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Donald A. Carroll v. Clifford Township

November 27, 2012

DONALD A. CARROLL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CLIFFORD TOWNSHIP, DENNIS KNOWLTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS CHAIRMAN/SUPERVISOR, AND
CHRIS MARCHO, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERVISOR, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: A. Richard Caputo United States District Judge

(JUDGE CAPUTO)

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is the Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. 17) filed by Defendants Clifford Township, Dennis Knowlton ("Knowlton"), and Chris Marcho ("Marcho") (collectively "Defendants"). Plaintiff Donald Carroll ("Carroll"), a former Clifford Township Police Chief, asserts that Defendants retaliated against him in violation of his First Amendment rights by refusing to complete his application for membership to the Fraternal Order of the Police, by eliminating his position with the Clifford Township Police Department, and by reducing the Police Department's budget.*fn1

Defendants have moved to dismiss the First Amendment retaliation claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Because Plaintiff has sufficiently stated his First Amendment retaliation claims, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be denied.

I. Background

The facts as alleged in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint are as follows:

Knowlton is Chairman of the Board of Supervisors of Clifford Township and Marcho is a Supervisor for Clifford Township. (Am. Compl., ¶¶ 3-4.) Defendants Knowlton and Marcho are policymakers of Clifford Township with final, unreviewable policymaking authority. (Id. at ¶ 10.)

In 2000, Plaintiff was hired as a part-time police officer for Clifford Township. (Id. at ¶ 8.) In or around 2007, Plaintiff was promoted to the position of Police Chief. (Id.)

In August 2009, Plaintiff, acting as a citizen, initiated a lawsuit in the Court of Common Pleas of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania against Clifford Township for alleged violations of the Police Tenure Act (the "state court action"). (Id. at ¶ 9.) The lawsuit in which Plaintiff requested access to the courts was picked up by the local newspaper. (Id. at ¶ 11.) Thereafter, Defendants engaged in a campaign of harassment against Plaintiff for his protected activities by falsely accusing him of wrongdoing, terminating his healthcare benefits, and refusing to allow him to associate with the Fraternal Order of Police. (Id. at ¶ 12.) Had he not commenced the state court action, Plaintiff would not have been subject to the campaign of harassment. (Id. at ¶ 13.)

On several occasions after Plaintiff commenced the state court action, including in March 2011 and February 2012, he requested that Defendants complete his application to be a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 63 (the "FOP"). (Id. at ¶ 15.) On each occasion, however, Defendants refused to confirm Plaintiff's status as a full-time employee and that he passed his probationary period, both of which were necessary for Plaintiff to be admitted to the FOP. (Id. at ¶ 16.) This issue was addressed during Supervisor meetings, and Defendants took official action to deny Plaintiff the ability to associate with the FOP. (Id.) Although Defendants refused to complete his application to the FOP, they permitted another police officer the right to associate. (Id. at 18.) And, by refusing to complete his application, Defendants interfered with Plaintiff's ability to join the FOP. (Id.)

In addition, in November 2011, Marcho insisted that Plaintiff not make any arrests on Main Street in Clifford Township because Marcho's personal business is located on Main Street and the arrests negatively impacted his business. (Id. at ¶ 30.) Within two (2) weeks after Plaintiff refused to engage in such conduct, Defendants reduced the Police Department budget. (Id. at ¶ 32.) And, approximately one month after Plaintiff initiated the present action, Defendants eliminated his position. (Id. at ¶ 25.) The decision to eliminate Plaintiff's position was not advertised nor done in accordance with the laws of the Commonwealth. (Id. at ¶ 26.)

Based on the foregoing events, Plaintiff commenced this action on March 28, 2012. (Doc. 1.) Defendants thereafter moved to dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, and the motion was granted in part and denied in part on August 10, 2012. Plaintiff then filed a Second Amended Complaint on August 30, 2012 to cure the deficiencies identified with respect to the Amended Complaint. In his Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff asserts claims for: (I) First Amendment retaliation for commencing the state court action; (II) First Amendment freedom of association; (III) First Amendment retaliation in eliminating his position for commencing the instant action; and (IV) First Amendment retaliation in reducing the Police Department's budget after Plaintiff refused to comply with Defendant Marcho's request to refrain from making arrests on Main Street. (Sec. Am. Compl.) On September 11, 2012, Defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss the First Amendment retaliation claims. (Doc. 9.) As Defendants' motion has now been fully briefed, it is ripe for disposition.

II. Discussion

A. Legal ...


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