defendant's motion to dismiss, (Doc. 3), that was converted to a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(d) by order dated June 19, 2009.*fn1 (Doc. 19.) The court's June 19, 2009 order permitted the parties an opportunity to supplement the record; they have done so, and this matter is now ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant summary judgment to Defendant and against Plaintiff.

I. Background

In her complaint, Plaintiff asserts six counts against Defendant for various alleged violations of her constitutional rights and seeks an award of "OneMillion.5 Dollars" [sic] compensatory damages, and "One Million Dollars punitive and exemplary damages." (Doc. 1 at 4.) Plaintiff's complaint is not a model of clarity, and it is difficult to discern the factual basis of her claim for damages. However, Defendant has provided evidence that supplements Plaintiff's complaint, and fills in the gaps in Plaintiff's story. Plaintiff has also filed a document titled "Supplemental Brief in Response to Defendant's Material Facts Rule 56 and Local Rule 56.1." (Doc. 22.) The following facts are taken from these documents, and are construed in the light most favorable to Plaintiff.

A. The Parties

The crux of the dispute raised in Defendant's motion is that Plaintiff sued the wrong municipality, thus, the identities of the parties-especially Defendant-are unusually relevant in this case. The pleadings and record before the court tell little of Plaintiff except that she is a 41 year old female. Defendant, however, provides ample information regarding its identity. In support of its motion for summary judgment, Defendant submitted an affidavit from David J. Frey, the secretary and borough manager of the Borough of Lewistown. (See Doc. 3-3.) This affidavit is admissible pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(e).

In her complaint, Plaintiff identifies Defendant as "the City of Lewistown," however, according to Mr. Frey no such municipality exists; rather, Defendant is actually a "borough" located in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. 3-3, Def.'s Ex. B, David J. Frey Aff. ¶ 1.) Furthermore, the Borough of Lewistown has not operated a police department since August 28, 1993, but instead obtains its police services from the Mifflin County Regional Police Department. (Id. ¶ 3.) Neither the Borough of Lewistown nor the Mifflin County Regional Police Department has any control over the Granville Township Police Department, the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas or its judges, Magisterial District Courts or its judges, state constables, or the Mifflin County Jail, all of whom are implicated in Plaintiff's complaint. (Id. ¶¶ 4-8.)

B. Plaintiff's Arrest and State Court Proceedings

Plaintiff asserts that "The City of Lewistown falsely arrested, falsely imprisoned (3/31/2006 realeased [sic] 4/5/2006) illegally detained Ms. McDaniel, based on their own (rescheduled/reset) error and Judiciary misconduct, error, mistake, blunder, slip, lapse, negligence, judiciary misconduct." (Doc. 22, Pl.'s Supplemental Br. and Exs. ¶ 4.) Plaintiff then asserts that "[t]he City of Lewistown (repeated Judiciary misconduct, error, blunder, slip, lapse, misrepresentation, negligence (the error of judiciarymisconduct [sic]) waswithdrawn [sic] and vacated)." (Id. ¶ 6.) Although not citing any evidence to support her allegations, Plaintiff attached to her supplemental submission various documents. Many, if not all, of these documents are also included in Defendant's submission. (See Doc. 3-6.) From the parties submissions, the court gleans the following facts.

Plaintiff was stopped on December 11, 2005, by Granville Township police officer Craig Weston. (Doc. 3-6, Def.'s Ex. E, at 60.) A criminal complaint from that traffic stop was issued on January 3, 2006, charging Defendant with a misdemeanor of driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance ("DUI"), and a summary offense of passing in a no passing zone. (Id. at 57-58.) On or about January 20, 2006, Plaintiff received a summons from state Magisterial District Judge ("MDJ") Jack Miller-Magisterial District Court No. 58-3-01-to appear at her DUI preliminary hearing on February 15, 2006. (Doc. 22, Pl.'s Supplemental Br. and Exs. at 17-18.) That case was docketed in the Magisterial District Court as CR-0000006-06. (Id.) Defendant apparently failed to appear for that hearing because an arrest warrant was issued by MDJ Miller on February 15, 2006. (Doc. 3-6, Def.'s Ex. E, at 62.) At some point, Plaintiff was arrested, and on March 31, 2006, MDJ Miller set bail at $2500.00. (Id. at 6.) Bail was revoked by MDJ Miller that same day, and Plaintiff was remanded to the Mifflin County prison.*fn2 (Doc. 22, Pl.'s Supplemental Br. and Exs. at 19). Ultimately, Plaintiff posted bail on April 5, 2006 and was released from Mifflin County prison that day. (Id. at 21.)

In support of its motion, Defendant attached an affidavit by Christopher T. Gahagan, the Deputy Clerk of Court fo Mifflin County, Pennsylvania. (See Doc. 3-5, Def.'s Ex. D, at 2.) Mr. Gahagan attests that the only entry on the criminal dockets for the Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County, under the name Jasmine McDaniel, for the time period of January 1, 1993 to and including March 12, 2009, is the case docketed as CP-44-CR-270-2006. (Id.) Defendant attached a certified copy of the docket sheet reflecting all docket entries for that criminal case. (See Doc.3-6, Def.'s Ex. E, at 2-74.) The cover page of the certified docket from CP-44-CR-270-2006 reflects that it is the same case as the lower court docket number CR-0000006-06 before MDJ Miller. Because the entirety of Plaintiff's case concerns the events that took place resulting from her arrest in this case, the court will refer to the certified docket for the additional relevant facts.

After proceedings in the lower court, an information was filed with the Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas on June 6, 2006. (Doc. 3-6, Def.'s Ex. E, at 9.) Plaintiff was represented in her proceedings before the Magisterial District Court and before the Court of Common Pleas by Attorney John McCullough. (Doc. 22 Pl.'s Supplemental Br. and Exs. at 23.) On July 11, 2006, Plaintiff pled guilty to the DUI charge and the summary charge was dismissed. (Doc. 3-6, Def.'s Ex. E, at 9.) Later however, with the assistance of another attorney-Robert Berry, Esquire-Plaintiff filed a motion to withdraw her guilty plea. (Id. at 10.) The Mifflin County Court of Common Pleas granted Plaintiff's motion to withdraw her guilty plea on March 1, 2007. (Id. at 34.) Thereafter, Plaintiff entered another guilty plea on September 19, 2008, and was sentenced to a term of imprisonment of seventy-two hours to six months with credit for nine days served. (Id. at 23.) No other facts are material to the disposition of Defendant's motion.

C. Procedural History

On February 12, 2009, Plaintiff filed the captioned matter with this court. Plaintiff then filed a duplicate copy of the summons and complaint in this case along with the court's Standing Practice Order, in the Court of Common Pleas of Mifflin County, Pennsylvania, which was then stamped by the Prothonotary of Mifflin County and given a Court of Common Pleas docket number CP-44-CV-248-2009. On March 27, 2009, Defendant filed a Notice of Removal to this court of the ...


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