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John anderson v. James Goga As An Individual and In His Official Capacity

October 5, 2011

JOHN ANDERSON,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
JAMES GOGA AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY, CITY OF PITTSBURGH A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION, ALISHA HARNETT AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, JUANITA MITCHELL AS AN INDIVIDUAL AND IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY, ALLEGHENY COUNTY A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION, CHARISSE BOLDEN AN INDIVIDUAL AND NICHO BOLDEN-ANDERSON AN INDIVIDUAL,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

Pending now before the Court is the MOTION TO DISMISS COMPLAINT PURSUANT TO FED.R.CIV.P. 12(b)(6), filed by Defendants James Goga and the City of Pittsburgh (Doc. No. 13), with brief in support (Doc. No. 15), and Plaintiff‟s brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss (Doc. No. 16).

This is a civil rights action filed by Plaintiff John Anderson against Pittsburgh Detective James Goga; the City of Pittsburgh; Allegheny County; two caseworkers employed by the Allegheny County Office of Children, Youth and Families ("CYF")(Alisha Harnett and Juanita Mitchell); and Plaintiff‟s ex-wife and step daughter (Nicho Bolden-Anderson and Charisse Bolden). Defendants Allegheny County, Alisha Harnett, and Juanita Mitchell (the "Allegheny County Defendants") have answered Plaintiff‟s complaint. See Doc. No. 10. The motion to dismiss has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. For the reasons that follow, the motion will be granted in part and denied it in part.

I. Background

A. Statement of Facts*fn1

The allegations in the complaint center around Plaintiff‟s arrest on or about April 22, 2009 pursuant to an arrest warrant on charges of rape, statutory sexual assault, and involuntary deviate sexual intercourse with a minor. Compl. at ¶¶ 12, 39. By way of background, in the years preceding the 2009 arrest, Plaintiff and Defendant Nicho Bolden-Anderson (Defendant ex-wife), were involved in a prolonged divorce and custody dispute over their two children. Compl. at ¶ 13. Plaintiff and Defendant ex-wife had one child born during their marriage, a minor child identified in the complaint as "JA". Compl. at ¶ 14. Defendant Charisse Bolden (Defendant step-daughter) is the daughter of Defendant ex-wife from a prior relationship, and lived with Plaintiff and Nicho Bolden-Anderson during their marriage. Id. The custody disputes between the former spouses involved custody of JA. Compl. at ¶ 15. Plaintiff alleges that over the course of the custody dispute, Defendant ex-wife "had a custom and practice of falsely alleging that Plaintiff was violent in an attempt to manipulate the custody dispute." Compl. at ¶ 16.

A number of events occurred in the months leading up to Plaintiff‟s arrest that relate to the claims sub judice. A consent order dated December 30, 2008, was entered into by the parties in which they agreed that Defendant ex-wife would have custody of Defendant step-daughter, while Plaintiff would have custody of JA. Compl. at ¶ 18. During this same period, Defendants Mitchell and Harnett were assigned as CYF caseworkers for the family. Compl. at ¶ 19.

Defendant Harnett was specifically assigned to investigate allegations of physical abuse of Defendant step-daughter made against Plaintiff by Defendant ex-wife. Compl. at ¶¶ 20 & 21. On February 2, 2009, Defendant Harnett completed her investigation and found the allegations of physical abuse to be "unfounded". Compl. at ¶ 21. Two days later, Defendants ex-wife and step-daughter reported to Defendant Mitchell that Plaintiff had sexually abused Charisse Bolden since December of 2006. Compl. at ¶ 22. Defendant Harnett was once again assigned to investigate the allegations. Compl. at ¶ 23. As part of that investigation, she interviewed Plaintiff on two different occasions, once on February 13, 2009, and again on March 20, 2009. Compl. at ¶¶ 24 & 25.

In both interviews, Plaintiff denied the allegations. Id. Further, Plaintiff alleges in his complaint that he provided information of the type to cast suspicion over the veracity of Defendant step-daughter‟s claims; such as, claiming that he had not been sexually active since 2000 as the result of sustaining a serious back injury; claiming that Defendant step-daughter had previously reported being raped by a friend of her mother, and that she even has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the event; claiming his belief that Defendant step-daughter had been sexually active with her boyfriend since 2006; and, that he was not even present at one of the locations in which an alleged assault occurred. Compl. at ¶ 25. Also, prior to the interviews, Plaintiff had obtained a copy of Defendant step-daughter‟s journal, which he shared with Defendant Harnett for the purpose of pointing out that Charisse never referenced being sexually assaulted by him. Id.

