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William Ansell v. Ross Township

March 28, 2012

WILLIAM ANSELL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
ROSS TOWNSHIP, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge

ELECTRONICALLY FILED

MEMORANDUM OPINION RE: DEFENDANTS' MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NOS. 66, 68, 70 & 74)

I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court on four separate motions for summary judgment filed by the Defendants pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Doc. Nos. 66, 68, 70 & 74. For the reasons that follow, three of the motions (Doc. Nos. 66, 70 & 74) will be granted, and the remaining motion (Doc. No. 68) will be granted in part and denied in part.

II. Background

Plaintiff William Ansell ("Ansell") is a fifty-seven-year-old male.*fn1 Doc. No. 80-28, 3.

Ansell married Nancy Ansell ("Nancy") in October 1976. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 127. The Ansells maintained their residence in New Castle, Pennsylvania. Id., ¶ 128. Their two daughters, Valerie Ansell ("Valerie") and Julia Ansell ("Julia"), were born in 1978 and 1980, respectively. Id., ¶ 129.

Ansell and Nancy separated in 1983 and divorced in 1985. Id., ¶ 127; Doc. No. 77-9, 5. Ansell continued to reside in New Castle in the immediate aftermath of the divorce. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 128. At some point between 1983 and 1985, the Court of Common Pleas of Lawrence County ordered Ansell to provide Nancy with child-support payments. Id., ¶ 153; Doc. No. 77-9, 3. Ansell was initially allowed to see Valerie and Julia during the first three weekends of each month. Doc. No. 77-9, 5. Nancy later accused Ansell of molesting their daughters. Id., 3, 5. Ansell's visitation rights were terminated as a result of Nancy's allegations. Id., 3. Due to the termination of his visitation rights, Ansell decided not to make child-support payments to Nancy. Doc. No. 94, ¶¶ 152-154.

In 1987, Ansell moved to a residence owned by his brother, Robert Ansell ("Robert"). Doc. No. 94, ¶¶ 123-124. The residence is located at 109 Fairley Road in Ross Township, Pennsylvania. Id., ¶¶ 1, 123. After moving into the residence, Ansell periodically visited his sister, Joann, who resided in Golden, Colorado. Id., ¶ 126. He did not see Valerie or Julia between 1987 and 1996. Id., ¶ 130.

Between 1995 and 2006, Ansell was arrested at least four times for failing to pay child support or failing to appear at contempt hearings. Id., ¶¶ 156-159. Although Ansell made some payments to Nancy in order to "purge himself from contempt," he did not make the monthly payments that he was required to make pursuant to the terms of the applicable court orders. Id., ¶ 155. In January 2006, Ansell spent four days in jail for failing to keep his payments current. Id., ¶ 159.

On July 23, 2007, the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County issued a warrant for Ansell's arrest. Doc. No. 80-28, 1-2. The warrant was issued because Ansell had failed to appear for a scheduled compliance hearing. Id. The Allegheny County Sheriff's Department ("Sheriff's Department") decided to execute the warrant on the morning of October 18, 2007. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 72. Ross Township police officers Michael Orsino ("Orsino"), James Fitch ("Fitch") and David Sciullo ("Sciullo") were sent to Ansell's residence to assist the Sheriff's deputies in their efforts to execute the warrant. Id., ¶¶ 72, 234.

Orsino and Sciullo knocked on Ansell's door and announced their presence. Id., ¶ 74. Ansell allegedly did not hear the officers because of a hearing impairment. Id. Orsino and two Sheriff's deputies, Vincent Longo ("Longo") and Ronald Stokes ("Stokes"), entered the residence through a garage. Id., ¶¶ 75, 272. They apparently opened the garage door by using a remote control device that Longo had retrieved from Ansell's car. Id., ¶¶ 267, 268. After entering the residence, the deputies observed that Ansell possessed hunting equipment and shotgun shells. Id., ¶ 269. Ansell was lying in bed on his back. Id., ¶¶ 167, 188. He heard someone scream, "Warrant search!" Id., ¶ 166. After hearing the sound of the approaching law enforcement officials, Ansell sat up in his bed. Id., ¶ 168. A .38 charter arms revolver was hanging from Ansell's left bedpost in a brown leather holster. Id., ¶¶ 169-170. A box of shells was located inside of a nearby nightstand. Id., ¶ 79. Orsino and the deputies found Ansell in his bedroom. Id., ¶ 76. Ansell was pulled onto the floor by his leg. Id., ¶ 176. While the deputies attempted to take Ansell into custody, Orsino observed the revolver hanging from Ansell's bedpost. Id., ¶ 77. As Ansell was being placed under arrest, Orsino searched the dresser and nightstand located inside of the bedroom.*fn2 Id., ¶¶ 81-82. The deputies took Ansell out of the bedroom and held him in an adjacent corner.*fn3 Id., ¶ 85. At that point, Ansell had not yet been placed in handcuffs. Id., ¶ 187.

