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DeForte v. Blocker

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

May 8, 2017

COLONEL TYREE C. BLOCKER, Acting Commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police; CORPORAL JOSEPH R. ZANDARSKI individually and as an Officer in the Pennsylvania State Police, jointly and severally, Defendants.


          Mark R. Hornak, United States District Judge.

         Presently pending in the above-captioned matter is the Plaintiffs motion for reconsideration (ECF No. 16) of the Court's Opinion and Order entered on March 24, 2017 (ECF Nos. 12 and 13) which, in relevant part, dismissed Plaintiffs Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim against Defendant Joseph R. Zandarski. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motion will be denied.

         I. BACKGROUND

         At Count I of the Complaint, Plaintiff asserted a §1983 claim against Zandarski predicated, in part, on a theory of malicious prosecution. To prove such a claim, a plaintiff must show: "(1) the defendant initiated a criminal proceeding; (2) the criminal proceeding ended in his favor; (3) the defendant initiated the proceeding without probable cause; (4) the defendant acted maliciously or for a purpose other than bringing the plaintiff to justice; and (5) the plaintiff suffered deprivation of liberty consistent with the concept of seizure as a consequence of a legal proceeding." Johnson v. Know, Ml F.3d 75, 82 (3d Cir. 2007).

         In moving to dismiss the Complaint, Zandarski challenged only the fifth element. This Court agreed that the requisite deprivation of liberty had not been pled, and it dismissed the claim. In doing so, the Court discussed the concept of "continuing seizures" as it has been applied in two Third Circuit opinions: Gallo v. City of Phila., 161 F.3d 217 (3d Cir. 1998), and Black v. Montgomery Cty.9 835 F.3d 358, 364-65 (3d Cir. 2016), as amended (Sept. 16, 2016).

         The Court concluded that Plaintiff had failed to allege restraints on his liberty that were comparable to those which the plaintiffs in Gallo and Black had experienced:

[DeForte] claims that he was charged by Zandarski for theft of a firearm, theft of the fire hall radios, and theft of the money from the prostitution sting operation. The docket sheet from DeForte's criminal proceeding indicates that these were second-degree felony and first-degree misdemeanor charges, so it is fair to say that the alleged criminal offenses—like the crimes at issue in Gallo and Black— were serious. However, the docket further indicates that DeForte was released on his own recognizance. DeForte does not aver that he was arrested or required to post bond. Further, he does not allege that he was restricted in his travel or required to report to the court on a regular basis prior to the case being nolle prossed. In short, there are no allegations indicating that DeForte was subjected to the type of "onerous" pretrial restrictions that might constitute a Fourth Amendment "seizure." See DiBella v. Borough of Beachwood, 407 F.3d 599, 603 (3d Cir. 2005) (noting that "pretrial custody and some onerous types of pretrial, non-custodial restrictions constitute a Fourth Amendment seizure, " and holding that plaintiffs were not "seized" for purposes of a Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution claim when they were only issued a summons, they appeared in court only at their municipal court trial for criminal trespass, they were never arrested, they never posted bail, they were free to travel, and they did not have to report to pretrial services.).

(Op. at 18-19, ECF No. 12.) Based on this line of analysis, the Court dismissed the §1983 malicious prosecution claim. Because it perceived no grounds upon which the deficiency could be cured through further amendment, the Court dismissed the claim with prejudice. Plaintiff now seeks a reconsideration of the Court's ruling.


         A proper motion for reconsideration "must rely on one of three grounds: (1) an intervening change in controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence; or (3) the need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice." Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010) (citing N. River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)); see also Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e); Allah v. Ricci, 532 F.App'x 48, 51 (3d Cir. 2013) (citations omitted); Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). This Court has previously observed that a motion for reconsideration that "essentially restates, with added vigor, the arguments made previously" does not satisfy this "substantial standard." Peerless Ins. Co. v. Pa. Cyber Charter Sch., 19 F.Supp.3d 635, 651 (W.D. Pa. 2014) (quoting Trunzo v. Citi Mortg., 876 F.Supp.2d 521, 544 (W.D. Pa. 2012)).

         Because Plaintiff has claims still pending before the Court in this litigation, the ruling for which he seeks reconsideration is an interlocutory one. Some courts within this judicial district have applied a more discretionary standard of review where interlocutory rulings are concerned, granting reconsideration "when it is consonant with justice to do so." See, e.g., Sampath v. Concurrent Tech. Corp., No. CIV A 03-264J, 2006 WL 2642417, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 13, 2006) (Gibson, J.) ("For interlocutory orders, greater discretion is invested in the trial court with jurisdiction over the matter; district courts possess 'inherent power over interlocutory orders, and can reconsider them when it is consonant with justice to do so.'")(quoting United States v. Jerry, 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973)); Square D Co. v. Scott Elec. Co., Civil Action No. 06-459, 2008 WL 4877990, at *1 (W.D. Pa. Nov. 12, 2008) (Fischer, J.) (same). Nevertheless, "even in the case of interlocutory orders, 'courts should grant motions for reconsideration sparingly' because of the interest in finality." Square D Co., 2008 WL 4877990, at *1 (quoting Jairett v.

         First Montauk Sec. Corp., 153 F.Supp.2d 562, 580 (E.D. Pa. 2001)); see also Micjan v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., No. CV 14-855, 2017 WL 879634, at *3 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 6, 2017) (Mitchell, M.J.) ("[E]ven those courts that have applied the more lenient standard have held that [w]hile a district court has the inherent power to reconsider an interlocutory order, [c]ourts tend to grant motions for reconsideration sparingly and only upon the grounds traditionally available under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e).") (quoting Morgan v. Hawthorne Homes, Inc., C.A. No. 04-1809, 2010 WL 1286949, at *2 (W.D. Pa. Mar. 31, 2010) (Cohill, J.)) (internal quotation marks omitted; second and third alterations in the original).

         III. ANALYSIS

         Although Plaintiff does not cite the relevant standard of review in his motion, it appears from context that he is arguing only the third basis for reconsideration (i.e., a purported "need to correct clear error of law or prevent manifest injustice"), as no intervening change in the law or new evidence is cited. Plaintiff posits in his motion that this Court "may have overlooked the seizure (of employment) unique to that of police professionals within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, " which occurs "when a policeman merely gets charged with a felonious crime." (Mot. for Reconsideration at 3, ECF No. 17.) The basis of Plaintiff s argument is Pennsylvania's "Confidence in Law Enforcement Act, " 53 Pa. Stat. Ann. §§752.1 et seq. (West), pursuant to which Plaintiff was immediately suspended from his employment as a police officer, pending final disposition of the criminal charges. See Id. §752.4.[1] Plaintiff contends that the "seizure" of his Municipal Police Officers' Education and Training Commission certification, "employment credentials, " and "property interest in his police training" was "immediate and absolute." ...

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