Charisse Bolden‟s allegation of sexual abuse by Plaintiff was reported by CYF to the Bureau of Police for the City of Pittsburgh, and subsequently assigned to Defendant Detective Goga. Compl. at ¶¶ 26 & 27. Defendant Goga interviewed Defendant step-daughter on two occasions, over the course of which she alleged that Plaintiff raped her, and further, that she was told by Plaintiff that she "could not tell anyone or that both Plaintiff and [Defendant step-daughter] would get in trouble." Compl. at ¶ 30. Defendant Goga was also in contact with Defendants Mitchell and Harnett during the course of the investigation, but at no point did he interview Plaintiff. Compl. at ¶¶ 31 & 32. On April 5, 2009, Defendant Goga filed a criminal complaint that charged Plaintiff with one count of rape, one count of statutory sexual assault, and one count of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Compl. at ¶ 36. Attached to the criminal complaint was an affidavit of probable cause prepared by Defendant Goga. Compl. at ¶ 37. An arrest warrant was issued, and Plaintiff was arrested on April 22, 2009. Compl. at ¶¶ 39 & 40. He was released on $25,000.00 bail. "Plaintiff remained charged with the above-described offenses until January 24, 2011, on which date the Allegheny District Attorney moved for a Nolle Prosse on the date of trial when Defendant Charisse Bolden refused to attend trial to testify against Plaintiff." Compl. at. ¶ 40.

II. Standard of Review

It is well-settled that in reviewing a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) "[t]he applicable standard of review requires the court to accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." Rocks v. City of Philadelphia, 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir.1989). Under the Supreme Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 561, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), dismissal of a complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) is proper only where the averments of the complaint plausibly fail to raise directly or inferentially the material elements necessary to obtain relief under a viable legal theory of recovery. Id. at 544. In other words, the allegations of the complaint must be grounded in enough of a factual basis to move the claim from the realm of mere possibility to one that shows entitlement by presenting "a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ---, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570).

"A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged."

Id. In contrast, pleading facts that only offer ""labels or conclusions' or "a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do,‟" nor will advancing only factual allegations that are merely consistent with a defendant's liability. Id. Similarly, tendering only "naked assertions" that are devoid of "further factual enhancement" falls short of presenting sufficient factual content to permit an inference that what has been presented is more than a mere possibility of misconduct. Id. at 1949--50; see also Twombly, 550 U.S. at 563 n. 8 (a complaint states a claim where its factual averments sufficiently raise a ""reasonably founded hope that the [discovery] process will reveal relevant evidence‟ to support the claim.") (quoting Dura Pharmaceuticals, Inc. v. Broudo, 544 U.S. 336, 347, 125 S.Ct. 1627, 161 L.Ed.2d 577 (2005) & Blue Chip Stamps v. Manor Drug Stores, 421 U.S. 723, 741, 95 S.Ct. 1917, 44 L.Ed.2d 539 (1975)); accord Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir.1997) (a court need not credit "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in assessing a motion to dismiss) (citing with approval Charles Alan Wright & Arthur R. Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure § 1357 (2d ed.1997) ("courts, when examining 12(b)(6) motions, have rejected "legal conclusions,‟ "unsupported conclusions,‟ "unwarranted inferences,‟ "unwarranted deductions,‟ "footless conclusions of law,‟ or "sweeping legal conclusions cast in the form of factual allegations.‟").

This is not to be understood as imposing a probability standard at the pleading stage. Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949 ("The plausibility standard is not akin to a "probability requirement,‟ but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully."); Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 235 (3d Cir.2008) (same). Instead, "[t]he Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus: "stating ... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest the required element ... [and provides] enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element.‟" Phillips, 515 F.3d at 235; see also Wilkerson v. New Media Technology Charter School Inc., 522 F.3d 315, 321 (3d Cir.2008)("The complaint must state "enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary ...


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