Ansell was taken from the corner and seated in a chair next to his kitchen table. Id., ¶ 186. He was subsequently placed in handcuffs. Id., ¶ 192. Detective Martin George ("George") entered the residence shortly after learning that Ansell had been taken into custody. Id., ¶ 281. Although Ansell asked to be provided with his dentures, the deputies denied that request. Id., ¶ 189. The deputies gave Ansell pairs of his shoes and socks while he was seated in the kitchen. Id., ¶ 191. They later escorted him out of the residence and into a police car. Id., ¶ 193. Ansell's feet were shackled before he was placed inside of the police car. Id., ¶ 194. George temporarily removed the handcuffs so that Ansell could put on a shirt. Id., ¶ 195.

George proceeded to drive Ansell into downtown Pittsburgh. Id., ¶¶ 197-198. The police car arrived at Mellon Arena at approximately 8:00 A.M. Id., ¶ 200. George stopped the car at Mellon Arena, spoke with several people standing nearby, and made a quick call on his cellular telephone. Id., ¶ 198. Although the warrant specified that Ansell was to be delivered "into the custody of the Court of Common Pleas," it also contained language directing that he be held at the Allegheny County Jail ("County Jail") until that court was open for business in the event that he was taken into custody at a time when the court was "unavailable." Doc. No. 80-28, 1-2. Since the Court of Common Pleas had not yet opened for business, George transported Ansell to the County Jail. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 289.

After arriving at the County Jail, Ansell was taken to a stall located in the "intake" area. Id., ¶ 330. He was instructed to completely disrobe*fn4 in the presence of a male corrections officer. Doc. No. 77-11, 6. His clothes were confiscated, and a "red jump suit" was given to him. Id., 5. He was not touched by the corrections officer during this encounter. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 340. The County Jail maintained a policy prohibiting the acceptance of any individual who was in need of immediate medical attention. Id., ¶ 294. After changing into the standard prison attire, Ansell was examined by a nurse and medically cleared to enter the prison population.

Doc. No. 77-11, 5; Doc. No. 94, ¶¶ 292-295. Ansell was required to undress and shower in the presence of a male corrections officer after undergoing the medical examination. Doc. No. 77-11, 8; Doc. No. 94, ¶¶ 341-342.

In an order dated October 19, 2007, the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County stated that Ansell and his attorney had appeared for a hearing*fn5 regarding the bench warrant, that he remained in contempt of the prior orders requiring him to make child-support payments, and that he was required to make monthly payments to bring himself into compliance with those orders. Doc. No. 80-26, 23. The bench warrant was dismissed in a separate order issued that same day. Id., 24. Ansell was released later that evening.*fn6 Doc. No. 94, ¶ 328.

On November 15, 2007, Ansell contacted the Ross Township Police Department ("RTPD") and complained that employees of the Public Works Department had blown leaves into his yard. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 36. Officer Richard D. White ("White") responded to the call. Id. After arriving at the scene, White spoke with Peter Castellano ("Castellano"), who was the Director of Public Works. Id., ¶ 37. Ansell was unable to hear the verbal exchange between White and Castellano. Id., ¶ 38. White left Ansell's residence without issuing a citation. Id., ¶ 39.

Ross Township's Board of Commissioners ("Board") conducted meetings on August 11, 2008, August 25, 2008, and September 8, 2008. Doc. No. 14, ¶¶ 38-39. At each of these meetings, Ansell claimed that members of the RTPD and the Department of Public Works ("DPW") had subjected him to unfair treatment. Id. On October 9, 2008, Ansell and his neighbor, Randi Grubb ("Randi"), each contacted law enforcement authorities and reported that the other was illegally using a vehicle to block Fairley Road. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 40. Officer Gregory Glenn Garcia ("Garcia") responded to the calls. Id., ¶ 41. After speaking with Ansell, Randi, and another resident of Fairley Road, Garcia cited Ansell for driving on the wrong side of a roadway.*fn7 Doc. No. 14-1, 2. Ansell was ultimately acquitted of the charge.*fn8 Doc. No. 14-2, 4.

