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Kearney v. Sheffield

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 17, 2014

RICHARD MULIEK KEARNEY Plaintiff.
v.
ROGER SHEFFIELD; WILLIAM D. BAKER; JOSEPH HORTON; and CHARLES E. GLIECHMAN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM

SYLVIA H. RAMBO, District Judge.

In this Section 1983 civil rights action, Plaintiff has sued four 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). (Docs. 29 & 39.) 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 (Docs. 1 & 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). It is important to note that Plaintiff's amended complaint was filed with a complete disregard for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Middle District of Pennsylvania Local Rules of Court, and orders of this court, inasmuch as the amended complaint contains two paragraphs, only one of which is substantive in nature, referring to the original complaint and clarifying that each defendant is sued in both an individual and official capacity. ( See Doc. 38; see also, e.g., Doc. 31, p. 2 of 2 (incorporating dictates of Local Rule 15.1 and indicating that an amended complaint must be complete in and of itself); Doc. 28.) Due to Plaintiff's pro se status, the court will turn to the properly pleaded portions of Plaintiff's original complaint, as amended, despite the fact that the amended complaint 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 sentence of 24 to 48 months of incarceration following his convictions on October 11, 2011, in the Fulton County Court of Common Pleas for burglary, simple assault, and criminal mischief, arising from his actions on February 2, 2011, involving the unlawful entry into a dwelling. ( See Doc. 1, ¶ 13; Doc. 32-1.) Plaintiff presumably 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 Roger Sheffield, a state police officer stationed at the McConnellsburg Pennsylvania State Police Barracks ("McConnellsburg Barracks"), established probable cause for his application for an arrest warrant by "harassing the alleged victim[, ] Travis Smith[, ] into cooperating by searching [the victim's] residence looking for firearms and narcotics." (Doc. 1, ¶ 20.) According to Plaintiff, this was done after Smith refused to cooperate. ( Id. ) On or about February 11, 2011, a search of Smith's residence was conducted, during which Defendant Joseph Horton, another state police officer stationed at the McConnellsburg Barracks, assisted. ( See id. at ¶ 23.) At this time, Smith identified the perpetrator only by the name "Benny." ( See generally id. ) Plaintiff further alleges that, on March 1, 2011, "before an identification procedure had taken place, " Defendant William D. Baker, a supervising corporal stationed at the McConnellsburg Barracks, sent an email that identified Benny as Plaintiff and that no officer inquired into how Defendant Baker had established the identity of Benny, despite the identification being conducted "without no [sic] physical evidence nor forensic evidence." ( See id. at ¶¶ 15-17.) Plaintiff further alleges that the photographic lineup presented by Defendant Sheffield to Smith was unduly suggestive. ( Id. at ¶ 18.) Plaintiff included Defendant Charles E. Gleichman, another supervising corporal also stationed at the McConnellsburg Barracks, as a defendant in the action on the basis of his supervisory positions and due to his "encourag[ing] and condon[ing]" his subordinate's actions. ( Id. at ¶¶ 16, 22.) As relief for these alleged constitutional violations, Plaintiff seeks declaratory[1] and injunctive relief and both compensatory and punitive damages. ( Id. at ¶¶ 24-28.)

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff initiated this action by filing a complaint on July 8, 2013. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff asserted his claims against Defendants in both their official and individual capacities. ( Id. at ¶ 9; 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. 26.) On November 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for entry of default (Doc. 24), which the court denied as premature on December 2, 2013 (Doc. 25).

On December 13, 2013, Plaintiff filed a motion to amend his complaint, 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 Doc. 27.) 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 21 days after service of Defendants' responsive pleading or motion filed under Rule 12(b), (e), or (f), whichever was earlier. (Doc. 28.) On January 6, 2014, Defendants filed a joint motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted (Doc. 29), followed by a brief in support thereof on January 10, 2014 (Doc. 32). In response to a request from Plaintiff filed on January 8, 2014 ( see Doc. 30), 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. 31).

On January 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed a motion to stay the proceedings. (Doc. 34.) The court denied the stay but granted Plaintiff an extension of time until February 14, 2014, in which he was to comply with the previous orders. (Doc. 35.) Significantly, and in light of similar conduct in several other cases that Plaintiff had initiated, see Kearney v. Hibner, Civ. No. 1:13-cv-1892 (M.D. Pa.); Kearney v. Wadsworth, Civ. No. 1:13-cv-1850 (M.D. Pa.); Kearney v. Davis, Civ. No. 1:13-cv-1852 (M.D. Pa.), the court also set forth the consequences of not filing an opposing brief to a pending motion to dismiss. ( Id. ) 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). Significantly, and again in light of similar conduct in several other cases that Plaintiff had initiated, see Kearney v. Hibner, Civ. No. 1:13-cv-1892 (M.D. Pa.); Kearney v. Wadsworth, Civ. No. 1:13-cv-1850 (M.D. Pa.); Kearney v. Davis, Civ. No. 1:13-cv-1852 (M.D. Pa.), the court advised Plaintiff that no further extensions of time would be granted. ( Id. )

On March 5, 2014, Plaintiff filed an amended complaint, which was noncompliant with the Local Rules and court orders, inasmuch as it was not complete in and of itself, but rather only referenced the original complaint. (Doc. 38.) Also on March 5, 2014, Defendants filed a renewed motion to dismiss, indicating that they elected to rely upon the grounds set forth in their January 10, 2014 brief in support. (Doc. 39.) On March 21, 2014, Plaintiff filed yet another motion seeking an extension of time (Doc. 40), which the court denied by order dated March 24, 2014 (Doc. 41). Based on the record, 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). Even liberally ...


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