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Kenyatta Brooks v. Warden Earl Reitz

May 14, 2013


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Christopher C. Conner United States District Judge

: (Judge Conner)


Plaintiff Kenyetta Brooks ("Brooks") brings this civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging violations of his rights under the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, adopted in Pennsylvania, see 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 9121 et seq., the Federal Extradition Act, 18 U.S.C. § 3182, and the Fourth, Sixth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Presently before the court is a motion to dismiss (Doc. 9) filed by defendants Warden Earl Reitz, Lt. Shenk,*fn1 Christylee Peck, and Jaime Keating (collectively "defendants"). For the reasons that follow, the motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. Statement of Facts

On June 2, 2010, Brooks was sentenced to serve a term of thirty days in the Cumberland County Prison for a driving violation, with a scheduled release date of July 1, 2010. Shortly before his release, on June 25, a West Virginia Magistrate signed a warrant for Brooks' arrest. A copy of that warrant was faxed to Cumberland County Prison on June 28, and a detainer was placed on Brooks. On July 6, 2010, Brooks appeared before the Honorable Wesley Oler, Jr., in the Cumberland County Court of Common Pleas to contest his extradition to West Virginia. At this hearing, Judge Oler advised Brooks and Defendant ADA Keating that Brooks had a right to contest his extradition to West Virginia. Judge Oler further advised ADA Keating and Brooks that a Governor's warrant from Pennsylvania would have to be obtained by the Commonwealth within thirty days, and once the warrant was obtained Brooks would have a right to contest his extradition through a habeas corpus proceeding.

On July 20, Brooks and Defendant ADA Peck appeared before Judge Oler in response to the Commonwealth's petition for an extension of time to obtain a Governor's warrant. During this hearing, ADA Peck was expressly advised by the court that Brooks was contesting his extradition to West Virginia. On August 31, the Commonwealth obtained a Governor's warrant permitting the delivery of Brooks to an officer of Brooklyn County, West Virginia. On October 1, Brooks, acting pro se, prepared a petition for a writ of habeas corpus and hand delivered a copy to Defendant Warden Earl Reitz and Defendant Lt. Shenk. Brooks also mailed the petition to the Prothonotary of Cumberland County. Notwithstanding Brooks' timely application for a writ, on October 11, West Virginia authorities came to the Cumberland County Prison, took Brooks into custody, and extradited him to West Virginia.

Brooks initiated the instant action on October 11, 2012. The complaint alleges that Defendants Reitz and Shenk approved the extradition, knowing it to be illegal and/or acting with deliberate indifference to Brooks' rights under the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act. In the alternative, Brooks contends that when Reitz received the signed Governor's warrant, he contacted the Cumberland County District Attorney's Office, where ADAs Peck and/or Keating advised Reitz to hand Brooks over to West Virginia authorities. Brooks asserts that the defendants acted with "reckless disregard" to his rights.

On December 21, 2012, defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss on grounds of absolute and qualified immunity.

II. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review

The court has jurisdiction because the complaint presents a question of federal law, see 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and because Brooks alleges that he suffered a deprivation of his federally protected rights under color of state law, see 28 U.S.C. § 1343(a)(3).

Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of complaints that fail to assert a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. P. 12(b)(6). The court must conduct a two-part analysis to determine the sufficiency of the complaint. First, the court must separate the factual matters alleged from legal conclusions asserted. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009). The court must take all facts pled in the complaint as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Id. at 210-11. Second, the court must determine whether the factual matters alleged in the complaint are sufficient to show that the plaintiff has a "plausible claim for relief." Id. at 211 (quoting Ashcroft

v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009)). The analysis is "context-specific" and the court must "draw on its judicial experience and common sense" in making its determination whether the facts averred in the complaint suggest "more than the mere possibility of misconduct." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679.

III. Discussion

Section 1983 provides a cause of action to redress violations of federal law committed by state officials. See 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Section 1983 is not a source of substantive rights, but merely a method for vindicating those rights otherwise protected by federal law. Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273, 284-85 (2002); Kneipp v. Tedder, 95 F.3d 1199, 1204 (3d Cir. 1996). To establish a claim under § 1983, the plaintiff must show a deprivation of a "right secured by the Constitution and the laws of the United States . . . by a person acting under color of state law." Id. (quoting Mark v. Borough of ...

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