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Deffibaugh v. Harvey

March 20, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Yvette Kane, Chief Judge United States District Court Middle District of Pennsylvania

(Chief Judge Kane)


Before the Court is Defendant Dwight Harvey's motion to dismiss Plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 13.) In his motion, Defendant argues that all claims against him should be dismissed because of either absolute or qualified immunity. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


Plaintiff Alan Deffibaugh is a police trooper with the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP").

(Comp. ¶ 22.) From 2001 to 2006, Deffibaugh worked at the McDonnellsburg Barracks in Fulton County, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 23.) On May 2, 2006, Deffibaugh was transferred to the Bedford station for "something to do with Stacy Gelvin," a fellow officer and named Defendant in this case. (Id. ¶¶ 24-25.) The transfer resulted in Deffibaugh having to surrender his gun and badge, and he was restricted to "desk duty." (Id. ¶¶ 26-27.)

In July 2006, Defendants Willard Oliphant and John Stchur of the PSP Internal Affairs Department ("IAD") began an investigation into allegations Defendant Gelvin brought against Deffibaugh for harassment and inappropriate touching. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 31.) Later, the investigation was expanded to include allegations he confronted Gelvin in public at a Wal-Mart. (Id. ¶ 36.) Though the IAD sought to interrogate Deffibaugh on numerous occasions about Gelvin's allegations, Deffibaugh did not consent. (Id. ¶¶ 28, 31-33.) Deffibaugh maintains he never approached Gelvin outside the workplace (she approached him) and that all Defendants knew Gelvin to be a "habitual liar." (Id. ¶¶ 35-37.) Deffibaugh also states that IAD was aware that Gelvin's allegations rendered her testimony at an unrelated civil trial perjurious. (Id. ¶¶ 47-48.)

On or about February 2007, Defendant Stchur told Deffibaugh that Defendant Harvey, District Attorney for Fulton County, was "supervising" Stchur and that Harvey "wants [Deffibaugh] arrested." (Id. ¶¶ 39-40.) On March 16, 2007, Defendant Watson arrested Deffibaugh. (Id. ¶ 62.) Deffibaugh was suspended without pay. (Id. ¶ 63.)

On or about June 26, 2007, Deffibaugh was formally arraigned in the Court of Common Pleas of Fulton County on charges of indecent assault, indecent exposure, stalking, and harassment. (Id. ¶¶ 41, 64.) Though Gelvin had made similar accusations against two other troopers, Trooper Copley and Trooper Kagarise, charges were only brought against Plaintiff Deffibaugh. (Id. ¶ 45, 61.) In a court proceeding for Deffibaugh's criminal case, Defendant Harvey explained that he did not have sufficient information to sustain charges against the other two officers. (Id. ¶ 61.)

PSP and the Commonwealth attorneys did not fully cooperate with Deffibaugh's attorney during the state criminal proceedings against Deffibaugh. (Id. ¶¶ 50, 53-58.) Attorneys for the Commonwealth, viewing the discovery requests as "burdensome," withheld internal IAD documents and disobeyed court orders to disclose documents. (Id.)

On July 15, 2008, the District Attorney's office dropped all criminal charges against Deffibaugh. (Id. ¶ 59.) Deffibaugh was reinstated to his desk duty position on July 20, 2008, though the desk duty restrictions remain in place to this day. (Id. ¶ 65.) Deffibaugh never received back pay for the one year and three month period he was suspended. (Id. ¶¶ 65-67.)

Deffibaugh brings this § 1983 action alleging that he was retaliated against for his decision to not participate in the IAD investigation. He further alleges that his arrest and demotion constituted a violation of his right to be free from arrest and seizure except upon probable cause and his right to equal protection of the laws.


A motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) tests the legal sufficiency of the complaint, Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993), and is properly granted when, taking all factual allegations and inferences as true, the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Markowitz v. Northeast Land Co., 906 F.2d 100, 103 (3d Cir. 1990). The burden is on the moving party to show that no claim has been stated. Johnsrud v. Carter, 620 F.2d 29, 33 (3d Cir. 1980). Thus, the moving party must show that Plaintiff has failed to "set forth sufficient information to outline the elements of his claim or to permit inferences to be drawn that those elements exist." Kost, 1 F.3d at 183 (citations omitted). A court, however, "need not credit a complaint's 'bald assertions' or 'legal conclusions' when deciding a motion to dismiss." Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906, 908 (3d Cir. 1997). Indeed, the Supreme Court has recently held that while the 12(b)(6) standard does not require "detailed factual allegations," there must be a "'showing,' rather than a blanket assertion of entitlement to relief. . . . '[F]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.'" Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, ...

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