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Curtis Stockley, Jr., et al. v. Darby Borough

February 23, 2011

CURTIS STOCKLEY, JR., ET AL.
v.
DARBY BOROUGH, ET AL.



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

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Darby Borough Police Chief Robert Smythe has filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, which asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1985. For the reasons that follow, we grant the Motion in part and deny it in part.

I. BACKGROUND

The Second Amended Complaint alleges that, from 1996 to the present, Plaintiff Curtis Stockley, Jr., an African-American male, has been the elected Constable of Darby Borough in Delaware County, Pennsylvania. (Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 7, 9-10.) At all relevant times, Defendant Robert Smythe was the Chief of the Darby Borough Police Department ("DBPD"). (Id. ¶ 8.)

According to the Second Amended Complaint, Stockley, as Constable, is responsible for transporting prisoners and serving warrants. (Id. ¶ 11.) He is compensated for each warrant he serves and for each person he transports. (Id.) On or about January 2, 2007, Defendant Chief Smythe ordered that a directive be sent to the DBPD that Stockley was no longer allowed to transport DBPD prisoners or use the Darby Prison System jail facilities for any purpose. (Id. ¶ 19.) Around the same time, "a meeting was held" at which it was decided that Stockley was no longer allowed in the Darby Police Station.*fn1 (Id. ¶ 21.) Smythe's January 2007 directive has "prevent[ed] [Stockley] from performing the duties of a Constable and inhibit[ed] his ability to earn a living."

(Id. ¶ 19.) Moreover, "[s]ince January 2, 2007 until present day, [Stockley] has been fearful to execute any warrants because he is afraid that he will not receive back-up from the DBPD." (Id. ¶ 22.)

Starting in November 2006, Stockley was also employed as School Investigator for the William Penn School District. (Id. ¶ 13.) In a January 2007 meeting, Defendant Smythe told the School District's superintendent and assistant superintendent that Stockley was a member of the Wheels of Soul Motorcycle "Gang," when, in fact, Stockley has not been a member of the Wheels of Soul Motorcycle "Club" for many years. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.) Smythe also told the two superintendents that he was tired of Stockley "telling politicians that 'the White Man' is running Darby Borough." (Id. ¶ 16.) Stockley "believes and therefore avers that . . . Smythe called . . . Stockley a racist to the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent" in that January 2007 meeting. (Id. ¶ 17.) These comments were "intended to humiliate [Stockley] and intefere with his performance at work." (Id. ¶ 18.)

In the meantime, Stockley was "aware of discrimination against African American police officers [in Darby Borough] . . . that included threats of physical violence, work-related discipline levied against African American employees and not against the Caucasian employees involved in the same incidents, and Caucasian employees responding to radio calls late, leaving scenes early or not showing up at all." (Id. ¶ 23.) The DBPD also "falsely charged [Stockley] with harassing his neighbor" and "falsely charged" Stockley's son with gun crimes. (Id. ¶ 27-28.) All of these charges against Stockley and his son were subsequently dismissed for lack of evidence. (Id. ¶ 28.)

The Second Amended Complaint asserts three causes of action. Count One asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Smythe violated Stockley's rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment by depriving Stockley of the right to earn a living on the basis of his race. Count Two asserts a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that Smythe created a racially hostile work environment in violation of Stockley's rights under the Fourth Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Count Three asserts that Smythe conspired to deprive Stockley of his civil rights, including his right to equal protection, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1985. Smythe has moved to dismiss all three Counts of the Second Amended Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).*fn2

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), we look primarily at the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). 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) (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 grant a Rule 12(b)(6) motion 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)).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Count I -- Equal ...


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