On October 31, 2008, Randi's husband, Vince Grubb ("Vince"), contacted the RTPD and reported that Ansell had blown leaves into the street. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 43. Officer Peter M. Chuberko ("Chuberko") responded to the call and reported to Fairley Road. Id. He ultimately left the scene without making an arrest or issuing a citation. Id., ¶ 45. In a police report dated November 3, 2008, Chuberko stated as follows:

Mr. Grubbs called to report that Mr. Ansell is blowing leaves from his yard onto Fairley Rd. Mr. Grubbs that [sic] two other neighbors witnesses [sic] this as well. Grubbs also stated that he had pictures of Mr. Ansell blowing the leaves onto the street. There was a large amount of leaves around the perimeter of Ansell's property and Ansell's yard was fairly clear of fallen leaves. Due to the ongoing problems, I had patrolled through the area approximately two hours earlier and there was a considerable amount of fallen leaves in Ansell's yard which now appeared to be pushed to the street. I spoke to Bill Ansell's brother, Robert E. Ansell, [sic] he wanted to know why I was in the area. I explained that I received a call about Bill Ansell blowing leaves from his yard onto Fairley Rd. Robert said that he was not doing this but that the Township DPW blew the leaves into his yard. I spoke to DPW supervisor Jim Stack. Stack said that to his knowledge no [sic] of his men were on Fairley Rd. on this date. He also said that the [sic] do not make it a practice of blowing leaves from the street on to resident's [sic] property. Bill Ansell stormed out of the house and began calling the Ross Township police corrupt and that we take sides and that we are all against him. He called us "a bunch of sonsabitches, and fucking assholes." He continued to yell and carry on in a tumultuous manner. I advised Bill Ansell to cease and desist his behavior [sic] otherwise I would arrest him for disorderly conduct.

Doc. No. 78-14. The incident was characterized in the report as an alleged "road hazard." Id.

Ansell, an electrician, typically erects an elaborate light-up display at his residence during the Christmas season. The display apparently attracts a large number of individuals to Fairley Road, making it difficult for his neighbors to enter and exit their property. The Pittsburgh Channel reported on December 16, 2008, that Ansell had displayed the words "Fuck Ross Township"*fn9 on a sign appearing within the display. Doc. No. 14-4, 2. The report stated that one of Ansell's neighbors had seen the sign and "painted over the profanity." Id. Two days later, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported that Ansell had turned his Christmas lights on after leaving them off for four days. Doc. No. 14-5, 2-3. During an interview conducted in connection with the story, Ansell denied that he had displayed a "profanity-laced sign." Id., 3. He accused Ross Township of trying to "punish" him for tying up traffic on Fairly Road. Id. Randi, who was also interviewed, complained that visitors attempting to observe the display had made it difficult for her to enter and exit her driveway. Id. Randi further stated that while she had considered moving, she believed that Ansell's Christmas display would make it difficult for her to sell her house at face value. Id. On December 22, 2008, the Board passed Ordinance No. 2275, which prohibited motorists from parking between homes located within a specified portion of Fairley Road. Doc. No. 14, ¶ 41(c).

Randi contacted the RTPD on January 3, 2009, and reported that her son had seen Robert standing on her property. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 48. Chuberko and Officer Albert Hribik ("Hribik") proceeded to Fairley Road after receiving the report. Id. No citations were issued. Id., ¶ 49. In a police report describing the encounter, Chuberko made the following statements:

Mrs. Randi Grubb called the police to report that her 12 year old son observed Bob Ansell at the edge of their driveway. I asked Mr. Ansell if he was on the Grubbs [sic] property and he said no. He was in the area that looks like their driveway but he claims that their driveway is actually part of the street according to his survey map. I advised him to seek assistance from the township regarding a property dispute because he was not a licensed or certified land surveyor. I also relayed to him that Mrs. Grubb did not want he or his brother, Bill, on her property. While speaking to Bob Ansell, his brother Bill kept going in and out of the house and kept repeating to Sgt. Hribik and I that our department was corrupt and that we all take the side of the Grubb family during any dispute. He kept using profanity toward Sgt. Hribik and I and toward our entire department. Several times while speaking to Bob Ansell he stopped and told Bill to go back in the house. At one point he got so angry that he told me that the next police call was going to be on him fighting with Bill. I asked him to not antagonize an already volatile situation and to try to keep his brother under control.

