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Leblanc v. County of Lancaster

October 21, 2009

DONNELLY J. LEBLANC
v.
COUNTY OF LANCASTER, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Background

In his pro se complaint characterized as a §1983 action, the plaintiff Donnelly J. LeBlanc ("LeBlanc") asserts a variety of claims arising out of four separate encounters with law enforcement. The four incidents as described by LeBlanc are: police trespassing on his property in the Fall of 2007; his arrest for insurance fraud on January 8, 2008; his arrest on unspecified charges on February 22, 2008; and his arrest, imprisonment and prosecution for sexual assault. He asserts seven claims: (1) unlawful trespassing by the police; (2) police harassment; (3) police intimidation; (4) unlawful prosecution; (5) false arrest; (6) false imprisonment; and (7) unnecessary force. Construing the pro se complaint most generously in LeBlanc's favor and giving him the benefit of every doubt, we shall assume that he is raising violations of his Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

LeBlanc has named four defendants. Lancaster County ("County") and the Penn Township Police Department ("Police Department") are named in the trespass and three false arrests counts. Detective Pappas ("Pappas") is sued in connection with the insurance fraud and sexual assault arrests. Karen Mansfield ("Mansfield"), the assistant district attorney who prosecuted him in the sexual assault trial, is sued for her role in prosecuting LeBlanc.

The defendants, except Mansfield, have moved to dismiss the complaint. The County argues that LeBlanc has failed to allege that it has violated any protected constitutional right. The Police Department contends it is not a proper defendant for purposes of § 1983 and LeBlanc has not alleged that any department's policy or custom violated his civil rights. Pappas argues that the claims against him for false arrest, false imprisonment and malicious prosecution are precluded as an impermissible collateral attack on a state court conviction. He also argues that the court should abstain from intervening in the state criminal proceedings for insurance fraud.

Facts

As alleged by LeBlanc, his interactions with the police started in the Fall of 2007, when an unidentified Penn Township policeman trespassed on his property. Compl. ¶ 1. Pennsylvania State Police ordered the officer to vacate LeBlanc's property. Id. ¶ 1.

The next encounter occurred on January 8, 2008. Compl. ¶ 3. LeBlanc was arrested by Pappas as a result of a complaint from State Farm Insurance Company. Id. ¶ 3. LeBlanc alleges that he made no claim, and that Pappas omitted evidence in order to charge him with insurance fraud and conspiracy to commit insurance fraud. Id. ¶ 3. He does not allege that the charges were terminated in his favor. Indeed, although the conspiracy charge was dismissed, the remaining charges are pending.

The third incident happened one month later. Compl. ¶ 2. Another unidentified Penn Township policeman arrested LeBlanc. Id. ¶ 2. LeBlanc alleges that the original charges, which he does not specify, were dismissed. Id. ¶ 2. On the same day, LeBlanc alleges that this officer used excessive force to remove him from his vehicle and slammed him against the vehicle. Id. ¶ 4. He was taken to the police station where he was pushed onto an icy pavement, causing him to fall and to sustain injuries requiring medical attention. Id. ¶ 4.

The fourth incident arises out of his arrest on June 19, 2008 and subsequent prosecution for involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Compl. ¶ 5. LeBlanc claims that Pappas falsified the affidavit for probable cause. Id. ¶ 5. He alleges that the Lancaster County District Attorney's Office was aware of the prior incidents between him and the Police Department, and Mansfield wrongfully prosecuted him. Id. ¶ 6.

Motion to Dismiss Standard

When considering a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint are accepted as true and viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiffs. Holk v. Snapple Beverage Corp., 575 F.3d 329, 334 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). A complaint must contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), giving the defendant "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Erickson v. Pardus, 55 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). Although this standard "does not require 'detailed factual allegations,' it demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555).

A complaint is subject to dismissal if the plaintiff fails to plead "factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The plaintiff must allege facts that indicate "more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. The mere pleading of "facts that are 'merely consistent with' a defendant's liability" is insufficient and cannot survive a motion to dismiss. Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557). Additionally, the plaintiff's pro se pleadings must be considered deferentially, affording him the benefit of the doubt where one exists. Dluhos v. Strasberg, 321 F.3d 365, 369 (3d Cir. 2003) (citing Higgins v. Beyer, 293 ...


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