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Kintzel v. Orlandi

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

April 21, 2017

FAITH KINTZEL, Plaintiff
v.
DANTE ORLANDI, WILLIAM E. TUCKER, CORPORAL WISE, AND KATHY JO WINTERBOTTOM, PA. STATE POLICE, Defendants

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE

         Before the court is the defendants' motion to dismiss filed pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. 31). For the following reasons, the court will grant the motion.

         Background

         Plaintiff Faith Kintzel (hereinafter “plaintiff”) alleges that Pennsylvania State Police Officer Stephan Kleeman (hereinafter “Officer Kleeman”) sexually assaulted her in June of 2010. (See Doc. 29, Am. Compl. (hereinafter “Am. Compl.”)). Specifically, she avers that Officer Kleeman used the threat of pending prosecution to force her to have sex with him. (Id. ¶¶ 9-36). Plaintiff further alleges that Officer Kleeman and four other state police officers, Dante Orlandi, William E. Tucker, Corporal Wise, and Kathy Winterbottom (hereinafter the “state police defendants”), withheld evidence and engaged in a cover-up that deprived her of meaningful access to judicial remedies through a lawsuit against Officer Kleeman. (Id. ¶¶ 37-66).

         Plaintiff initiated this action against Officer Kleeman and the state police defendants pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (hereinafter “section 1983”) on November 20, 2014, alleging: Count I, denial of access to the courts; and Count II, conspiracy. (See Doc. 1, Compl.). Prior to initiating this action, plaintiff sued Officer Kleeman in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on May 17, 2012 (hereinafter “Kintzel I”), alleging false arrest, false imprisonment, excessive force, due process violations, sexual assault and battery, and loss of consortium. (See 3:13-cv-163, Doc. 1, Compl.). On January 23, 2013, Kintzel I was transferred to this court. The parties agreed to settle the matter for $23, 000.00, [1] and we dismissed the case on August 17, 2016. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 47, 64; 3:13-cv-163, Doc. 161).

         On June 30, 2015, prior to Kintzel I's settlement and dismissal, we dismissed the instant action without prejudice for lack of ripeness. (Docs. 27 and 28). On November 14, 2016, after Kintzel I's settlement and dismissal, plaintiff filed an amended complaint in the instant action (Doc. 29), as well as an entirely new lawsuit alleging the same claims.[2] (See 3:16-cv-2493, Doc. 1, Compl.). We reopened this case on January 6, 2017 (Doc. 30), and consolidated plaintiff's new lawsuit with this one on January 27, 2017. (Doc. 33).

         On January 27, 2017, the state police defendants moved to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. (Doc. 31). The parties have briefed their respective positions and the matter is ripe for disposition.

         Jurisdiction

         Because this case is brought pursuant to section 1983, the court has jurisdiction pursuant to 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.”).

         Legal Standard

         The state police defendants filed the instant motion to dismiss plaintiff's amended complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). The court tests the sufficiency of the complaint's allegations when considering a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. All well-pleaded allegations of the complaint must be viewed as true and in the light most favorable to the non-movant to determine whether, “‘under any reasonable reading of the pleadings, the plaintiff may be entitled to relief.'” Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 665-66 (3d Cir. 1988) (quoting Estate of Bailey by Oare v. Cty. of York, 768 F.2d 503, 506 (3d Cir. 1985)). The plaintiff must describe “‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' [each] necessary element” of the claims alleged in the complaint. Phillips v. Cty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)). Moreover, the plaintiff must allege facts that “justify moving the case beyond the pleadings to the next stage of litigation.” Id. at 234-35. In evaluating the sufficiency of a complaint, the court may also 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) (citations omitted). The court need not accept legal conclusions or unwarranted factual inferences. See Curay-Cramer v. Ursuline Acad. of Wilmington, Del., Inc., 450 F.3d 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2006) (citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)).

         Discussion

         The state police defendants move to dismiss plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), arguing that plaintiff has failed to plead facts sufficient to satisfy the elements of her section 1983 claims for denial of access to the courts and conspiracy. Section 1983 provides a civil remedy for the “deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws.” 42 U.S.C. § 1983. “To state a claim under section 1983, a plaintiff must demonstrate that ‘some person has deprived him of a federal right . . . [and] that the person who has deprived him of that right acted under the color of state or territorial law.'” Halsey v. Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 290 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Gomez v. Toledo, 446 U.S. 635, 640 (1980)). Thus, “[t]he threshold issue in any [section] 1983 lawsuit is whether the plaintiff has sufficiently alleged a deprivation of a constitutional right.” L.R. v. Sch. Dist. of Phila., 836 F.3d 235, 241 (3d Cir. 2016).

         Here, the parties do not contest whether the state police defendants acted under state law. Rather, they dispute whether the state police defendants deprived plaintiff of her constitutional rights. As previously stated, Count I of the complaint asserts a section 1983 denial of access to the ...


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