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Crock v. City/Town

May 25, 2010

THOMAS D. CROCK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY/TOWN, OR BORO OF MT. LEBANON, PENNA; MT. LEBANON POLICE DEPT.; OFFICERS‟ HENLEY, DUBRO(W)SKI & SMITH, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Gary L. Lancaster

Magistrate Judge Cathy Bissoon

MAGISTRATE JUDGE'S REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

I. RECOMMENDATION

It is respectfully recommended that Defendants‟ Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16) be granted in part and denied in part, as discussed below.

II. REPORT

BACKGROUND

Pro se Plaintiff Thomas D. Crock brings this action against Defendants Borough of Mt. Lebanon ("Borough"), the Mt. Lebanon Police Department ("Police Department"), and Mt. Lebanon Police Officers Brian Henley, Tom Rutkowski and Kevin Smith ("Officers") (collectively, "Defendants"), to seek relief for allegedly unlawful conduct arising out of a traffic stop. Plaintiff alleges that on April 12, 2007, Defendants "conducted an unlawful traffic stop of/on Plaintiff." (Compl. at ¶ 6.) He further alleges that during this traffic stop, Defendants, without his permission, conducted an illegal search of his vehicle and illegally seized his identification and "some other personal items." Id. at ¶¶ 7-8. Defendants cited Plaintiff for failure to yield to a pedestrian. Id. at ¶ 10. On February 25, 2008, this citation was dismissed. Id. at ¶ 11.

Plaintiff appears to assert both statutory and common law claims against Defendants, including claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and § 1985 for purportedly violating his rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments and common law claims for malicious prosecution, abuse of process, intentional infliction of emotional distress, willful misconduct, and "[k]nowing/intentional/[f]raudulent misrepresentation." Id. at ¶¶ 3, 13, 21. Defendants now seek to dismiss Plaintiff‟s Complaint in its entirety.*fn1

ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard

It is well-established that Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) ""requires only a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief,‟ in order to "give the defendant fair notice of what the... claim is and the grounds on which it rests.‟" Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). The Rule 8(a) pleading standard "demands more than an unadorned, the-defendant-unlawfully-harmed-me accusation." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009).

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, interpreting Twombly and Iqbal, has set forth a two-part analysis by which district courts should review a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule 12(b)(6). Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). First, the court must separate the factual and legal elements of the claim and accept as true all of the well-pleaded facts. Id. Second, the court must assess "whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief.‟" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949). Thus, "a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff‟s entitlement to relief... [it] has to "show‟ such an entitlement with its facts." Id. (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). The Court of Appeals also makes clear that a complaint does not show an entitlement to relief where the ""well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct.‟" Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

B. Plaintiff's Claims Against the Mt. Lebanon Police Department

Plaintiff names the Mt. Lebanon Police Department as a defendant. Defendants argue that the Police Department should be dismissed because it is not a proper party to this action. (Defs‟ Br. at 4.) The Court agrees. The Mt. Lebanon Police Department is a branch or subunit of the Borough of Mt. Lebanon, does not have a corporate identity independent of the Borough, and as such, is an improper party. McMahon v. Westtown East Goshen Police Dept., No. 98-3919, 1999 WL 236565, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 22, 1999) ("Branches or sub-units of municipalities, such as police departments, are not proper parties to § 1983 suits where the municipalities also have been sued... because they are mere extensions of municipalities and not separate entities.") (citing Johnson v. City of Erie, 834 F. Supp. 873, 878-79 (W.D. Pa. 1993)). Accordingly, the Court recommends that all of Plaintiff‟s claims against Defendant Mt. Lebanon Police Department be dismissed with prejudice. Id.

C. Plaintiff's Section 1983 Claims

Section 1983 provides a civil cause of action for a deprivation of the "rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws" under ...


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