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Paul Surine v. State Police Emergency Response Team; Nicholas Madigan; Michael

January 19, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Conner


This is a civil rights action filed by pro se plaintiff Paul Surine ("Surine"). Presently before the court is the motion (Doc. 109) for summary judgment filed by defendants Nicholas Madigan, Michael Clegg, Christopher Wheeler, Scott Henry, and Bedell (the "PSP troopers") pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court will also address sua sponte whether the other remaining defendants-the State Police Emergency Response Team, Mike Snyder, Clark, Fritz, and Diaz (the "other remaining defendants")-are entitled to summary judgment on Surine's claims.*fn1 For the reasons that follow, the court will grant the PSP Troopers' motion for summary judgment in its entirety and grant summary judgment for the other remaining defendants on all federal claims.*fn2

I. Factual Background and Procedural History

A. Factual Background

Nicolas Madigan ("Trooper Madigan") is a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper who has been assigned to the Narcotics Unit of Troop F since 1997. (Doc. 110 ¶¶ 2, 3). While investigating the sale of controlled substances in Tioga County, Pennsylvania, in 2006-2007, Trooper Madigan learned that Surine and Lisa Lehman-Curry ("Lehman") were selling controlled substances at Surine's residence-RD. #1, Box 44, Elkland, Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 3). Trooper Madigan obtained this information primarily through confidential informants who purchased cocaine from Surine.*fn3 (Id. ¶ 4). The informants had provided reliable information in the past, were registered as confidential informants with the Pennsylvania State Police, and in some cases were observed entering the Surine residence and returning with cocaine. (Id. ¶ 5). Trooper Madigan purchased the cocaine from the confidential informants. (Id. ¶ 6).

On January 31, 2007, Trooper Madigan applied for search warrant in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. (Id. ¶ 8). A Magisterial District Judge, the Honorable Judge Brian Edgcomb ("Judge Edgcomb"), reviewed the search warrant application and affidavit of probable cause. (See Doc. 110-1, Ex. A). Judge Edgcomb approved the issuance of the warrant to search Surine's residence and any person located therein for specified items. (Doc. 110 ¶¶ 8, 9, 10; Doc. 110-1, Ex. A). On February 1, 2007, the Pennsylvania State Police's Special Emergency Response Team executed the warrant at Surine's residence, secured the property, and took Surine, Lehman, and Sonny Surine ("Sonny") into custody. (Doc. 110 ¶ 11, 13). The PSP troopers were not members of the State Emergency Response Team. (Id. ¶ 12). After the State Emergency Response Team secured the area, numerous state and federal law enforcement officials conducted a search and seized hundreds of items. (Id. ¶¶ 14, 15).

On June 26, 2007, a federal grand jury indicted Surine. (Id. ¶ 17). The grand jury issued a superseding indictment on September 27, 2007, charging Surine with, inter alia, conspiracy to distribute controlled substances in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 846. (Id. ¶ 18). On May 30, 2008, Surine pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances. (Id. ¶ 19). On August 5, 2009, United States District Judge James F. McClure sentenced Surine to 360 months of imprisonment. (Id. ¶ 21). Surine appealed the sentence, and on April 13, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the judgment. (Id. ¶ 22).

B. Procedural History

Surine filed his initial complaint (Doc. 1) pro se*fn4 on October 20, 2008, and an amended complaint (Doc. 58) on May 4, 2009, alleging civil rights violations against the PSP troopers and the other remaining defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.*fn5

Specifically, Surine seeks relief for: an illegal search and seizure conspiracy, breaking and entering conspiracy, forced entry conspiracy, aggrivated [sic] assalt [sic], excesive [sic] force, theft conspiracy, wrongful imprisonment, purjury [sic] and defamation of character when the Defendants raided [his] home at RD #1 Box 44 Elkland PA 16920 on February 1st 2007 at 6:45 AM.

(Doc. 58, at 1). Additionally, Surine alleges "malicious abuse of due process" against Trooper Madigan. (Id. at 2). The PSP troopers filed the instant motion (Doc. 109) for summary judgment on June 6, 2011, on all of Surine's claims.*fn6 The motion has been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition. (See Docs. 111, 112).

II. Standard of Review

Through summary adjudication the court may dispose of those claims that do not present a "genuine issue as to any material fact" and for which a jury trial would be an empty and unnecessary formality. See FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). Once the moving party demonstrates that there are no genuine issues of material fact, the burden shifts to the non-moving party to come forth with "affirmative evidence, beyond the allegations of the pleadings," in support of its right to relief. Pappas v. City of Lebanon, 331 F. Supp. 2d 311, 315 (M.D. Pa. 2004); see also Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322-23 (1986). This evidence must be adequate, as a matter of law, to sustain a judgment in favor of the non-moving party on the claims. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 250-57 (1986); Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587-89 (1986); see also FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a).

Only if this threshold is met may the cause of action proceed. Pappas, 331 F. Supp. 2d at 315.

III. Discussion

The court will first address whether the favorable termination rule articulated in Heck v. Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) bars Surine's claims. Concluding that it does not, the court will then address whether the PSP troopers and other remaining ...

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