Darryll Briston ("plaintiff") commenced this civil rights action against the County of Allegheny ("County"), Ramon C. Rustin, Gregory Grogan, William Emerich, and Lance Bohn - the warden and assistant wardens of the Allegheny County Jail ("ACJ"), and Phillip Cestra - Records and Intake Sergeant of the ACJ, seeking redress for wrongful imprisonment from December 18, 2007, through January 8, 2008. Presently before the court is defendants' motion for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the motion will be granted.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c) provides that summary judgment may be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the non-moving party, Athe pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.@ Summary judgment F.2d 846 (3d Cir. 1992). Likewise, mere conjecture or speculation by the party resisting summary judgment will not provide a basis upon which to deny the motion. Robertson v. Allied may be granted against a party who fails to adduce facts sufficient to establish the existence of any element essential to that party=s claim, and upon which that party will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. When the movant does not bear the burden of proof on the claim, the movant=s initial burden may be met by demonstrating the lack of record evidence to support the opponent=s claim. National State Bank v. National Reserve Bank, 979 F.2d 1579, 1582 (3d Cir. 1992). Once that burden has been met, the non-moving party must set forth Aspecific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial,@ or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. Matsushita Electric Industrial Corp. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574 (1986) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56 (a), (e)) (emphasis in Matsushita). An issue is genuine only if the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242 (1986).
In meeting its burden of proof, the Aopponent must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.@ Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586. The non-moving party Amust present affirmative evidence in order to defeat a properly supported motion@ and cannot Asimply reassert factually unsupported allegations.@ Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989). Nor can the opponent Amerely rely upon conclusory allegations in [its] pleadings or in memoranda and briefs.@ Harter v. GAF Corp., 967 . . . and PRODUCE him at the Allegheny County Criminal Court . . . on the 12th day of November, 2007 for the purpose of PROSECUTION at CC# 200506406 and to the Warden of the Allegheny County Jail, where the Defendant shall be securely Signal, Inc., 914 F.2d 360, 382-83 n.12 (3d Cir. 1990). If the non-moving party=s evidence merely is colorable or lacks sufficient probative force summary judgment must be granted. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249-50; see also Big Apple BMW, Inc. v. BMW of North America, 974 F.2d 1358, 1362 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied, 113 S.Ct. 1262 (1993) (although the court is not permitted to weigh facts or competing inferences, it is no longer required to Aturn a blind eye@ to the weight of the evidence).
The record as read in the light most favorable to plaintiff establishes the background set forth below. On November 4, 2004, plaintiff was convicted of a theft-related offense in this court and sentenced to three years in federal prison. On March 24, 2005, as a result of an incident which occurred that day, Pennsylvania State Police charged plaintiff with aggravated assault of a police officer, attempted tampering with evidence, obstruction of the administration of law, simple assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. On March 25, 2005, plaintiff posted bail in the amount of $10,000 and was released on the state charges. He was returned to federal custody.
By an order dated July 11, 2007, the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County issued a Writ of Habeas Corpus ad Prosequendum to the Allegheny County Sheriff and the Warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, Illinois ("Metropolitan"), where Plaintiff was serving his federal sentence, directing that plaintiff be transported and produced in the Allegheny County Criminal Court on November 12, 2007, for the purpose of being prosecuted on the pending state charges. The order specifically provided: lodged WITHOUT BAIL until the conclusion of the above captioned case, as well as any other outstanding Allegheny County charges, at which time he shall be RETURNED to the Federal Correction Institution -- Chicago, Illinois in the custody of the Allegheny County Sheriffs.
Order of July 11, 2007, Exhibit B to Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 27-2) at 1.
On November 8, 2007, authorities at Metropolitan released plaintiff to the custody of Allegheny County Sheriff‟s Office and he was transported to the ACJ. Trial on the state charges was scheduled for November 15, 2007. Plaintiff requested a continuance because he wanted his case to remain with Judge Machen and the scheduling of several other matters precluded Judge Machen from trying the case at that time. Defense counsel filed a motion to continue which was granted and trial was postponed until January 8, 2008.
