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Bush v. City of Philadelphia

February 4, 2010


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


On October 28, 2009, Plaintiff filed this pro se action against the City of Philadelphia (the "City") and the Philadelphia Police Department. The Complaint alleges that Defendants violated Plaintiff's civil rights by arresting him without probable cause. The City has moved to dismiss the Complaint and Plaintiff has moved for default judgment against Defendants. For the reasons set forth below, the City's Motion to Dismiss the Complaint (Dkt. No. 6) will be granted; Plaintiff's Request for Default and Default Judgment (Dkt. No. 5), Motion for Court to Sign Judgment under Rule 55 (Dkt. No. 7), and Motions to Amend (Dkt. Nos. 10, 12 and 13) will be denied.*fn1 In addition, Plaintiff's Motions to Grant Relief (Dkt. Nos. 9 and 11) will be denied as moot.*fn2


Plaintiff brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the alleged violation of his right to be free from arrest without probable cause under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Plaintiff argues there was no probable cause for his 1986 robbery arrest where it was based solely on a coerced witness identification elicited by Philadelphia police officers, who directed the witness to select Plaintiff from a photo line-up. See Compl.

However, Plaintiff frames his claim as a request for "Reconsideration of [the] Court Order" issued under the "Docket Number of Civil Complaint by Judge Anita Brody 04-5776." Id. at 1 and 4. On April 7, 2005, considering the same allegations as Plaintiff brings in this case, the Honorable Anita B. Brody dismissed Plaintiff's § 1983 claims against the City for malicious prosecution and unconstitutional conviction or imprisonment. See Bush v. City of Philadelphia, 367 F. Supp. 2d 722 (E.D. Pa. 2005). Plaintiff now explicitly asks the Court to revisit Judge Brody's decision.

The City was served on November 25, 2009.*fn3 On January 6, 2010, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the City moved to dismiss this action as barred by the statute of limitations and precluded under the doctrine of res judicata. On January 12, 2010, Plaintiff moved for default judgment. See Memorandum of Law in Support of the City's Motion ("Def. Mem.") at 2.Jurisdiction is proper pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because the arises under federal law.


A. The City's Motion to Dismiss

Before reaching the City's arguments, the Court must first dismiss the Philadelphia Police Department as a matter of law because it is not a legal entity separate from the City of Philadelphia. Gremo v. Karlin, 363 F. Supp. 2d 771, 780 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (citing Baldi v. City of Philadelphia, 609 F. Supp. 162, 168 (E.D. Pa. 1985)). The Police Department may only be sued in the name of the City of Philadelphia: no [department of the City of Philadelphia] shall be taken to have had, since the passage of the act to which this is a supplement, a separate corporate existence and hereafter all suits growing out of their transactions ... shall be in the name of the city of Philadelphia. Gremo, 363 F. Supp. 2d at 780-81 (citing PA. STAT. ANN. TIT. 53, § 16257 (West 1998)).*fn4 The Police Department is accordingly dismissed as a defendant in this action.

As to the claims against the City, the Court will first address the City's statute of limitations defense to the § 1983 claims, then discuss the City's assertion that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the doctrine of res judicata.*fn5

1. Statute of Limitations

The City argues that Plaintiff's claims are barred by the relevant statute of limitations because he failed to file his Complaint within two years of the date of the events giving rising to his cause of action. The Court agrees.

A § 1983 claim must comply with the forum state's statute of limitations for personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266-67 (1985); see Springfield Township Sch. Dist. v. Knoll, 471 U.S. 288 (1985) (relying on Wilson's holding that "all § 1983 claims should be characterized for statute of limitations purposes as actions to recover damages for injuries to the person"). In Pennsylvania, such lawsuits must be filed within two years. 42 PA. CONST. STAT. § 5524. In a § 1983 action, the statute begins to run from the time the plaintiff "knew or should have known of the injury upon which its action is based." Sameric Corp. of Delaware, Inc. v. City of Philadelphia, 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d Cir. 1998).

Plaintiff's claim accrued in or around November 2003, the date on which he alleges he discovered that Philadelphia police officers violated his Fourth Amendment rights by coercing a witness to identify him as the perpetrator of a robbery. See Bush, 367 F. Supp. 2d at 724 ("On or about November 28, 2003, after speaking with the principal witness about the photograph identification, Bush filed a petition seeking post conviction relief, alleging newly discovered evidence."). Plaintiff does not allege any facts in his most recent Complaint that would justify tolling the limitations period, nor does he suggest that he did not in fact become aware of the violation of his rights until a later date. As a result, the Pennsylvania statute of limitations requires this claim to have ...

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