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William Slavoski v. Frank Pawlowski et al

March 16, 2011

WILLIAM SLAVOSKI, PLAINTIFF,
v.
FRANK PAWLOWSKI ET AL., DEFENDANTS,



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss brought on behalf of Defendants Pawlowski, Rivera, Rice, Rodriguez, Hacken, Devlin, Oliphant, and (Pedro) Rivera. (Doc. 6.) For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be granted.

BACKGROUND

The facts alleged in the Complaint are as follows.

Plaintiff currently is a United States Secret Service ("USSS") Agent working primarily in northeastern Pennsylvania. Defendant Frank Pawlowski is the Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police ("PSP"). Defendants Mervin Rodriguez, John Rice, Francis Hacken, Bryon Devlin, Huascar Rivera, and Pedro Rivera were and are all PSP employees. Willard Oliphant was a PSP employee at the time but is now retired.

In July 2007, Plaintiff was asked by his friend, Daniel Griffin, a detective on the Kingston Police Department, to check on a license plate number of a car that had been following the Mr. Griffin. Plaintiff agreed to help his friend because he believed his friend might be in danger, and the local authorities were unwilling to help him. Plaintiff used the National Crime Information Center ("NCIC") data banks to obtain the registration information of the vehicle in question. It came back as registered to Defendant Oliphant and his son Will. Plaintiff conveyed this information to Mr. Griffin. Approximately two months later, Defendant Devlin came to the USSS Resident Office in Scranton, Pennsylvania as a Commonwealth Law Enforcement Assistance Network ("CLEAN") auditor. Defendant Devlin stated that he wanted to conduct an audit of the NCIC terminal because he had records indicating that a license plate had been searched by Plaintiff from the terminal. Defendant Devlin told Plaintiff that he was told by an individual that his license plate might be "run," and that this prompted the investigation. Plaintiff did not talk to Defendant Devlin again. Defendant Devlin persisted in attempting to gain unauthorized acccess to the NCIC terminal. On or around September 11, 2008, Plaintiff was accused by Defendant Rodriguez of misusing "CLEAN" and improperly disseminating the information to Plaintiff's friend, Daniel Griffin. Plaintiff was then informed by Defendant Rodriguez that he was being put on a year's probation for his infractions. On March 31, 2009, Plaintiff filed a complaint with the PSP against Defendants Huascar Rivera, Oliphant, and Devlin for violating his rights. Plaintiff tried in vain for months to get answers from the PSP as to why he was investigated and put on probation. On January 15, 2009, Defendant Pedro Rivera denied Plaintiff's appeal of his probationary status. Then, on April 29, 2009, Plaintiff filed a second complaint with the PSP, claiming retaliation for his previous filing. Around June 15, 2009, Commissioner Pawlowski called the PSP Barracks in northeastern Pennsylvania to seek information on Plaintiff, thereby giving tacit endorsement to the investigations and harassment of Plaintiff. In or around October 2009, Defendant Hacken of the PSP ordered an investigation on Plaintiff because of Plaintiff's allegedly calling a PSP trooper a "liar."

Plaintiff filed the instant suit on October 15, 2010. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff's Complaint contains a First Amendment retaliation claim (Count I), a Fourth Amendment claim (Count II), and a Fourteenth Amendment claim (Count III), all brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Defendants' then filed a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) on January 11, 2011. (Doc. 6.) The Motion has been briefed by both sides and is ripe for review.

LEGAL STANDARD

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the ... claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he factual detail in a complaint [must not be] so undeveloped that it does not provide a defendant [with] the type of notice of claim which is contemplated by Rule 8." Phillips, 515 F.3d at 232; see also Airborne Beepers & Video, Inc. v. AT&T Mobility LLC, 499 F.3d 663, 667 (7th Cir. 2007).

In deciding a motion to dismiss, the Court should consider the allegations in the complaint, exhibits attached to the complaint, and matters of public record. See Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993). The Court may also consider "undisputedly authentic" documents when the plaintiff's claims are based on the documents and the defendant has attached copies of the documents to the motion to dismiss. Id. The Court need not assume the plaintiff can prove facts that were not alleged in the complaint, see City of Pittsburgh v. W. Penn Power Co., 147 F.3d 256, 263 & n.13 (3d Cir. 1998), or credit a complaint's "'bald assertions'" or "'legal conclusions,'" Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997)). "While legal conclusions can provide the framework of a complaint, they must be supported by factual allegations." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 129 S. Ct. 1937, 1950 (2009).

When considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court's role is limited to determining if a plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence in support of her claims. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974). The Court does not consider whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail. See id. A defendant bears the burden of establishing that a plaintiff's complaint fails to state a claim. See Gould Elecs. v. United States, 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).

DISCUSSION

I. Plaintiffs' First Amendment Retaliation ...


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