Doc. No. 78-15. The report referred to the incident as an alleged "trespassing." Id.

On the evening of January 22, 2009, Officers Robert Zegar ("Zegar") and David J. Young ("Young") issued citations to Ansell for illegally parking two of his vehicles on Fairley Road. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 51. During meetings conducted by the Board on February 9, 2009, and February 23, 2009, Ansell complained that members of the RTPD had been treating him unfairly. Doc. No. 14, ¶¶ 47-48; Doc. No. 94, ¶¶ 54-55. On March 21, 2009, Officer Joseph LaMonica ("LaMonica") issued citations to Ansell for parking two of his vehicles in the wrong direction. Doc. No. 14, ¶ 49(a). The citations were voided after Robert complained to RTPD personnel on Ansell's behalf. Id. A police report later prepared by LaMonica stated that the citations had been voided because Fairley Road was "not wide enough for two-way traffic." Doc. 14-9, 1.

Officer Mark Wuycheck ("Wuycheck") cited Ansell for "illegal parking" on April 9, 2009. Doc. No. 14-10. Robert complained about Ordinance No. 2275 during a Board meeting conducted on April 13, 2009. Doc. No. 14, ¶ 50. After Robert was done speaking, Ansell described the problems that he had experienced with employees of Ross Township. Id., ¶ 50.

Ross Township maintains a policy requiring the presence of a police officer at each Board meeting. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 98. Pursuant to that policy, Officer Matthew Grubb ("Grubb") attended a Board meeting conducted on May 11, 2009. Id., ¶ 99. Ansell and Robert attended the meeting as well. Id., ¶ 101. Robert voiced complaints about Ansell's receipt of multiple parking citations, the location of the Grubbs' driveway, and alleged problems concerning the width of Fairley Road. Id., ¶ 102. Robert presented photographs depicting his driveway being blocked by a vehicle owned by individuals who were visiting the Grubb residence. Doc. No. 14-16. Daniel DeMarco ("DeMarco"), the Chairman of the Board, attempted to address a different topic after the conclusion of Robert's remarks. Doc. No. 94, ¶¶ 105-106. Ansell interjected and asked, "You really don't get it, do you?" Id., ¶ 107. DeMarco responded to Ansell's question by admonishing that the Board did not want to entertain additional arguments about the situation on Fairley Road and directing Grubb to remove Ansell from the meeting. Id., ¶¶ 108-110. Grubb proceeded to escort Ansell out of the meeting room. Id., ¶ 113. The relevant portion of the Board's meeting minutes stated as follows:

Mr. Robert Ansell addressed the Board and presented photos of his driveway being blocked by a vehicle that was visiting the Grubb residence. Mr. Ansell discussed the relocation of the Grubb driveway. The no-parking zone was discussed. Commissioner Eyster stated it is a police matter and not something that the Board can legislate. Before addressing the Board, Commissioner DeMarco requested Mr. Ansell be removed, since nothing new was being addressed. Before being escorted out, Mr. William Ansell questioned whether he was being denied the right to discuss the large Opiela political signs throughout the township.

Doc. No. 14-16. Ansell was apparently removed from the meeting pursuant to a policy permitting the ejection of disruptive individuals. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 117.

Ansell received seven parking citations between May 16, 2009, and June 27, 2009. Doc. No. 14, ¶ 53(a). In a police report dated July 29, 2009, White stated that a vehicle owned by Ansell was partially blocking a neighbor's driveway. Id., ¶ 53(b). Robert visited the headquarters of the RTPD that same day to obtain copies of several police reports. Id. Ralph C. Freedman ("Freedman"), Ross Township's Chief of Police, encountered Robert and informed him that Ansell's vehicle was going to be towed out of the way. Id. After speaking with Robert about the matter, Freedman agreed to give Ansell twenty-four hours to voluntarily move the vehicle. Doc. No. 94, ¶ 65.

