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Larry Stanley v. City of Pittsburgh

April 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge, U.S. District Court



In this civil action, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants, the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, and the Department of Public Safety violated his rights under state law and 42 U.S.C. ' 1983. There are no individual defendants named. The claims arise out of an altercation that occurred outside a bar, during which a man was fatally stabbed. Plaintiff contends that in the context of his subsequent arrest and prosecution, he was subject to unreasonable search and seizure, and violations of substantive due process. He also identifies claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution.

Before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that he has established malicious prosecution, based on the conduct of the officer who prepared the affidavit of probable cause leading to his arrest. Defendants contend, inter alia, that Plaintiff has failed to establish municipal liability. For the following reasons, the Defendants' Motion will be granted. I will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the remaining state law claims, and Plaintiff's Complaint and Motion will be dismissed, without prejudice to refile his action in state court.


I. Applicable Standards

Summary judgment shall be granted if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c). In considering a motion for summary judgment, the Court must examine the facts in a light most favorable to the party opposing the motion. International Raw Materials, Ltd. v. Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F. 2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990). The moving party bears the burden of demonstrating the absence of any genuine issues of material fact. United States v. Omnicare, Inc., 382 F.3d 432 (3d Cir. 2004). Rule 56, however, mandates the entry of judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party's case, and on which that party will bear the burden of proof. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S. Ct. 2548, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265 (1986).

"If the evidence is merely colorable, or is not significantly probative, summary judgment may be granted." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249-50, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986). "A plaintiff cannot avoid summary judgment with speculation; he or she must provide competent evidence from which a rational trier of fact can find in his or her favor." United States v. 8 Bayview Terrace, No. 10-1546, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 17262, at *18 (3d Cir. Aug. 16, 2010).


The facts pertinent to the parties' Motions are brief, and undisputed. After the June 16, 2003 altercation that gave rise to this litigation, Detective Myers prepared an affidavit of probable cause. In brief, the affidavit described the altercation, and stated that a witness asserted that a man named "Larry" had the victim "wrapped up" while another man stabbed the victim; then Larry released the victim, pulled a knife from the victim's body, and ran into the bar. The affidavit stated that the witness identified Plaintiff from a photo array, as "Larry." The affidavit, signed by Detectives Myers and Fisher, both non-parties to this action, was submitted to the coroner's office. The warrant states that it was written on the date of the altercation at the bar. Plaintiff contends that Detective Myers omitted material, potentially exculpatory information from the affidavit, and based the affidavit on an interview with a single witness conducted on June 17, 2003. Plaintiff proffers evidence of taped statements taken by officers, all but one conducted by officers other than Detective Myers, on June 17, 2003. An arrest warrant for Plaintiff was issued by a Deputy Coroner, and Plaintiff was arrested on June 17, 2003. Plaintiff was charged with criminal homicide. Following Plaintiff's arrest, a coroner's inquest was held on June 27, 2003. At the hearing, the Coroner Solicitor found that the Commonwealth made a prima facie case of criminal homicide against Plaintiff, and Plaintiff was held for trial. The Commonwealth later moved to withdraw the charges against Plaintiff, with prejudice, on November 15, 2007.*fn1


A. Plaintiff's Complaint

Defendants' alternative arguments on summary judgment reflect the slightly puzzling nature of Plaintiff's Complaint. The Complaint states that Plaintiff brings "claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution under 42 U.S.C. ' 1983, in addition to state law claims." The allegations that are then separated into a claim are captioned, "Larry Stanley v. All Defendants," "Violation of Civil Rights While Acting Under Color of State Law 42 U.S.C. ' 1983." Those allegations refer to a substantive due process violation, and an unreasonable search and seizure.

I presume, therefore, that Plaintiff intended to assert state law claims of false arrest and malicious prosecution, and Section 1983 claims of an unreasonable search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment substantive due process. Although Plaintiff's Complaint does not explicitly refer to Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution, I will view the Complaint as asserting such a claim. Moreover, although Plaintiff's submissions allege an assault by Officer Logan during Plaintiff's interrogation, and Detective Myers' reckless conduct with ...

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