United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JAMES M. MUNLEY United States District Court Judge
the court for disposition are motions for summary judgment
filed by all the parties in this civil rights action. The
motions have all been briefed and are ripe for disposition.
general facts of this case are that plaintiff Donna Turkos
complained to the Dupont Borough Police about her ex-husband
violating a protection from abuse order (hereinafter
“PFA”). After investigating, the police
determined that no PFA was in effect and arrested the
plaintiff instead of her former husband. Specifically, the
facts are as follows:
Donna Turkos had been married to non-party David Turkos.
Plaintiff obtained a PFA against him. On May 17, 2013,
plaintiff met with Defendant Jason Kwiatkowski, a police
officer for Dupont Borough. She indicated that she had a
valid PFA order against her ex-husband and that he had
violated it. (Doc. 49, Pl.'s Statement of Facts,
(hereinafter “Pl. SOF”) ¶ 2). Instead of
arresting David Turkos, however, on June 19, 2013, Defendant
Kwiatkowski arrested plaintiff and charged her with the
following: 1) Tampering with public records or information,
18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4911(a)(2); 2) False reports
to law enforcement authorities, 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann.
§ 4906(a); and 3) Unsworn falsification to authorities,
18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 4904(a)(1). (Pl. SOF ¶
based the charges on the premise that although she reported
to the police that she had a valid PFA order against David
Turkos, she actually did not have one. (Pl. SOF ¶ 2).
Plaintiff asserts that at the time she did, in fact, have a
valid PFA order against her ex-husband and that she presented
evidence of such to Defendant Kwiatkowski who nonetheless
proceeded with the charges. A full preliminary hearing was
held on the charges at which Defendant Kwiatkowski and David
Turkos testified. After the hearing, the court dismissed the
charges against plaintiff.
plaintiff instituted the instant civil rights action. The
amended complaint asserts the following four causes of
action: 1) violation of plaintiff's First Amendment
rights against Defendants Kwiatkowski and Saranchuk under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 (Doc. 40, Am. Compl. ¶¶ 74-77);
2) Malicious prosecution against Defendants Kwiatkowski and
Saranchuk (Id. ¶¶ 78-84); 3) 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983 against the Defendant Dupont Borough
(Id. ¶¶ 85-87); and 4) Abuse of power
against Defendants Kwiatkowski and Saranchuk. Plaintiff
seeks, inter alia, compensatory damages, punitive
damages and attorneys' fees. (Id. ¶ 91).
case is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a
violation of plaintiff's civil rights, we have
jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district
courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions
arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the
United States”). We have supplemental jurisdiction over
the plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
summary judgment is proper “‘if the pleadings,
depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on
file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the
moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law.'” See Knabe v. Boury, 114
F.3d 407, 410 n.4 (3d Cir. 1997) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)). “[T]his standard provides that the mere
existence of some alleged factual dispute between
the parties will not defeat an otherwise properly supported
motion for summary judgment; the requirement is that there be
no genuine issue of material fact.”
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242,
247-48 (1986) (emphasis in original).
considering a motion for summary judgment, the court must
examine the facts in the light most favorable to the party
opposing the motion. Int'l Raw Materials, Ltd. v.
Stauffer Chem. Co., 898 F.2d 946, 949 (3d Cir. 1990).
The burden is on the moving party to demonstrate that the
evidence is such that a reasonable jury could not return a
verdict for the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S.
at 248 (1986). A fact is material when it might affect the
outcome of the suit under the governing law. Id.
Where the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at
trial, the party moving for summary judgment may meet its
burden by showing that the evidentiary materials of record,
if reduced to admissible evidence, would be insufficient to
carry the non-movant's burden of proof at trial.
Celotex v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). Once
the moving party satisfies its burden, the burden shifts to
the nonmoving party, who must go beyond its pleadings, and
designate specific facts by the use of affidavits,
depositions, admissions, or answers to interrogatories
showing that there is a genuine issue for trial. Id.
the parties have filed motions for summary judgment. We will
address them all in turn beginning with plaintiff's
filed a motion for partial summary judgment regarding
Defendant Kwiatkowski, who is named in Count One and Count
Two of the complaint. She claims that no questions of fact
exist regarding whether Defendant Kwiatkowski, acting under
color of state law, engaged in retaliatory prosecution in
violation of the First Amendment and that he maliciously
prosecuted plaintiff in violation of state law. Accordingly,
plaintiff seeks judgment on these two counts. We will discuss
these counts separately.
First Amendment Retaliation section 1983
one alleges a claim of retaliation for exercise of first
amendment freedom of speech rights. (Doc. 40, Am. Compl.
¶¶ 74-77). Plaintiff claims that she engaged in
protected speech by complaining to the police about alleged
violations of a PFA. Then the police officer to whom she
complained, Defendant Jason Kwiatkowski, retaliated against
her by filing criminal charges against her.
elements of a First Amendment retaliation claim are:
“(1) constitutionally protected conduct, (2)
retaliatory action sufficient to deter a person of ordinary
firmness from exercising his constitutional rights, and (3) a
causal link between the constitutionally protected conduct
and the retaliatory action.” Thomas v. Independence
Twp., 463 F.3d 285, 296 (3d Cir. 2006); Considine v.
Jagodinski, 646 F. App'x 283, 286 (3d Cir. 2016).
Additionally, plaintiff must establish an absence of probable
cause for the charges that were brought. Hartman v.
Moore, 547 U.S. 250, 265 (2006).
first issue that we will discuss is whether the plaintiff can
establish a lack of probable cause for the arrest.
“[P]robable cause to arrest exists when the facts and
circumstances within the arresting officer's knowledge
are sufficient in themselves to warrant a reasonable person
to believe that an offense has been or is being committed ...