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Kearney v. Wadsworth

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 3, 2014

RICHARD MULIEK KEARNEY Plaintiff
v.
MATTHEW D. WADSWORTH and CHARLES E. GLIECHMAN, Defendants

MEMORANDUM

SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

In this Section 1983 civil rights action, Plaintiff has sued two law enforcement officers asserting violations of his rights protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Presently before the court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and (6). (Doc. 26.) Because the court finds that the favorable termination requirement of Heck v. Humphrey , 512 U.S. 477 (1994), bars Plaintiff's claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, it will grant the motion to dismiss.

I. Background

"As a general matter, a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not consider matters extraneous to the pleadings." In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig. , 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997). Thus, for the purposes of the motion sub judice , the court only considers the allegations contained in the complaint, as amended, and exhibits submitted in support thereof (Doc. 1; Doc. 38) and will accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations contained therein. See Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, Inc. v. Mirage Resorts, Inc. , 140 F.3d 478, 483 (3d Cir. 1998). Due to Plaintiff's pro se status, the court will turn to the properly pleaded portions of Plaintiff's amended complaint where needed, despite the fact that the document fails to conform to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Local Rules of Court, and unambiguous instructions set forth in prior orders.

A. Facts

Plaintiff, a state inmate acting pro se, asserted constitutional claims related to the legal processes which led to his convictions in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas for burglary, conspiracy, and simple assault, all arising from his actions on June 29, 2011, involving the unlawful entry into a dwelling. ( See Doc. 1, ¶ 13.) Plaintiff alleges that his identification, arrest, prosecution, conviction, and resulting detention were illegal, not based upon probable cause, and in violation of his constitutional rights. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Matthew D. Wadsworth, a state police officer stationed at the McConnellsburg Pennsylvania State Police Barracks, included Plaintiff's name in the affidavit of probable cause, despite the failure of Travis Smith and Vicky Vance, victims of the crimes for which Plaintiff was convicted, to identify Plaintiff by name during their interviews with Defendant Wadsworth, as evidenced by their victim/witness statement forms. ( See Doc. 1, ¶¶ 15, 18; see also Doc. 38-1, pp. 4-5 of 9; Doc. 1, p. 8 of 13.) Plaintiff also alleges that Defendant Wadsworth failed to include an account of the June 29, 2011 incident provided by Scott Loveless, an eye witness, which Plaintiff alleges was contrary to the story provided by Smith. ( See Doc. 38, ¶ 10; Doc. 38-1.) Plaintiff contends that Defendant Wadsworth's affidavit of probable cause was "outright false" and made with a "reckless disregard for the truth." (Doc. 1, ¶ 18.) Plaintiff further alleges that the photograph lineup presented by Defendant Wadsworth to Vance was unduly suggestive. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 12-14; Doc. 47, ¶ 15.) Lastly, Plaintiff takes exception to Defendant Wadsworth's omitting certain witness statements from his affidavit of probable cause. (Doc. 38, ¶ 17.) Plaintiff included Defendant Charles E. Gleichman, a supervising corporal also stationed at the Pennsylvania State Police Barracks in McConnellsburg, Pennsylvania, as a defendant in the action on the basis of his supervisory positions. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 16, 20; Doc. 38, ¶ 20, 22.) As relief for these alleged constitutional violations, Plaintiff seeks declaratory relief[1] and both compensatory and punitive damages. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 21-25.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on July 8, 2013. (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 4, 5.) Plaintiff asserted his claim against each Defendant in both their official and individual capacities. ( Id . at ¶ 6; Doc. 38, ¶ 1.) The court granted Plaintiff's motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis and directed that a summons be prepared and issued on October 23, 2013. ( See Docs. 16 & 17.) Defendants timely waived service. (Doc. 24.)

On December 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint (Doc. 25), which was noncompliant with Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rule 15.1, inasmuch as it contained only two vague paragraphs and failed to contain a proposed amended complaint ( see id .). Despite Plaintiff's noncompliance and because such a motion was unnecessary due to operation of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(1)(B), the court deemed Plaintiff's motion moot and advised Plaintiff that he may file his amended complaint as a matter of course no later than January 13, 2014. (Doc. 28.) On December 23, 2013, Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted (Doc. 26) and brief in support thereof (Doc. 27). In response to a request from Plaintiff filed on January 8, 2014 ( see Doc. 29), the court clarified its previous order regarding Plaintiff's options, instructing that he could either file an amended complaint that was complete in all respects or file a response to the pending motion to dismiss ( see Doc. 30). On January 16, 2014, three days after the January 13, 2014 deadline had lapsed, Plaintiff filed a motion for an extension of time to amend his complaint based on "extraordinary circumstances." (Doc. 31.) In an order dated January 17, 2014, the court granted Plaintiff's motion for an extension of time, extending the January 13, 2014 deadline to January 30, 2014. (Doc. 32.) Moreover, the court advised Plaintiff of the consequences of his failure to file an amended complaint, indicating that it would rule on Defendants' unopposed motion to dismiss if no amended complaint was filed. ( Id .)

On January 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to stay the proceedings. (Doc. 34.) The court denied the stay, but granted Plaintiff another extension of time, this time until February 14, 2014, in which he was to comply with the previous orders. (Doc. 35.) On February 14, 2014, Plaintiff filed another motion for an extension of time (Doc. 36), which the court granted, extending the deadline to February 28, 2014 (Doc. 37). On March 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which was noncompliant with the Local Rules or court orders, inasmuch as it was not complete in and of itself, but rather referenced the original complaint. (Doc. 38.) On March 6, 2014, Defendants indicated their intention to rely on the grounds set forth in their December 23, 2013 motion to dismiss as the basis for dismissing Plaintiff's amended complaint. (Doc. 39.) On March 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed yet another motion for extension of time (Doc. 40), which the court denied by order dated March 24, 2014 (Doc. 41). Despite the denial, Plaintiff filed a brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss on March 26, 2014. (Doc. 42.) On April 3, 2014, the court vacated the portion of its March 24, 2014 order closing the record and accepted Plaintiff's brief in opposition as filed. Although Defendants are entitled to file a reply, the court finds that this matter has been adequately briefed and is appropriate for disposition.

II. Legal Standards

A. Pro Se Pleadings

Pro se pleadings, "however inartfully pleaded, " must be held to "less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner , 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972). Under the liberal pleading rules, during the initial stages of litigation, a district court should construe all allegations in a complaint in favor of the complainant, especially when the complainant is a pro se litigant. Giles v. Kearney , 571 F.3d 318, 322 (3d Cir. 2009). Plaintiff's complaint leaves much to be desired, especially due to Plaintiff's noncompliance with the court's orders and local rules as his amended complaint refers to and incorporates his original complaint and a recent filing requests that the court refer to exhibits contained in his original ...


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