On December 12, 2007, Anthony McWhorter, Case Management Coordinator, Federal Bureau of Prisons, faxed to the Allegheny County Sheriff‟s Office and ACJ a release authorization form. The form indicated that no detainer(s) had been lodged against plaintiff at Metropolitan. The next day Metropolitan Warden Eric Wilson ("Wilson") advised Allegheny County Assistant District Prosecuting Attorney Cathy L. Misko ("Misko") by written correspondence that plaintiff was scheduled to be released from federal custody on December 18, 2007. Misko faxed a copy of Wilson's correspondence to the ACJ Records Department on December 17, 2007. The original copy of this letter was sent by inner office mail to the ACJ.
Plaintiff executed the federal release form on December 18, 2007. Phillip Cestra executed the release form as the Records and Intake Sergeant of the ACJ. The executed form was completed to provide on the second page that plaintiff was being detained by the ACJ. Plaintiff was not released from the ACJ on December 18, 2007.
Plaintiff was advised by his state criminal defense counsel that in order to be released from jail he would have to plead guilty to the state charges. On January 8, 2008, plaintiff appeared before Judge Machen and entered a plea of nolo contendre to the misdemeanor charge of disorderly conduct at count 7. Judge Machen immediately sentenced plaintiff to time served. Plaintiff raised the issue of his immediate release. Defense counsel asserted that the only thing holding plaintiff in custody was the order issuing the Writ of Habeas Corpus ad Prosequendum. Judge Machen remarked that "[t]his is the District Attorney's transportation order. This shouldn't hold anybody on anything" and suggested that the Assistant District Attorney should have such an order "filed against [her]. She shouldn't sign her name if she doesn't want to be sued." Colloquy of January 8, 2008 (Doc. No. 49-3) at 5-6. Judge Machen then lifted any detainer created by the order and directed his staff to communicate with the appropriate authorities at the ACJ to effectuate plaintiff's immediate release provided no other detainer had been lodged. Id. at 6.
On or about January 18, 2008, plaintiff filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea entered on January 8, 2008, alleging it had not been made freely and voluntarily. Plaintiff‟s motion was granted by Judge Machen on July 10, 2008. Plaintiff went to trial on six of the charges before Judge Todd and was convicted of disorderly conduct at count 7. Judge Todd sentenced plaintiff to six months of probation on February 3, 2010. Criminal Docket in CP-02-6406-2005, Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County (Doc. 49-5 at 6).
Defendants advance a plethora of arguments in support of their motion for summary judgment. Among them is the contention that no genuine issue of material fact exists because plaintiff has failed to identify any basis to support a finding that the individual defendants violated plaintiff's constitutional rights and plaintiff has failed to advance any evidence that a policy or custom of the County violated plaintiff's constitutional rights. Defendants contend that as a consequence they are entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The record and applicable law demonstrate that plaintiff has failed to adduce sufficient evidence to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the County had a policy or custom that caused a violation of plaintiff‟s constitutional rights.
Plaintiff concedes that he does not have sufficient evidence to establish that the individual defendants engaged in specific actions that violated his constitutional rights. See Plaintiff's Brief in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 56 at 5 ("Plaintiff consents to the dismissal of the individual defendants in both their official and individual capacities") and 7 ("Plaintiff consents to the dismissal of the individual defendants in both their official and individual capacities.")). He contends that a genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether there was a legal basis to hold him for the three weeks in question and argues that defendants had no basis to do so after the expiration of his federal sentence because he had posted bond on the state charges and was therefore entitled to be released.
In general, ' 1983 does not itself create substantive rights, but instead provides a vehicle for vindicating a violation of a federal right. Groman v. Township of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995). A cause of action under ' 1983 has two elements: a plaintiff must prove (1) a violation of a right, privilege or immunity secured by the constitution and laws of the United States (2) that was committed by a person acting under color of state law. Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996); Kelly v. Borough of Sayreville, 107 F.3d 1073, 1077 (3d Cir. 1997); Berg v. Cty. of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261, 268 (3d Cir. 2000) ("The Plaintiff must demonstrate that a person acting under color of law deprived him of a federal right.") (citing Groman, 47 F.3d at ...