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

July 13, 2011


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



Before the Court are three Motions to Dismiss filed by (1) Franklin and Marshall College security personnel*fn1 ("F&M Security Defendants") (Doc. No. 9), (2) Franklin and Marshall College and other non-security employees*fn2 ("F&M Employee Defendants") (Doc. No. 8), and (3) Barley Snyder LLC*fn3 (Doc. No. 13).

Plaintiff Ronald P. Harper, Jr. commenced this action on June 2, 2010, alleging violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Plaintiff is acting pro se. On October 22, 2010, F&M Employee Defendants and F&M Security Defendants each filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. Nos. 8, 9). On November 29, 2010, Defendant Barley Snyder LLC filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. No. 13). As of this date, Plaintiff has not filed a response to any of the Motions to Dismiss. Over six months have passed since Defendants filed their Motions to Dismiss.

Under Local Rule 7.1(c) of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania:

. . . 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 not filed a response in over six months, the Court will grant Defendants' Motions to Dismiss (Doc. Nos. 8, 9, 13) 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 this Court to grant the Motions as uncontested, the Court has nevertheless considered the Motions on the merits. After considerable review, the Court concludes that the Motions to Dismiss have merit and for this additional reason, the Motions 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.) In this case, he has filed suit against numerous Defendants associated with Franklin and Marshall College and the Lancaster Bureau of Police ("LBP").*fn4 In this Opinion, the Court will address the Motions to Dismiss filed by F&M Employee Defendants, F&M Security Defendants, and Defendant Barley Snyder, LLC.

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 Edward 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 within the jurisdiction of the LBP. (Id.) Prominently displayed in the window of the distribution box was the front page newspaper article about Defendant Fry. (Id.) Plaintiff reported to the LBP that the newspaper distribution box was stolen. However, the LBP refused to investigate the incident. (Id. ¶ 25.)

On June 3, 2008, Plaintiff returned to North School Lane with his then business partner and co-publisher, Christiaan Hart Nibbrig, to replace the newspaper distribution box. (Id. ¶ 26.) Plaintiff also set up a video camera to record himself replacing the 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 "Gardener Doe," who subsequently called F&M security. (Id. ¶ 28.) Within minutes, Plaintiff and his partner were "completely surrounded" by F&M Security Defendants and by various marked vehicles. (Id. ¶ 30.) Plaintiff maintains that at this time he and his partner were standing at their vehicle in the public street. (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 while denying 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, and 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 located on the F&M 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 ...

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