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Victor Jerome Walthour, Sr v. George Miller

June 10, 2011

VICTOR JEROME WALTHOUR, SR.,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
GEORGE MILLER, DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

This case stems from the arrest of Plaintiff Victor Jerome Walthour, Sr. by Defendant George Miller, a Delaware County Park Police Officer. On June 2, 2009, Defendant arrested Plaintiff on the premises of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County. Plaintiff was charged with disorderly conduct in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5503, and resisting arrest in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5104. Based on the events surrounding the arrest, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed in this Court a Complaintalleging a violation of his First and Fourth Amendment rights. In the related criminal case, Plaintiff entered a negotiated guilty plea to disorderly conduct in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas. Even after the plea, Plaintiff continues to pursue his claim in this Court. Defendant George Miller now moves for summary judgment in his favor. For reasons that follow, the Court finds that there are no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. Accordingly, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Granting summary judgment is an extraordinary remedy. Summary judgment is only appropriate "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); Bouriez v. Carnegie Mellon Univ., 585 F.3d 765, 770 (3d Cir. 2009). An issue is genuine only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party, and a factual dispute is material only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. Kaucher v. County of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). The Court's task is not to resolve disputed issues of fact, but to determine whether there exist any factual issues to be tried. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 247--49.

In ruling on a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view the evidence, and make all reasonable inferences from the evidence, in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. Chambers v. School Dist. of Philadelphia Bd. of Educ., 587 F.3d 176, 181 (3d Cir. 2009); Bouriez, 585 F.3d at 770. Whenever a factual issue arises that cannot be resolved without a credibility determination, at this stage the Court must credit the non-moving party's evidence over that presented by the moving party. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. at 255.

III. FACTUAL BACKGROUND*fn1

A. Events Of June 2, 2009

On June 2, 2009, Plaintiff was at the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County to attend a hearing on a juvenile dependency proceeding before that court. (Defendant's Statement of Undisputed Facts, Doc. No. 35 ("Def. SUF") ¶ 4, Exhibits ("Exs.") 1C & 1D.) Delaware County Children and Youth Services Casework Supervisor, Karen Kilson, was present that day for the same hearing. At approximately 10:00 a.m., Ms. Kilson became concerned about the behavior of Plaintiff. He was pacing back-and-forth in front of his children, one of whom had been the victim of physical abuse by him. He conversed with the children in a threatening and intimidating manner. (Def. SUF ¶ 4, Ex. 1D.) Caseworker Tamika Clarke was also present and noticed what she considered to be hostile behavior by Plaintiff, which included inappropriate comments, telling his children that they need not listen to the caseworkers and that the women were "white trash." (Def. SUF at Ex. 1C.)

In response to Plaintiff's behavior and comments, Ms. Kilson requested that a Park Police Officer report to the courtroom area. (Def. SUF at Ex. D.) Defendant responded to the request for assistance. He encountered Plaintiff, who acted with hostility and was speaking loudly and cursing. (Def. SUF ¶ 6, Ex. 1B.) Specifically, Plaintiff stated, "this is a bunch of sh*t." (Def. SUF at Ex. B.) Defendant advised Plaintiff several times to lower his voice and Plaintiff refused. (Def. SUF at Ex. 1A.) As a result, Defendant arrested Plaintiff and charged him with violations of all four subsections of the Pennsylvania disorderly conduct statute, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 5503(a)(1)-(4).*fn2 (Def. SUF ¶ 7, Ex. 1B.) Plaintiff was also charged with resisting arrest in violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 5104.*fn3

At the time of the arrest, Defendant placed handcuffs on Plaintiff, who continued to speak loudly and use profanity. (Def. SUF at Ex. 1B.) Defendant then attempted to escort Plaintiff through a secure doorway in the courthouse to take him to police headquarters, but Plaintiff stopped halfway through the doorway, causing the door to remain open. (Id.) At that point, one of Plaintiff's daughters, who was fifteen-years-old at the time, jumped on Defendant's back and placed her hands and arms around his throat. (Id.; Def. SUF at Ex. 1E.) Additional officers assisted in removing the daughter from Defendant's back and Plaintiff was placed against the wall until the situation was under control. (Def. SUF at Exs. 1B, 1E.) Plaintiff was ultimately taken to police headquarters. (Def. SUF at Exs. 1B, 1E.)

B. Plaintiff's Complaint Filed In This Case

Before being formally charged in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas for his conduct on June 2, 2009, Plaintiff filed a pro se Complaint in this Court on November 12, 2009. Plaintiff makes a First Amendment retaliation claim regarding his arrest, which allegedly followed his use of obscene language in the courthouse hallway. (Def. SUF ¶ 11; Doc. No. 1 (the "Complaint") at 7.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant used excessive force when arresting him in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. (Def. SUF ¶ 11; Complaint at 7.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant used excessive force because he is ...


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