Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Briggs v. Godby

December 10, 2009

SYEED BRIGGS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES GODBY, JEFF MCGEE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA, LOWER MERION TOWNSHIP, PA, JOHN DOE, PLYMOUTH MEETING TOWNSHIP LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS, ALL JOINTLY AND SEVERALLY LIABLE IN BOTH INDIVIDUAL AND OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Currently pending before the Court are Defendant Montgomery County's Renewed Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint and Plaintiff's Responding Motion for Default Judgment. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion is denied, Defendant's Motion is granted and the Complaint against Defendant Montgomery County is dismissed.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

According to the facts set forth in the Complaint, on October 25, 2006, a Joint Task Force of FBI agents, Philadelphia police officers, Plymouth Meeting police officers, and Lower Merion police officers conducted a search of 243 West Tulpehocken Street, Apartment B 308, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19144. (Compl. ¶ 11.) The apartment was under the dominion and control of Plaintiff Syeed Briggs and Plaintiff was present and sleeping in his bedroom upon the arrival of the police. (Id. ¶¶ 12-13, 15.) The police kicked the door in, immediately seized and restrained Plaintiff in handcuffs, and brought Plaintiff from his bedroom to his living room. (Id. ¶ 14.) When Plaintiff questioned why the police had entered as they did, he was told that they were conducting an investigation of two bank robberies, one in Plymouth Meeting and one in King of Prussia. (Id. ¶ 16.) The police asked Plaintiff who owned the apartment, and he indicated that he did. (Id. ¶ 17.) Although Plaintiff was told he was not under arrest, the police failed to explain why he was being handcuffed. (Id. ¶¶ 18-19.)

Subsequently, Defendants James Godby, Jeff McGee, and John Doe asked Plaintiff's permission to search the apartment, and Plaintiff told them to obtain the proper authority. (Id. ¶¶ 20-21.) The three Defendant officers responded that because they believed he was involved in the alleged robberies, they would not waste their time seeking a warrant.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 22.) They further told Plaintiff that if they found nothing inculpatory, he would be free to go and the matter would be resolved. (Id. ¶ 23.) Thereafter, Defendants Godby, McGee, Doe, and the rest of the police conducted a search over Plaintiff's objection. (Id. ¶ 24.) During the search, the police seized several items from the premises, including: (1) $2,751 in currency; (2) two automobiles; (3) two cell phones; (4) a small quantity of marijuana; and (5) "several other innocuous items." (Id. ¶ 25.) Defendants McGee and Godby told Plaintiff that some of the seized items implicated him in the crime and, two hours later, he was officially placed under arrest. (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.) Plaintiff was then transported by Defendants Godby, McGee, and Doe out of Philadelphia County to Plymouth Meeting. (Id. ¶ 28.) Subsequently, he was transferred to Montgomery County Correctional Facility, where he again complained that his property was illegally seized, his residence illegally searched, and his person illegally restrained. (Id. ¶ 29.)

The state charges were dropped on February 12, 2007. (Id. ¶ 30.) Federal charges for the bank robberies, however, were fully prosecuted in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Compl. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the October 25, 2006 search of his home and, following a full suppression hearing, the trial court declined to grant the requested relief. Order, United States v. Briggs, Crim. A. No. 06-715 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 1, 2007). Ultimately, Plaintiff was convicted and is currently serving a 300-month sentence for carrying and using a firearm during a crime of violence, armed bank robbery, and conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery. Judgment, United States v. Briggs, Crim. A. No. 06-715 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 26, 2008). On October 1, 2009, the United Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit denied Plaintiff's appeal and affirmed the lower court's judgment. Judgment, United States v. Briggs, No. 08-1956 (3d Cir. Oct. 1, 2009). Although Plaintiff petitioned for rehearing en banc, the Third Circuit denied the petition by way of order issued October 26, 2009. Order, United States v. Briggs, No. 08-1956 (3d Cir. Oct. 26, 2009).

Plaintiff filed a Complaint in this Court on November 3, 2008, setting forth the following claims: (1) unreasonable search and seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment against Defendants Godby, McGee, and Doe; and (2) vicarious responsibility against Defendants Plymouth Meeting Township, Lower Merion Township, and Montgomery County for their omission and acquiescence into the unlawful conduct of their officers. (Compl. ¶¶ 38-42.) On January 6, 2009, Defendants Lower Merion Township, Plymouth Township, and Detective Jeff McGee filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint. In light of Plaintiff's failure to respond to that motion, this Court entered an order, dated February 2, 2009, dismissing the Complaint against the moving Defendants with prejudice. Order, Briggs v. Montgomery County, Civ. A. No. 08-5239 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 2, 2009).

Subsequently, on February 5, 2009, Defendant Montgomery County moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint based on the same arguments raised in the Motion to Dismiss filed by the other Defendants. On February 11, 2009, however, Plaintiff appealed the Court's February 2, 2009 Order. In light of the pending appeal, this Court denied Montgomery County's Motion to Dismiss "without prejudice to renewal upon disposition of the aforesaid appeal." Order, Briggs v. Montgomery County, Civ. A. No. 08-5239 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 4, 2009). On August 12, 2009, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit deemed that Order not appealable and dismissed Plaintiff's then pending appeal. Thereafter, Defendant Montgomery County filed its Renewed Motion to Dismiss, Plaintiff submitted a timely response together with a Request for Entry of Default, and Montgomery County filed a supplemental brief in support.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Under Rule 12(b)(6), a defendant bears the burden of demonstrating that the plaintiff has not stated a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6); see also Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). In Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007), the United States Supreme Court recognized that "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id. at 555. Following the basic dictates of Twombly, the Supreme Court, in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. 1937 (2009), subsequently defined a two-pronged approach to a court's review of a motion to dismiss. "First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Id. at 1949. Thus, although "Rule 8 marks a notable and generous departure from the hyper-technical, code-pleading regime of a prior era... it does not unlock the doors of discovery for a plaintiff armed with nothing more than conclusions." Id. at 1950. Second, the Supreme Court emphasized that "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. "Determining whether a complaint states a plausible claim for relief will... be a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense." Id. Where the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged, but not shown an entitlement to relief. Id.; see also McTernan v. City of York, 577 F.3d 521, 530-31 (3d Cir. 2009).

Notwithstanding these new dictates, the basic tenets of the Rule 12(b)(6) standard of review have remained static. DeFebo v. Andersen Windows, Inc., No. CIV.A.99-2993, 2009 WL 4268553, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Nov. 3, 2009); Spence v. Brownsville Area Sch. Dist., No. CIV.A.08-626, 2008 WL 2779079, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Jul. 15, 2008). The general rules of pleading still require only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief and need not contain detailed factual allegations. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008). Further, the court must "accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff." Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). Finally, the court must "determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Pinkerton v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002).

III. DISCUSSION

In support of its Renewed Motion to Dismiss, Defendant Montgomery County (the "County") adopts and incorporates the arguments made in the January 6, 2009 motion by Defendants Lower Merion Township, Plymouth Township, and Detective Jeff McGee. Specifically, the County sets forth the following claims: (1) the Complaint is barred by the statute of limitations; (2) Plaintiff's claims are barred by collateral estoppel; (3) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the Supreme Court decision in by Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994); and (4) Plaintiff failed to sufficiently plead a Monell claim.*fn2 In his Responsive Motion for Default Judgment, Plaintiff contends that the County has "defaulted in this action by not timely filing a response ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.