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Timothy D. Lear v. George Zanick

February 6, 2012

TIMOTHY D. LEAR, PLAINTIFF
v.
GEORGE ZANICK, BRIAN LEWIS, LAURIE FORSHEY, BRIAN HAUBRICK, AND TIMOTHY MERCER, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William W. Caldwell United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

We are considering motions to dismiss filed by George Zanick*fn1 , Brian Lewis, Brian Haubrick, and Timothy Mercer. The case involves the arrest and prosecution of plaintiff, Timothy Lear. Plaintiff brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

II. Background

The following facts are set forth in plaintiff's complaint and are taken as true, as they must be when considering a motion to dismiss. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). Lear, a Pennsylvania State Police Trooper, alleges that George Zanick, the Huntington County District Attorney, became romantically involved with Laurie Forshey. Lear, who was dating Forshey, confronted Zanick about his relationship. As a result, Zanick assisted Forshey in bringing false criminal charges against Lear. Pennsylvania State Police Officers Lewis, Haubrick, and Mercer assisted in filing these charges.

Forshey's complaint against Lear concerned events that took place on April 19, 2009. On or about July 29, 2009, Lear was arrested and charged with burglary, criminal trespass, simple assault, false imprisonment, and harassment. Lear went to trial and was found not guilty. Defendant Mercer placed Lear on restricted duty in April 2009. Restricted duty requires officers to turn in their weapons, denies them the right to wear a uniform outside of barracks, and denies them the opportunity to work overtime.Lear remains on restricted duty even though he was not convicted of any crime.

Plaintiff alleges that he was subjected to disparate treatment within the Pennsylvania State Police Department as a result of his complaint to Zanick and the defense he presented against his criminal charges.*fn2 As evidence of this treatment, Lear names several officers who violated police rules and were not placed on restricted duty.

Lear brings a Fourth Amendment claim against all defendants for violation of his right to be free from malicious prosecutions. He also alleges defendants Zanick, Haubrick, Mercer, and Lewis violated his First Amendment right to petition. Plaintiff asserts the state police defendants, Haubrick Mercer, and Lewis, violated his right to equal protection of the law. Plaintiff's final claim is against Zanick for violation of his Fourteenth Amendment Due Process right and his Fourth Amendment privacy right.

III. Discussion

A. Standard of Review

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes dismissal of a complaint for "failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted." Under Rule 12(b)(6), we must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009) (quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008)). While a complaint need only contain "a short and plain statement of the claim," Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2), and detailed factual allegations are not required, Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1964, 167 L.Ed.2d. 929 (2007), a complaint must plead "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955 at 1974. "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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, - - - U.S. - - -, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556, 127 S.Ct. at 1965.) "[L]abels and conclusions" are not enough, Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555, 127 S.Ct. at 1964-65, and a court "'is not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation.'" Id., 127 S.Ct. at 1965 (quoted case omitted).

In resolving the motion to dismiss, we thus "conduct a two-part analysis." Fowler, supra, 578 F.3d at 210. First, we separate the factual elements from the legal elements and disregard the legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, we "determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a 'plausible claim for relief.'" Id. at 211 (quoted case omitted).

B. Malicious Prosecution

To bring a claim for malicious prosecution under section 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate:

(1) the defendants initiated a criminal proceeding;

(2) the criminal proceeding ended in the plaintiff's favor;

(3) the proceeding was initiated without ...


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