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Williams v. Nolan

December 22, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan Paradise Baxter United States Magistrate Judge.



A. Relevant Procedural History

Plaintiff Rosha C. Williams, a prisoner incarcerated at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford, Pennsylvania, ("SCI-Graterford"), instituted this action on April 9, 2009, under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff has since filed several amendments to his original Complaint, the last having been filed on March 31, 2009, in response to this Court's text Order, dated March 9, 2009, which required Plaintiff to file a comprehensive amendment setting forth all claims and the Defendants against whom such claims are being made. [Document # 89]. This final amended complaint makes clear that it is intended to supersede all prior complaints that have been filed in this case.

Named as Defendants in the most recent amended complaint are Michael Nolan ("Nolan"), a detective with the City of Erie Police Department ("EPD"); Donald Dacus, an officer/detective with the EPD ("Dacus"); Toney Bowers, an officer/detective with the EPD ("Bowers"); Bradley Foulk, former Erie County District Attorney ("Foulk"); and an unnamed Defendant identified as "John/Jane Doe," who is an alleged confidential informant used by the EPD. [Document # 89].*fn1 Defendant Foulk subsequently died on August 12, 2009, and his successor, John H. Daneri ("Daneri") has since been substituted for Defendant Foulk in this case.

Plaintiff claims that the Defendants committed an illegal search and seizure of his vehicle, and arrested him without probable cause, in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. In addition, Plaintiff claims that Defendants conspired with one another to violate his constitutional rights. As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks monetary damages.

On April 22, 2009, Defendant Foulk (now Daneri) filed a motion to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint, arguing that: (i) Plaintiff has failed to state a claim of conspiracy upon which relief may be granted; (ii) Plaintiff's claims are barred by the holding of Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) and/or the Rooker-Feldman doctrine; and (iii) Defendant Foulk (now Daneri) is entitled to absolute prosecutorial and/or qualified immunity. [Document # 91]. Defendants Nolan, Dacus, and Bowers subsequently filed a motion for summary judgment, essentially raising the same legal arguments as Defendant Daneri.*fn2 [Document # 98]. Plaintiff has since filed a response to Defendants' motions. [Document # 16].*fn3 This matter is now ripe for consideration.

B. Relevant Factual History

On May 13, 2006, Defendant Nolan was informed by a confidential informant (Defendant John/Jane Doe) that Plaintiff was in possession of several baggies of crack cocaine while seated in his black Ford Expedition in the 300 block of Myrtle Street in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Document # 89, Amended Complaint, at ¶ 13). Defendant Nolan immediately proceeded to the area of West 3rd and Myrtle Streets and saw Plaintiff's vehicle parked there, with Plaintiff in the driver's seat and others in the vehicle with him. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15). Defendant Nolan then ran a status check on Plaintiff's driver's license and found that it was suspended. (Id. at ¶ 17).

Defendant Nolan kept Plaintiff's vehicle under surveillance for approximately twenty minutes, after which the vehicle pulled away from the parking area. (Id. at ¶¶ 18-19). Defendant Nolan followed the vehicle a few blocks and then activated his emergency patrol lights as Plaintiff was pulling the vehicle into the driveway of his residence at 334 West 2nd Street in Erie, Pennsylvania. (Id. at ¶ 20). Defendant Nolan and other officers then entered Plaintiff's property, removed Plaintiff and his passengers from the vehicle, and pat-searched them, finding money, but no drugs or illegal contraband in Plaintiff's possession. (Id. at ¶ 21). Nevertheless, Plaintiff was arrested and taken to the Erie Police Station, and his vehicle was seized "without a Warrant or/any sufficient Probable Cause." (Id. at ¶¶ 22-23).

A short time later, Defendant Nolan contacted Defendant Bowers, who arrived at the Erie Police Station with his "Canine drug detection dog." (Id. at ¶ 24). Defendant Nolan had the dog sniff the exterior of Plaintiff's vehicle, and a positive indication was given on the driver side door. (Id.). Defendant Nolan indicated that "by shining his flashlight into the vehicle, he could clearly see a plastic baggie wedged between the liner above the driver side visor, and the roof of the vehicle." (Id. at ¶ 25). Plaintiff alleges that this "so-called alleged illegal contraband" was discovered approximately four hours after he was arrested and his vehicle was seized.

C. Standards of Review

1. Motion to Dismiss

A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 95 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12 (b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12 (b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also ...

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