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Segers v. Williams

United States District Court, Third Circuit

January 27, 2014

BRANDON SEGERS, Plaintiff,
v.
SETH WILLIAMS, et al., Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

ANITA B. BRODY, District Judge.

Plaintiff Brandon Segers ("Segers") brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983") against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams ("Williams") and Assistant District Attorneys John Does 1 and 2 ("ADAs"), in their individual capacities.[1] Segers claims that the three defendants (collectively "DA Defendants") violated his constitutional rights and federal law during the prosecution of Segers for driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. Segers also brings state tort claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution under Pennsylvania law.[2] The DA Defendants move to dismiss Segers' Complaint in its entirety. For the reasons stated below, I will grant the DA Defendants' Motion to Dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND[3]

On May 26, 2011, the Philadelphia Police pulled over Segers' car for a broken side window. The officer who stopped Segers claimed that he smelled marijuana and observed empty narcotics packaging next to the driver's seat, as well as smoked marijuana cigars in an ash tray. The police arrested Segers, tested his blood for the presence of controlled substances, and charged Segers with possession of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana. The Philadelphia District Attorney's Office subsequently initiated prosecution of Segers for these charges ("DUI Case"). Segers remained in custody until the resolution of the DUI Case.

The Municipal Court of Philadelphia County scheduled Segers' trial in the DUI Case for July 22, 2011. On July 22nd, the Commonwealth explained to the court that it had not yet received the results from Segers' blood test and requested a continuance. As a result, the court rescheduled the trial for September 19, 2011. The court ordered the Commonwealth to give Segers' blood test results to defense counsel on September 14, 2011, five days before the new trial date.

The DA's Office received the blood test results on July 29, 2011, seven days after the continuance. Segers' test results came back negative for all substances. Despite the fact that defense counsel requested the results both before and after the DA's Office received them, the DA's Office did not communicate the results to defense counsel until the court's deadline on September 14, 2011. At the September 19th court proceeding, the DA's Office withdrew the charges. Thus, the DA Defendants failed to turn over the exculpatory blood results for more than 40 days after the results came back negative and allowed Segers to remain in prison for that time. The DA Defendants' actions caused Segers to lose his job, lose his apartment, and miss the funerals of close family members.[4]

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must "accept all factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief." Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks omitted).

To survive dismissal, a complaint must allege facts sufficient to "raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). "Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rather, "a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id.

"As a general matter, a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings. However, an exception to the general rule is that a document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered...." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (emphasis omitted) (citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, a court may "consider matters of public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the case." Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Federal Claims

Segers brings a variety of civil rights claims against the DA Defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[5] "To establish liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show that the defendants, acting under color of law, violated the plaintiff's federal constitutional or statutory rights, and thereby caused the complained of injury." Elmore v. Cleary, 399 F.3d 279, 281 (3d Cir. 2005). Segers' § 1983 claims against all DA Defendants include malicious prosecution, abuse of process, and violation of due process. Segers' § 1983 claims directed against the ADAs alone include false imprisonment, violation of the Fourth Amendment, and conspiracy to violate civil rights.[6] Segers' § 1983 claims directed against Williams alone include failure to intervene and failure to supervise. Segers brings all of these claims against the DA Defendants in their individual capacities.[7] The DA Defendants move to dismiss all of Segers' federal claims on the ground that they are entitled to absolute immunity for any actions taken in the course of their roles as advocates for the state.

In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976), the Supreme Court held that the determination of whether a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for his/her conduct depends on the function the prosecutor was performing. See also Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478, 486 (1991). Prosecutors are absolutely immune from § 1983 liability for acts performed in the course of their function as advocates for the state. Yarris v. Cnty. of Delaware, 465 F.3d 129, 135-36 (3d Cir. 2006). Absolute immunity thus attaches to acts "intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process, " including "initiating a prosecution and... presenting the State's case." Imbler, 424 U.S. 409, 430-31. In contrast, "[a] prosecutor's administrative duties and those investigatory functions that do not ...


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