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David R. Lease v. Douglas Fishel

January 28, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Judge Kane


Pending before the Court is a motion to dismiss Counts I, II, and III of Plaintiff's second amended complaint, filed by Defendants Ronald Balutis and Timothy Beard. (Doc. No. 112.) The motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the Court will deny Defendants' motion.


A. Factual Background

Plaintiff David R. Lease owns property at 160 Gun Club Road in Hamilton Township, Adams County, Pennsylvania. (Doc. No. 109 ¶¶ 1, 16.) The allegations in this second amended complaint arise out of a land development dispute between Defendant Hamilton Township and Plaintiff, which resulted in litigation in the Adams County Court of Common Pleas. (Id.) On June 18, 2004, the state court granted Plaintiff summary judgment in the case, and the decision was affirmed on appeal on October 28, 2005. (Id. ¶¶ 8-9.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants took retaliatory actions towards him as a result of this successful litigation against Hamilton Township. (Id. ¶11.)

On August 14, 2006, Plaintiff entered into an agreement with Hamilton Township to settle other litigation that was pending before the Adams County Court of Common Pleas pertaining to allegations of code violations on Plaintiff's property at 160 Gun Club Road. (Id. ¶ 14.) This agreement was incorporated into a court order*fn1 ("the March 14, 2006 Order") issued by the Adams County Court of Common Pleas on March 14, 2006. (Id. ¶ 15.) The March 14, 2006 Order states, in pertinent part:

Within 30 days of this date, the parties shall conduct a walk-through of the front building on 160 Gun Club Road. Township representatives, Mr. Lease, and/or his representative and a representative of Labor and Industry are authorized parties to participate in that walk-through.

The purpose of the walk-through is to determine if there are any ordinance or code violations. If any such violations are determined, the township shall provide or shall issue citations to Mr. Lease and he shall be provided 60 days after service of those citations with an opportunity to remedy the alleged violation.

In order to insure compliance with all ordinances and codes that are applicable to the front building, the township shall be then subsequently provided with access to that building no more than one time every six months. (Doc. No. 113-1.)

On May 31, 2006, Defendant Balutis arrived at 160 Gun Club Road for the purpose of inspecting it for ordinance and code violations. (Doc. No. 109 ¶ 19.) Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Balutis went beyond the scope of the March 14, 2006 Order by inspecting the rafters and the construction of the property, and by demanding entry to tenants' properties, even if tenants were not home. (Id. ¶¶ 21, 22.) Approximately one week after this search, Defendants Balutis and Beard returned to Plaintiff's property. (Id. ¶ 23.) Defendant Beard began measuring the parking lot on Plaintiff's property to check for zoning violations. (Id. ¶¶ 23, 25-26.) Plaintiff alleges that this action was unauthorized by the March 14, 2006 Order. Plaintiff also avers that, based on Defendants' allegations, Hamilton Township filed a petition against Plaintiff with the Adams County Court of Common Pleas for zoning violations. (Id. ¶ 28.) That petition was later dismissed. (Id. ¶ 29.)

B. Procedural Background

Plaintiff filed an amended complaint in this action on April 23, 2009. (Doc. No. 65.) On March 31, 2010, the Court dismissed Plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claim against Defendant Beard and ordered Plaintiff to submit a second amended complaint containing, at a minimum, a more definite statement of his First and Fourth Amendment claims. (Doc. No. 104.) Plaintiff filed a second amended complaint on April 14, 2010. (Doc. No. 109.) Plaintiff's second amended complaint continues to assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Balutis and Beard for violations of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. Plaintiff also brings a claim for civil conspiracy against Defendants Balutis and Beard, contending that they conspired to violate his rights by "intentionally taking actions to harass and intimidate the Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 40.)


In analyzing a complaint under Rule 12(b)(6), "courts accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Pinker v. Roche Holdings Ltd., 292 F.3d 361, 374 n.7 (3d Cir. 2002)). The plaintiff must provide more than a formulaic recitation of a claim's elements that amounts to mere labels and conclusions. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "[C]onclusory or 'bare-bones' allegations will no longer survive a motion to dismiss . . . ." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)). The complaint's "factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief ...

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