On September 29, 2009, a resident of Fairley Road contacted the RTPD and reported that Ansell's car alarm had been activated. Id., ¶ 66. Officer M.P. Thomas ("Thomas") responded to the call. Id. Ansell was able to deactivate the alarm before Thomas' arrival. Id., ¶ 67. After viewing the location of the vehicle, Thomas issued a citation to Ansell for parking his car more than twelve inches from the edge of the curb on Fairley Road. Id., ¶ 68. The portion of the citation describing Ansell's offense stated that his car had been parked sixteen inches from the curb. Doc. No. 14-22.

Ansell commenced this action against Ross Township, Allegheny County, Grubb, Freedman, Orsino, White, Wuycheck, Chuberko, Zegar, LaMonica, Garcia, DeMarco, Castellano, Officer Joseph J. Serowik ("Serowik"), Officer Donald C. Sypolt, IV ("Sypolt"), Officer Barry Clifford ("Clifford"), and Warden Ramon C. Rustin ("Rustin") on October 16, 2009, alleging violations of the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3), and the common law of Pennsylvania respecting the torts of assault, battery, malicious prosecution, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Doc. No. 1. On December 6, 2009, Ansell amended his complaint to add Fourth Amendment claims for excessive force and name Longo, Stokes, George and Deputy James Stegena ("Stegena") as additional defendants. Doc. No. 14. The deputies responded on January 8, 2010, by filing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Doc. No. 18. In support of their motion to dismiss, the deputies argued that they were entitled to qualified immunity. Doc. No. 19. Although Ansell generally contested the motion to dismiss, he consented to the dismissal of his § 1985(3) claims against the deputies. Doc. No. 25. The Court dismissed the § 1985(3) claims against the deputies without prejudice in a memorandum opinion and order dated January 20, 2010. Doc. No. 26. The motion to dismiss was denied in all other respects. Id.

Since the Court's decision denying the deputies' motion to dismiss implicated their immunity from suit and rested on questions of law, it was subject to immediate appeal. Behrens v. Pelletier, 516 U.S. 299, 310-311, 116 S.Ct. 834, 133 L.Ed.2d 773 (1996). The deputies appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on February 1, 2010. Doc. No. 31. On March 25, 2011, the Court of Appeals affirmed this Court's decision denying the motion to dismiss. Ansell v. Ross Township, 419 Fed.Appx. 209 (3d Cir. 2011)(unpublished).

Longo, Stokes, George and Stegena moved for summary judgment on January 2, 2012. Doc. No. 66. Ross Township and DeMarco filed a separate motion for summary judgment that same day. Doc. No. 68. The remaining defendants filed two motions for summary judgment one day later. One motion was filed by Allegheny County and Rustin. Doc. No. 70. The other motion was filed by Ross Township, Grubb, Freedman, Orsino, White, Wuycheck, Chuberko, Zegar, LaMonica, Garcia, Serowik, Sypolt and Clifford. Doc. No. 74. The four motions for summary judgment filed by the Defendants are the subject of this memorandum opinion.

III. Standard of Review

Summary judgment may only be granted where the moving party shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and that a judgment as a matter of law is warranted. FED. R. CIV. P. 56(a). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56, the Court must enter summary judgment against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish an element essential to his or her case, and on which he or she will bear the burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). In evaluating the evidence, the Court must interpret the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, drawing all reasonable inferences in his or her favor. Watson v. Abington Township, 478 F.3d 144, 147 (3d Cir. 2007). The burden is initially on the moving party to demonstrate that the evidence contained in the record does not create a genuine issue of material fact. Conoshenti v. Public Service Electric & Gas Co., 364 F.3d 135, 140 (3d Cir. 2004). A dispute is "genuine" if the evidence is such that a reasonable trier of fact could render a finding in favor of the nonmoving party. McGreevy v. Stroup, 413 F.3d 359, 363 (3d Cir. 2005). Where the nonmoving party will bear the burden of proof at trial, the moving party may meet its burden by showing that the admissible evidence contained in the record would be insufficient to carry the nonmoving party's burden of proof. Celotex Corp., 477 U.S. at 322. Once the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to the nonmoving party, who must go beyond his or her pleadings and designate specific facts by the use of affidavits, depositions, admissions or answers to interrogatories showing that there is a genuine issue of material fact for trial. Id. at 324. The nonmoving party cannot defeat a well-supported motion for summary judgment by simply reasserting unsupported factual allegations contained in his or her pleadings. Williams v. Borough of West Chester, 891 F.2d 458, 460 (3d Cir. 1989).

