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Ronald P. Harper, Jr v. Franklin & Marshall College

March 30, 2011


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



Before the Court is Defendants Lancaster Bureau of Police and Officer John Doe's Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 5). Plaintiff Ronald P. Harper, Jr. commenced this action on June 2, 2010. Plaintiff is acting pro se. On September 21, 2010, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss. As of this date, Plaintiff has failed to file a response to the Motion to Dismiss. Over six months have passed since Defendants filed their Motion to Dismiss.

Under Local Rule 7.1(c); any party opposing the motion shall serve a brief in opposition, together with such answer or other response which may be appropriate, within fourteen (14) days after service of the motion and supporting brief, except that in the case of a motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b) or 56, the opposing party shall respond within twenty-one (21) days. In the absence of a timely response, the motion may be granted as uncontested except that a summary judgment motion, to which there has been no timely response, will be governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

Local Civil Rule 7.1(c).

Since Plaintiff has failed to file any response in over six months, the Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 5) as uncontested. See McCraken v. Lancaster City Bureau of Police, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11471 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 16, 2007); Harron v. Cartwright, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 9418 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 8, 2006); Longendorfer v. Roth, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8709 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 30, 2004); Stevens v. Citigroup, Inc., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 18201 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 15, 2000); Winfree v. Tokai Fin. Servs., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2068 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 1, 2000). Despite the authority of the Court to grant the Motion as uncontested, the Court has nevertheless considered the Motion on the merits. After review, the Court concludes that the Motion to Dismiss has merit and for this additional reason, the Motion to Dismiss will be granted.


Plaintiff Ronald P. Harper Jr. has been a reporter for over a decade and is the owner and publisher of the Lancaster Post, a full color tabloid published weekly. (Doc. No. 1 ¶20.) Plaintiff has filed suit against numerous Defendants, all of whom are associated with Franklin and Marshall College ("F&M").*fn1 The Court, however, is only addressing in this Opinion the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants Lancaster Bureau of Police ("LBP") and Officer John Doe ("Officer Doe"). LBP is the police force for Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and Officer Doe is an unidentified officer of that police force. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15.)

On May 30, 2008, Plaintiff published a story about the President of F&M, John Fry, and his alleged involvement in obtaining a "deal" for three students charged with felony burglary. (Id. ¶ 21.) According to Plaintiff, Defendant Fry refused to comment on the story. (Id. ¶ 22.) Instead, he ordered the head of F&M security to hand deliver a "no trespass" notice to the Lancaster Post's business office. (Id.) The "no trespass" notice applied to all F&M property. (Id.) On Monday, June 2, 2008, Defendant Ed Carroll, an employee of F&M security, removed Plaintiff's newspaper distribution box. (Id. ¶ 24.) The distribution box was located in a public right-of-way on the corner of North School Lane and Marietta Avenue in Lancaster Township and was therefore within the jurisdiction of Defendant LBP. (Id.) Prominently displayed in the window of the distribution box was the front page of the newspaper article about Defendant Fry. (Id.) Plaintiff reported to Defendant LBP the newspaper distribution box as stolen property. However, Defendant LBP refused to investigate the incident. (Id. ¶ 25.)

On June 3, 2008, Plaintiff returned to North School Lane to replace the newspaper distribution box with his then business partner and co-publisher, Christiaan Hart Nibbrig. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff also set up a video camera to record himself replacing the distribution box "in order to protect himself from any false allegations that might occur." (Id. ¶ 27.) According to Plaintiff, he was approached and challenged by Defendant "Gardner Doe," who subsequently called F&M security. (Id. ¶ 28.) Within minutes, Plaintiff and his partner were "completely surrounded" by Defendants from F&M security and by various marked vehicles. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff maintains that he and his partner were standing at their vehicle in the public street at this time. (Id.) Plaintiff began recording the "sirens, squealing tires and racing police vehicles," at which time Defendant Carroll "charged at the Plaintiff and demanded that he stop recording." (Id.) Plaintiff refused to do so and denied that he had trespassed on F&M property. (Id.)

Subsequently, an unknown number of F&M security personnel "pounced on Plaintiff from behind and threw him onto the asphalt," resulting in abrasions to his scalp, as well as neck and back injuries. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff alleges that he was handcuffed and inappropriately touched by Defendant Carroll and then placed in the back of a police cruiser. (Id. ¶ 31.) Plaintiff was transported to a police jail cell on F&M's campus and held for over two and a half hours. (Id. ¶¶ 33, 35.) During this time, Plaintiff's camera was confiscated and multiple pictures were allegedly erased. (Id. ¶ 34.) Plaintiff further claims that, despite repeated requests, he was not permitted to contact an attorney or any other person about his confinement. (Id. ¶ 36.) Plaintiff was subsequently released and charged with Defiant Trespass and Disorderly Conduct. (Id. ¶ 38.) Defendant LBP conducted an investigation of Plaintiff's alleged assault, false imprisonment and false arrest by F&M security, and subsequently declined to prosecute anyone involved in the incident. (Id. ¶ 53.)

On June 19, 2008, a public meeting was held on F&M's campus relating to a project funded by taxpayer money. (Id. ¶ 41.) Plaintiff claims that he and his partner were under threat of arrest if they attended the meeting, and that Defendant LBP had several officers scanning the audience looking for Plaintiff. (Id. ¶¶ 41-42.) On June 20, 2008, a letter to the press was released by F&M announcing that the charges against Plaintiff would be dropped, however, Plaintiff was still banned from campus. (Id. ¶ 43.)

On September 9, 2008, a public rally was scheduled to be held on F&M's campus, featuring Senator John McCain and Governor Sarah Palin. (Id. ¶ 46.) Prior to the rally, Plaintiff contacted Defendant Barley Snyder, LLC, a law firm that acts as solicitor for F&M, and threatened court action if Plaintiff was not permitted to attend the rally. (Id.) Defendant Barley Snyder subsequently faxed a letter to Plaintiff consenting to his attendance at the rally. (Id.) Immediately upon Plaintiff's arrival at the rally, Defendant Carroll allegedly "charged at the Plaintiff, again demanding that the video camera should be turned off." (Id. ¶ 47.) Plaintiff approached Defendant Officer Doe, who was standing at the door, and showed Officer Doe the letter from Defendant Barley Snyder. (Id. ¶ 48.) Officer Doe read the letter and then ordered Plaintiff to "leave" the property. (Id.) Plaintiff chose to leave the property rather than to risk arrest. (Id.)

In the six weeks following the campaign rally, F&M planned to host two public meetings: the ACLU's annual meeting and a Lancaster County meeting. (Id. ¶ 50.) Prior to these meetings, Plaintiff pursued an action in the Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas requesting a temporary restraining order against F&M. (Id.) During the hearing, Defendant Barley Snyder apparently stated that "[i]t is the type and nature of Mr. Harper's continued targeting of the College, interactions with the College, that makes the College so concerned about his attendance." (Id. ¶ 51.) Judge Dennis Reinaker of the Court of Common Pleas of ...

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