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Chalmers A. Simpson v. Owner of Dollar Tree Store

January 19, 2011


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


Pro se Plaintiff Chalmers Simpson brings this action in forma pauperis pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his civil rights arising from his May 21, 2009 arrest and subsequent state court prosecution for retail theft in case no. CR-2443-2009 (Chester County Ct. of Common Pleas). We dismissed Plaintiff's initial Complaint with leave to file an amended complaint against certain Defendants on August 23, 2010. Presently before the Court are Plaintiff's "Motion to Amend Complaint" and "Motion to File Amended Complaint." Since our August 23, 2010 Order granted Plaintiff leave to file an Amended Complaint, he did not need to file a Motion to Amend Complaint and that Motion is, accordingly, dismissed as frivolous. The document titled "Motion to File Amended Complaint" is actually Plaintiff's Amended Complaint and we will, henceforth, refer to it as the Amended Complaint. We have conducted the screening of the Amended Complaint required by 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e), and for the following reasons, the Amended Complaint is dismissed in part.


Plaintiff is presently incarcerated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania at the State Correctional Institute at Pine Grove in Indiana, Pennsylvania. His initial Complaint in this action asserted claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violations of his constitutional rights arising from his May 21, 2009 arrest and incarceration on one count of retail theft, pursuant to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat.

Ann. § 3929(a)(1), and one count of receiving stolen merchandise, pursuant to 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3925(a). That first Complaint alleged claims against the owner of the Dollar Tree Store located in Parkesburg, Pennsylvania; the Dollar Tree Store; store employee Sue Singleton; the Parkesburg Police Department; Parkesburg Police Officers Amber L. Smith and Alan Manning; the Coatesville Police Department; and Coatesville Police Officers MacElroy, "John Doe Officer White," "John Doe Heavier Officer Black," and "John Doe Officer." After conducting the screening of that Complaint required by 28 U.S.C. §§ 1915(e) and 1915A, we dismissed, with prejudice, Plaintiff's claims against the Owner of the Dollar Tree Store, the Dollar Tree Store, Sue Singleton, the Parkesburg Police Department, the Coatesville Police Department, Police Officer Amber Smith, Police Officer Alan Manning, "John Doe Officer White," and "John Doe Heavier Officer Black." We also dismissed Plaintiff's claims against Police Officer MacElroy and "John Doe Officer" without prejudice to Plaintiff filing an amended complaint alleging facts sufficient to support all of the elements of claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against those two police officers for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

The Amended Complaint alleges that Plaintiff was a passenger in a car traveling west on Olive Street in Coatesville, Pennsylvania on May 21, 2009. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1-2.) The car was stopped by Coatesville Police Officer McCarthy and Coatesville Police Officer Larry Cooper.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 1.) Once the car was stopped, Police Officers McCarthy and Cooper forced Plaintiff and the driver out of car and searched them. (Id. ¶ 3.) The Police Officers also handcuffed Plaintiff. (Id. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff asked to see the warrant for his arrest, but the Police Officers refused to show it to him. (Id. ¶ 4.) The Police Officers allowed the driver of the car to leave, and did not issue any traffic citations in connection with the stop. (Id. ¶ 5.)

Plaintiff was taken to the Coatesville Police Department and his bail was set at $5,000. (Id. ¶¶ 6-7.) He was denied the right to a probable cause hearing following his arrest. (Id. ¶ 9.) Plaintiff was detained at the Chester County Prison from May 21, 2009 until December 2, 2009. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 12.) On December 2, 2009, District Attorney Ann Marie Wheatcraft informed Judge Anthony A. Scarcione that the Commonwealth had decided to withdraw the charges against Plaintiff because "there was no evidence of a crime [having] taken place." (Id. ¶¶ 13-14.)

The Amended Complaint asserts claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Police Officer McCarthy and Police Officer Cooper for illegal search, false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. The Amended Complaint also asserts a claim pursuant to § 1983 against these two Defendants for illegal search and seizure pursuant to Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. Plaintiff seeks monetary damages of $1,000,000 from each Defendant.


Plaintiff is a prisoner of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and seeks redress from employees of governmental entities. We are thus required to review his Complaint, "before docketing, if feasible . . . ." See 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(a). "On review, the court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the complaint, or any portion of the complaint, if the complaint -- (1) is frivolous, malicious, or fails to state a claim upon which relief may be granted; or (2) seeks monetary relief from a defendant who is immune from such relief." 28 U.S.C. § 1915A(b). A claim is frivolous if it is "based on an indisputably meritless legal theory" or its "factual contentions are clearly baseless." Roman v. Jeffes, 904 F.2d 192, 194 (3d Cir. 1990) (citing Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 327-28 (1989)). We review the sufficiency of the pleadings under § 1915A using the same standard applicable to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). See Walker v. Hensley, Civ. A. No. 08-685, 2009 WL 5064357, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 23, 2009) ("The legal standard for dismissing a complaint for failure to state a claim pursuant to . . . Section 1915A is identical to the legal standard used when ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion." (citing Allah v. Seiverling, 229 F. 3d 220, 223 (3d Cir. 2000), and Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999))).

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), we "consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, [and] matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents." Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 230 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993)). We take the factual allegations of the complaint as true and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff. Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (citing Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). Legal conclusions, however, receive no deference, and the court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986) (citation omitted) (cited with approval in Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)).

A plaintiff's pleading obligation is to set forth "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), which gives the defendant "fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (alteration in original) (quoting Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 47 (1957)). The "complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'" Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). "The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Id. (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). In the end, we will dismiss a complaint if the factual allegations in the complaint are not sufficient "to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1216, at 235-36 (3d ed. 2004)).


Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, which provides, in ...

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