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Strickland v. Mahoning Township

March 15, 2010

CRAIG STRICKLAND, PLAINTIFF
v.
MAHONING TOWNSHIP; OFFICER AUDIE M. MERTZ; RALPH FAHRINGER; AND JESSICA FAHRINGER, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Munley

MEMORANDUM

Before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 34). Defendant has filed a brief in support of its motion. Plaintiff has not responded to the motion or to the court's orders to do so. As the time established for responding to the motion has passed, the matter is ripe for disposition.

Background*fn1

This case arises out of an encounter between the plaintiff, his brother and a cousin and police on November 18, 2006. (Complaint (hereinafter "Complt.") (Doc. 1) at ¶ 20). On that day, plaintiff and his brother, Samuel Strickland, were asked by a friend, James Rose, to help him return three dogs to Ralph Fahringer.

(Defendant's Statement of Material Facts (Doc. ) (hereinafter "Defendant's Statement") at ¶ 1). Rose had purchased the dogs from Defendant Ralph Fahringer the day before. (Id.). Rose needed help from the Stricklands because he could not do any lifting. (Id.).

When the three men arrived at the Fahringer home, plaintiff left the car in an attempt to remove the dogs. (Id. at ¶ 2). As he did so, Fahringer confronted Rose and plaintiff with a shotgun. (Id.). Plaintiff, his brother and Rose fled the scene. (Id. at ¶ 3). They also called 911 to report the incident. (Id.). The 911 operator told police from several townships that a man with a gun was at the scene. (Id. at ¶ 4). Police arrived shortly thereafter. (Id.). Police searched plaintiff and his companions, as well as their vehicle, for weapons. (Id. at ¶ 5). Police detained the three men for questioning during this investigation. (Id. at ¶ 6).

Police asked plaintiff's brother, Samuel Strickland, for his name and identification. (Id. at ¶ 7). Samuel Strickland gave them a false name, Michael Andrews. (Id.). After Samuel Strickland gave this false information, police arrested him, handcuffed him and placed him the back of a police car. (Id. at ¶ 8). A police officer then interviewed Fahringer regarding the 911 call (Id. at ¶ 9). Police kept plaintiff and James Rose detained but not handcuffed during this period. (Id. at ¶ 10).

Police Officer Audie Mertz next contacted Assistant District Attorney Anthony Greek to relay to him the results of the investigation. (Id. at ¶ 11). Greek gave Officer Mertz approval to criminally charge plaintiff's brother and James Rose and issue plaintiff a citation for criminal trespass. (Id. at ¶ 12). Mahoning Township police officers then jailed Samuel Strickland and James Rose. (Id. at ¶ 13). Plaintiff later pled guilty to the criminal charges filed against him. (Id. at ¶ 14).

Plaintiff has not produced evidence demonstrating that the policies or practices of Mahoning Township are racist, or that he was arrested for racist reasons. (Id. ¶ 16). No evidence of a conspiracy exists. (Id. at ¶ 17). None of the officers at the scene said anything racially derogatory to plaintiff or his companions. (Id. at ¶ 18). Plaintiff has no evidence that undermines the validity of the training of any of the officers who arrived on the scene. (Id. at ¶ 19). Plaintiff was not suffering from any physical ailments or conditions requiring treatment and was not taking any medication when arrested. (Id. at ¶ 20). He never asked a police officer to use the bathroom at the scene. (Id. at ¶ 21).

Plaintiff filed the instant complaint on September 29, 2008. The complaint consists of three counts. Count I, brought pursuant to 42 U.S. §§ 1981, 1982 and 1983 against Defendants Mertz and Mahoning, alleges that the defendants violated plaintiff's constitutional rights in a number of ways. The count contends that plaintiff was the victim of an unlawful arrest, suffered from an unreasonable search and seizure, suffered cruel and unusual punishment, faced excessive bail, had his free speech rights unlawfully restricted, was denied his liberty without due process of law, suffered from the use of unreasonable force, faced racial discrimination and racial profiling, and had his right to travel unlawfully restricted. Count II, brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1985, alleges a conspiracy to violate plaintiff's constitutional rights between Defendants Mertz, Mahoning Township, and Ralph & Jessica Fahringer. Count III alleges supervisory liability pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1986 against Defendants Mahoning Township, Zenko, Keiper, Eidem, Blocker, Snyder, Stawnyczy, Green, Smith and Kocher.

Plaintiff also filed a motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis. (Doc. 2). As a result, the court gave the complaint an initial screening to determine whether process should issue. The court concluded that plaintiff's claims for false arrest were frivolous and should be dismissed. (See Doc. 5). That decision also led to the dismissal of the complaint against Bruce Keiper, Patricia Snyder, George Stawnyczyj, Mark Zenko, Dawn Blocker and Charles Eidem. The court authorized service of the complaint on the remaining defendants and the remaining claims. When the Fahringer Defendants failed to respond to the complaint, the court granted plaintiff's motion for entry of default. (Id. at 18). Once served with the complaint, defendants Mahoning Township, Mahoning Township Police Department and Audie Mertz filed a motion to dismiss the complaint. (Doc. 7). The court granted that motion in part and denied it in part, leaving Mahoning Township and the Fahringers as the sole defendants in the case.

Jurisdiction

Because plaintiff brings his complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 ("The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States."). The court has jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a) ("In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction, the district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the ...


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