IV. Jurisdiction and Venue

Jurisdiction over Ansell's claims is predicated on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1367(a). Venue is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b).

V. Discussion

Ansell brings his federal constitutional claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides that "[e]very person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . ."

42 U.S.C. § 1983. This remedial statute does not create substantive rights. Maher v. Gagne, 448 U.S. 122, 129, n. 11, 100 S.Ct. 2570, 65 L.Ed.2d 653 (1980). A plaintiff cannot prevail in an action brought under § 1983 without establishing an underlying violation of a federal constitutional or statutory right. Blessing v. Freestone, 520 U.S. 329, 340, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997).

As the United States Supreme Court observed in Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 418, 96 S.Ct. 984, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976), "§ 1983 is to be read in harmony with general principles of tort immunities rather than in derogation of them." Consequently, the "qualified immunity" that was available to executive officials at common law may be invoked by executive officials sued under § 1983. Hafer v. Melo, 502 U.S. 21, 28-29, 112 S.Ct. 358, 116 L.Ed.2d 301 (1991). State officials performing discretionary duties are generally "shielded from liability for civil damages insofar as their conduct does not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known." Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U.S. 800, 818, 102 S.Ct. 2727, 73 L.Ed.2d 396 (1982). In order for a federal right to be "clearly established" for purposes of qualified immunity, "[t]he contours of the right must be sufficiently clear that a reasonable official would understand that what he [or she] is doing violates that right." Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U.S. 635, 640, 107 S.Ct. 3034, 97 L.Ed.2d 523 (1987). Qualified immunity is not only a defense to liability, but also "an entitlement not to stand trial or face the other burdens of litigation." Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511, 526, 105 S.Ct. 2806, 86 L.Ed.2d 411 (1985).

For this reason, the Supreme Court has often "stressed the importance of resolving immunity questions at the earliest possible stage in litigation." Hunter v. Bryant, 502 U.S. 224, 227, 112 S.Ct. 534, 116 L.Ed.2d 589 (1991)(per curiam).

Ansell asserts a myriad of claims against twenty-one different defendants. Doc. No. 14.

Most of the individual defendants named in the amended complaint raise the defense of qualified immunity in support of their motions for summary judgment. Doc. No. 67, 15-17; Doc. No. 71, 13-16; Doc. No. 75, 10, 13-14. The Court has discretion to consider whether certain defendants are entitled to qualified immunity without determining whether the claims asserted against them would otherwise warrant relief. Pearson v. Callahan, 555 U.S. 223, 236, 129 S.Ct. 808, 172 L.Ed.2d 565 (2009).

In the amended complaint, Ansell avers that, on November 15, 2007, Castellano used a leaf blower to blow leaves and dirt into his face. Doc. No. 14, ¶ 117. Ansell alleges that Castellano took this action in retaliation for complaints that he had voiced against the DPW. Id. Castellano's alleged act of blowing leaves and dirt into Ansell's face form the basis of both federal constitutional claims grounded in the First and Fourteenth Amendments and state tort claims premised on assault and battery theories. Id., ¶¶ 73-93, 110-121. Unlike the other twenty defendants, Castellano has not moved for summary judgment.

Ansell alleges that Longo, Stokes, George and Stegena violated the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments by using excessive force while effectuating his arrest on October 18, 2007. Id., ¶¶ 175-184. He also brings supplemental assault and battery claims against the deputies based on their conduct during the arrest. Id., ¶¶ 110-121. Ansell apparently believes that Allegheny County is vicariously liable under Pennsylvania law for the assaults and batteries allegedly committed by the deputies. Id. He asserts similar claims against Castellano and Ross Township. Id. Since Castellano has not moved for summary judgment, the Court need only consider Ansell's assault and battery claims in relation to the actions taken by Longo, Stokes, George and Stegena.

A. The Fourth Amendment Claims Asserted Against the Deputies

The first step in considering a claim brought under § 1983 is to "identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been violated." County of Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 841, n. 5, 118 S.Ct. 1708, 140 L.Ed.2d 1043 (1998). The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

U.S. CONST., AMEND. IV. The proscriptions contained in the Fourth Amendment are applicable to the States by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Cady v. Dombrowski, 413 ...


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