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Suzanne Nelling v. County of Delaware

September 11, 2012


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


I. Introduction

This civil rights action arose because a bench warrant was not properly removed from the National Crime Information Center system ("NCIC"), leading to the arrest and nineteen days of incarceration of Plaintiff Suzanne Nelling ("Nelling"). Nelling sues Defendant Amy Theodore ("Theodore"), a Probation Officer with the Office of Adult Probation and Parole Services of Delaware County, for false imprisonment and, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, violations of her rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution. Nelling also asserts a claim for punitive damages.*fn1

Presently before the Court is Theodore's Motion to Dismiss Nelling's Second Amended Complaint (ECF No. 51) pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT Theodore's Motion, without prejudice to Nelling re-pleading her claims in a Third Amended Complaint.

II. Procedural History in this Court

Nelling filed her original Complaint, naming multiple defendants, in this Court on November 8, 2011. After defendants moved to dismiss, Nelling amended her complaint (ECF No. 22), and the Court dismissed the pending motions as moot. (Order Re: Motions to Dismiss, ECF No. 26). All defendants again moved to dismiss. In view of the myriad outstanding motions, this Court held oral argument on April 17, 2012. (See Audio File 04/17/2012, ECF No. 45). Pursuant to the discussions held on the record, the Court entered an Order dismissing the pending motions, and granting Nelling leave to conduct limited discovery to aid her in filing a Second Amended Complaint. (Order, ECF No. 47).

Nelling then filed her Second Amended Complaint on June 18, 2012, asserting claims against only Theodore and the County of Delaware. Both defendants moved to dismiss. Nelling's attorney wrote this Court a letter stating that Nelling did not oppose the County of Delaware's Motion, and this Court accordingly entered an Order granting that Motion as unopposed. (Order Re: County of Delaware's Motion to Dismiss, ECF No. 52).

Theodore consequently became the only remaining Defendant. The Court now addresses her Motion to Dismiss.

III. Factual Allegations

In her Second Amended Complaint, Nelling alleges the following facts, which this Court accepts as true for the purpose of deciding the pending Motion to Dismiss.

On May 7, 2007, Nelling was convicted of Theft by Unlawful Taking in the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. 2d Am. Compl.¶ 8. She was sentenced to serve four days to twenty three months imprisonment with immediate parole. Id. ¶ 8. Theodore served as Nelling's parole officer. Id. ¶ 9.

On July 17, 2009, Theodore requested and the Court of Common Pleas issued a bench warrant for Nelling's arrest following Nelling's failure to pay restitution under the terms of the parole. Id. ¶¶ 10-11. On August 7, 2009, after Nelling paid the restitution, Theodore requested that the July 17, 2009 bench warrant be rescinded. Id. ¶ 12. The bench warrant was rescinded on September 9, 2009; however, it was never removed from the NCIC. Id. ¶ 13.

On October 2, 2010, Nelling was involved in a dispute at a store in Media, Pennsylvania. Id. ¶ 14. A police officer on the scene checked the NCIC system and arrested Nelling under the July 17, 2009 bench warrant. Id. ¶¶ 15-16. Following the arrest, Nelling was incarcerated in the George W. Hill Correctional Facility, also known as Delaware County Prison, and was not released until October 21, 2010. Id. ¶¶ 17, 19.

On October 4, 2010, during Nelling's incarceration, a prison employee notified Theodore that Nelling was arrested for a parole violation. Id. ¶ 18. After learning the mistaken basis for Nelling's incarceration, Theodore ignored the notice and failed to promptly arrange for Nelling's release. Id. ¶ 28(b)-(e).

On October 27, 2010, after Nelling had been released, Theodore wrote a letter "to whom it may concern," explaining that Nelling had "committed no wrong doing to facilitate being arrested[.]"*fn2 Id. ¶¶ 20-21. Theodore further clarified that the rescinded bench warrant was not taken out of NCIC, "and that is why [Nelling] was taken into custody on October 2, 2010." Id. ¶ 22.

IV. Legal ...

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