United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
CHARLES E. JOHNSON, Plaintiff,
ERIE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.
OPINION AND ORDER
SUSAN PARADISE BAXTER, Magistrate Judge.
A. Relevant Procedural and Factual History
On January 21, 2014, Plaintiff Charles E. Johnson, an inmate incarcerated at the Erie County Prison in Erie, Pennsylvania ("ECP"), filed a pro se civil rights complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Defendants Erie County and WJET 24 News ("WJET") [ECF No. 6]. Plaintiff alleges that, while he was a pretrial detainee in the Erie County Prison on November 13, 2013, Defendant WJET erroneously displayed his picture when it reported the conviction and sentence of another individual named Charles Johnson. (ECF No. 6, Complaint, at Section IV.A, C). Plaintiff claims that this error deprived him of his Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial, and violated his rights under Article I, Section 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. ( Id., Section IV.C). As relief for his claims, Plaintiff seeks injunctive relief in the form of "a change of venue to Michigan" and "waived mandatory minimum, " as well as monetary damages. ( Id. at Section VI).
On March 26, 2014, Defendant Erie County filed a motion to dismiss [ECF No. 11], arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff has failed to allege any factual basis to establish municipal liability under Monell v. Department of Social Services , 436 U.S. 658 (1978). On April 29, 2014, Defendant WJET filed a motion to dismiss complaint or, in the alternative, for summary judgment [ECF No. 21], arguing, inter alia, that Plaintiff's allegations fail to establish that Jet was acting under color of state law so as to subject it to liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, both Defendants argue that the Pennsylvania Constitution does not create a private cause of action for damages. Despite having been granted ample time to do so, Plaintiff has failed to file a response to either Defendant's motion. This matter is now ripe for consideration.
B. Standards of Review
1. Motion to Dismiss
A motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and all the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be accepted as true. Erickson v. Pardus , 551 U.S. 89, 93-94 (2007). A complaint must be dismissed pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) if it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)(rejecting the traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v. Gibson , 355 U.S. 41 (1957)). See also Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662 (2009) (specifically applying Twombly analysis beyond the context of the Sherman Act).
The Court need not accept inferences drawn by plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employee Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp. , 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004) citing Morse v. Lower Merion School Dist. , 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555, citing Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). "Factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Twombly , 550 U.S. at 555. Although the United States Supreme Court does "not require heightened fact pleading of specifics, [the Court does require] enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Id. at 570.
In other words, at the motion to dismiss stage, a plaintiff is "required to make a showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an entitlement to relief." Smith v. Sullivan , 2008 WL 482469, at *1 (D.Del. February 19, 2008) quoting Phillips v. County of Allegheny , 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008). "This does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage, ' but instead simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element." Phillips , 515 F.3d at 234, quoting Twombly , 550 U.S. at 556.
The Third Circuit Court has prescribed the following three-step approach to determine the sufficiency of a complaint under Twombly and Iqbal:
First, the court must tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.' Second, the court should identify allegations that, because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.' Finally, where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.'
Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc. , 662 F.3d 212, 221 (3d Cir. 2011), citing Santiago v. Warminster Twp. , 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947, 1950); see also Great Western Mining & Min. ...