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Adranih Ernay, Adrian Ernay, Wendell Wesley, Otis Ragland, and Linda v. Chris Swatski

August 9, 2011

ADRANIH ERNAY, ADRIAN ERNAY, WENDELL WESLEY, OTIS RAGLAND, AND LINDA FAUST,
PLAINTIFFS,
v.
CHRIS SWATSKI,
DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

I. INTRODUCTION

This case arises out of the March 18, 2008 search of plaintiffs‟ apartments by defendant

Chris Swatski and agents of the Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole ("PBPP") whom he supervised. Plaintiffs assert claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of their Fourth Amendment rights based on defendant‟s and his subordinates‟ entry into and search of their apartments. By Memorandum and Order of July 22, 2011, the Court granted in part and denied in part Swatski‟s Motion for Summary Judgment. Swatski timely filed a Motion for Reconsideration, which is presently before the Court. For the reasons that follow, the Court grants in part and denies in part the Motion for Reconsideration. The Court, having not addressed in its Memorandum and Order of July 22, 2011, the issue of qualified immunity based on Swatski‟s belief that a parole absconder was present at plaintiffs‟ property on the day of the search, now addresses the issue and concludes that Swatski is not entitled to qualified immunity on that ground. Swatski‟s Motion for Reconsideration is denied in all other respects.

II. BACKGROUND

The factual background of this case is set forth fully in the Court‟s Memorandum of July 22, 2011, and will not be repeated in this Memorandum except as is necessary to explain the Court‟s rulings on Swatski‟s motion for reconsideration.

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence. Max‟s Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). A prior decision may be altered or amended only if the party seeking reconsideration establishes at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law,

(2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court issued its order, or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice. Id. Moreover, a motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded on a request that a court rethink a decision already made. Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F.Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993); see also United States v. Jasin, 292 F. Supp. 2d 670, 676 (E.D. Pa. 2003) ("Parties are not free to relitigate issues which the court has already decided."). A motion for reconsideration "addresses only factual and legal matters that the Court may have overlooked. It is improper on a motion for reconsideration to ask the Court to rethink what it had already thought through- rightly or wrongly." Glendon Energy, 836 F.Supp. at 1122.

IV. DISCUSSION

Swatski contends that the Court‟s Memorandum of July 22, 2011 failed to address three issues. First, with respect to the applicability of the consent exception to the warrant requirement, Swatski argues that the Court did not identify what he, as a supervisor, should have done differently to prevent unconstitutional conduct. Second, he asserts that the Court did not specifically rule on his claim of qualified immunity with respect to the exigent circumstances exception to the warrant requirement. Third, he argues that the Court did not specifically rule on his claim of qualified immunity with respect to the exception to the warrant requirement for an officer‟s reasonable belief that a parole absconder is in a residence.

A.Count I: Swatski's Supervisory Liability and the Consent Exception to the Warrant Requirement

Swatski seeks reconsideration of the Court‟s denial of his motion for summary judgment as to Count I-plaintiff Linda Fausts‟s claim of unreasonable search and seizure-on the ground that "[e]ven if [he] had observed an unreasonable entry, he could not reasonably have stopped it." (Def. Swatski‟s Mot. for Reconsideration at 2.) He states that, with respect to the PBPP agents‟ second entry into Unit A, "three or four agents simply followed Faust into her residence." (Id.) With respect to the agents‟ first entry into Unit A, he asserts that at the time of the entry, he was occupied with knocking and announcing on the door of Unit B. (Id.) According to Swatski, a reasonable person in his position "could have believed that he could not have stopped either entry into Unit A." (Id.)

The Court rejects this argument. As the Court already concluded in its Memorandum of July 22, 2011, genuine issues of material fact exist as to whether any of the plaintiffs consented to the PBPP agents‟ searches of their apartments. Assuming, arguendo, that they did not consent, a genuine issue of material fact also exists as to whether Swatski knew of this lack of consent. Swatski testified that, as a PBPP supervisor, he had the authority to stop the searches of plaintiffs‟ apartments at any time, and that he also had the authority to "stop [the PBPP agents] from going to any residence, 1004 Wagontown or any other residence, for any specific reason." (Swatski Dep. at 44-46, 62-63.) Given this admission, Swatski cannot now contend that he "could not reasonably have ...


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