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Robert C. Long, Sr. & Janet V. Long v. Bristol Township

August 14, 2012

ROBERT C. LONG, SR. & JANET V. LONG, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BRISTOL TOWNSHIP, ET AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



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

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint of Plaintiffs Robert C. Long, Sr. and Janet V. Long ("the Longs" or "Plaintiffs"). For the following reasons, the Motion is denied with prejudice.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The factual background of this case is one familiar to all relevant parties and the Court. On March 11, 2010, Plaintiffs filed their initial Complaint before this court, asserting violations of their constitutional rights pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. (See generally Doc. 1, Compl. ("Orig. Compl.").)*fn1

In addition to Bristol Township, also listed as Defendants in this initial Complaint were Bristol Township officials Glenn M. Kucher, Wendy Margulies, Al Burgess, Ronald Marczak, Peggy Horvath, Joseph Champey, John Gushue, Tina Davis, John Monahan, and Linda Tarlini. (See id. ¶¶ 6--17.) George and Susan Rosenberg-the Longs' neighbors-were also originally listed as defendants in this action, but the parties stipulated to their dismissal on May 10, 2012. (See Doc. No. 58, Joint Stipulation of Dismissal ("Rosenberg Stipulation").) Plaintiffs' initial Complaint alleged: (1) deprivation of their procedural and substantive due process rights (Count I); (2) deprivation of their equal protection rights (Count II); (3) a taking of their property (Count III); and (4) a conspiracy to deprive them of their constitutional rights (Count IV). (See Compl. ¶¶ 43--69.) Defendants filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on April 9, 2012, and Plaintiffs responded in opposition on May 4, 2012. (See Doc. No. 55, Defs.' Mot. Summ. J.; Doc. No. 60, Pls.' Mem. Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Summ. J. ("Pls.' Resp. Opp'n").)

On July 11, 2012, the Court issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order, in which it granted in part and denied in part Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (See Doc. No. 61, 07/11/12 Mem. Op. & Order.) More specifically, the Court granted summary judgment in Defendants' favor on Plaintiff's procedural and substantive due process claims under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and their taking of property claim under the Fifth Amendment and Pennsylvania state law.*fn2 (See id. at 9--18, 25--27.) The Court likewise held in its Memorandum Opinion and Order that Defendants Marczak, Champey, and Gushue were judicially immune from all claims asserted against them in their individual capacities, and that Defendants Davis, Monahan, and Tarlini were entitled to qualified immunity for actions taken in their individual capacities. (See id. at 27--36.) The Court also entered summary judgment on all claims asserted Defendant Marguiles in her individual capacity on the basis that the Longs failed to identify a genuine issue of material fact as to her lack of personal liability, and denied summary judgment as moot on all claims asserted against Defendant Horvath as she is since deceased. (See id. at 28 n.14, 34.) Finally, the Court also denied Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages as to all § 1983 claims asserted against Bristol Township as an entity. (Id. at 39.) As such, following the issuance of the Court's July 11th Memorandum Opinion and Order, the only remaining issues set to proceed to trial are Plaintiffs' equal protection claims under the Fourteenth Amendment*fn3 asserted against (1) Bristol Township as an entity, (2) the individually-named officers for actions taken in their official-not personal-capacities, and (3) Defendant Glenn M. Kucher for actions taken in both his individual and official capacities. The Court also sustained Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages to the extent it related to Plaintiffs' claims against Kucher in his individual capacity.

On July 23, 2012, Plaintiffs filed the present Motion seeking leave to amend their original Complaint. (See Doc. No. 63, Pls.' Mot. Amend. Compl. ("Pls.' Mot. Amend Compl.").) Plaintiffs attached a copy of their proposed Amended Complaint to their Motion. The proffered rationale for Plaintiffs' requested amendment is stated as follows:

Based upon the Court's decision and Order on the Motion for Summary Judgment dismissing certain parties and claims, Plaintiffs seek the Court's permission to file an Amended Complaint clarifying the remaining claims against the Defendants and correcting certain typographical errors.

(See id. ¶ 5.) Defendants responded in opposition on July 25, 2012, thereby making this issue ripe for the Court's consideration. (See Doc. No. 64, Defs.' Mem. Opp'n Pls.' Leave Amend Compl. ("Defs.' Resp. Opp'n").)

II. DISCUSSION

Under Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may amend its pleading once prior to service of a response. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(1). If, however, a responsive pleading has already been filed, then a party may only amend its initial pleading "with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave." Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). In deciding whether to grant leave to amend, the court should do so "freely" and "when justice so requires." Id.

"Nonetheless, a court is not required to grant leave to amend in every instance where leave is sought." Schutter v. Herskowitz, No. Civ.A.07-3823, 2008 WL 2726921, at *7 (E.D. Pa. July 11, 2008). Rather, the grant or denial of leave to amend falls to the Court's sound discretion. Id. (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)); see also Washington v. Grace, Nos. Civ.A.08-1283 & 07-867, 2012 WL 398763, at *4 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 7, 2012). The exercise of this discretion, however, must always be exercised "in a manner aimed at securing the just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action[.]" Id. at *6 (internal string citation omitted). The Supreme Court has provided several factors to assist the lower courts in making such a determination, including the presence of: undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, and the potential futility of the amendment. Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; see also In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1434 (3d Cir. 1997). Particularly relevant to the present discussion are the futility, prejudice, and undue delay factors.

In determining whether an amended pleading would be futile, the Third Circuit has stated that, generally, "[f]utility means that the complaint, as amended, would fail to state a claim upon which relief could be granted." Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000) (internal citation omitted). An amendment is also considered futile if the amended claim would not withstand a motion for summary judgment. Schutter, 2008 WL 2726921, at *8 (internal citations omitted). In this case, Plaintiffs' claims have already been the subject of prior adjudication by this Court. In particular, the Court previously entered summary judgment in Defendants' favor on Plaintiffs' procedural and substantive due process claims, held that all the Township officials-with the exception of Defendant Kucher-were entitled to some form of immunity, and denied Plaintiffs' request for punitive damages from Bristol Township. In their present Motion, Plaintiffs seek leave to amend their Complaint in order to "clarify the remaining claims" and "correct certain typographical errors." (Pls.' Mot. Amend. Compl. ¶ 5.) Rather than "clarify" the equal protection claim which survives against the remaining Defendants, however, Plaintiffs' proposed Amended Complaint appears to be a mere reiteration of several of their initial claims against many already-dismissed Defendants.

For example, in their proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs once again bring their claims against Township officials Burgess, Marczak, Champey, Gushue, Davis, Monahan, and Tarlini in both their individual and official capacities, despite the fact that the Court has already determined that these individuals are immune from suit here for actions taken in their individual capacities. (See Pls.' Mot. Amend. Compl., Ex. B, Proposed Amended Compl. ("Am. Compl.") ΒΆΒΆ 9--17.) The Longs likewise continue to pursue punitive damages against Bristol Township in their proposed Amended ...


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