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Mathias v. Kershaw

March 29, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


Presently before the court is Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint. (Doc. 6.) Plaintiff Shahnawaz Mathias ("Mathias") filed the Complaint on August 7, 2009, alleging violations of his civil rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983*fn1 and state law. (Doc. 1.) He sues Rhys Kershaw, Kevin Titzell, and the York County Adult Probation Department ("YCAPD"). Mathias alleges that Defendants discriminated against him and otherwise acted unlawfully while overseeing his probation. The court has subject-matter jurisdiction over Count I of the Complaint, which raises a federal question, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and over Count II, which raises a state law claim, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. The Motion is briefed and ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART the Motion to Dismiss.


On August 7, 2009, Mathias filed the Complaint, in which he seeks substantial damages and attorney's fees from the Defendants for the deprivation of his civil rights. He brings claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count One) and official oppression (Count Two).*fn2 (Compl. ¶¶ 1, Doc. 1.)

Plaintiff sues Defendants Rhys Kershaw and Kevin Titzell, individually and officially as probation officers with the York County Adult Probation Department ("YCAPD"). (Doc. 2 at ¶¶ 4, 5.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants Kershaw and Titzwell "served as the law enforcement arm of York County." (Id.) Although the Complaint caption lists "York County Probation Department" as a defendant, ¶ 6 of the Complaint identifies the party as York County. (Id. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff alleges that "[t]hrough its governing body the County Commissioners, said Defendant [York County] appropriates funds and establishes the budget for Defendant York County Adult Probation Department and is responsible for policies and practices established and carried out by the Defendants Kershaw and Titzell." (Id.) It is unclear from the face of the Complaint whether Mathias seeks to sue one or both entities. Mathias alleges that the cause of action arose on or about November 15, 2006, and has continued to August 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 7, 18.)

In a complaint, a plaintiff must present factual allegations, which if true, would entitle the plaintiff to relief. See infra. Mathias makes two primary allegations in the Complaint that could be considered factual allegations. First, Mathias alleges that he "has been subjected to conditions of probation which have no relevance to the facts of the offense, scheduled for revocation without probable cause, denied the opportunity to pursue gainful employment, denied the opportunity to travel for employment related matters, threatened with arrest for failing to sign a document, denied due process and threatened with an extension of his probationary period by Defendants, denied the opportunity to exercise his custodial rights with his teenage son and subjected to harassment and official oppression by Defendants." (Id. ¶ 11.)

Second, Mathias alleges that "[a]t all times relevant hereto and continuing to as recently as August of 2009 the Defendants have pursued a course of conduct intended to harass and intimidate Plaintiff by, including but not limited to, filing a Petition for Probation Violation for failure to report despite the fact that the Plaintiff did report as instructed and that Plaintiff was advised that pending appeal Defendants had not [sic] authority over Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 18.)

Mathias alleges that Defendants knew the acts were unlawful, were motivated by a racial/color stereotype, and received notice of the acts contemporaneous to the events. (Id. ¶¶ 12, 13.) He further alleges that "Defendants have maintained a pattern[,] policy[,] custom, and practice of treating citizens of color with more contempt and disrespect than they have treated white citizens," and such practice is "established, sanctioned[,] and condoned by the Defendant York County Adult Probation Department," which contributed to official oppression. (Id. ¶¶ 20, 22.) Mathias fails to specify what acts give rise to the pattern or practice alleged.

These are the only factual allegations that the court can glean from the Complaint.


Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a pleading must set forth a claim for relief which contains a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief; the complaint must provide the defendant with fair notice of the claim. See Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the court must accept as true all factual allegations. See Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007) (per curiam). The issue in a motion to dismiss is whether the plaintiff should be entitled to offer evidence to support the claim, not whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 232 (3d Cir. 2008) (the Rule 8 pleading standard "'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element."); Nami v. Fauver, 82 F.3d 63, 65 (3d Cir. 1996).

The onus is on the plaintiff to provide a well-drafted complaint that alleges factual support for its claims. "While a complaint attacked by a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss does not need detailed factual allegations, 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." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original and internal citations omitted). The court need not accept unsupported inferences, Cal. Pub. Employees Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), nor legal conclusions cast as factual allegations, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556. Legal conclusions without factual support are not entitled to the assumption of truth. See Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - U.S. -, -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949--50 (2009) ("Threadbare recitals of elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not" satisfy the requirements of Rule 8).

Once the court winnows conclusory allegations from those allegations supported by fact, which it accepts as true, the court must engage in a common sense review of the claim to determine whether it is plausible. This is a context-specific task, in which the court should be guided by its judicial experience. The court must dismiss the complaint if it fails to allege enough facts "to state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A "claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw a reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. ...

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