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Lebeau v. Raith

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

May 23, 2017

MAUREEN LEBEAU, Plaintiff,
v.
MICHAEL W. RAITH, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM

          GENE E.K. PRATTER United States District Judge

         Maureen LeBeau brings this action against (i) Delaware County Adult Probation and Parole (“DCAPP”), Leanne Montgomery, Michael Raith, Danielle Hibberd, and Christine Katch (the “Probation Defendants”), and (ii) Community Education Centers, Inc. (“CEC”), George W. Hill Correctional Facility (“GWHCF”), [1] James Mattera, and Ms. Cummings (the “Prison Defendants”). Ms. LeBeau alleges violations of federal and state law arising out of her arrest and detention in connection with a bench warrant. Ms. LeBeau alleges that the bench warrant was issued because Ms. Montgomery improperly reported that Ms. LeBeau was not in compliance with the conditions of her probation. Ms. LeBeau asserts (i) Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendment claims against all defendants, (ii) a Monell claim against DCAPP and CEC, (iii) a state law claim for false imprisonment against all defendants, (iv) a state law claim for false arrest against the Probation Defendants, (v) a state law claim for negligence against the Prison Defendants, and (vi) a state law claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress against the Prison Defendants. The Probation and Prison Defendants moved to dismiss the claims against them. For the reasons that follow, the Probation Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part and the Prison Defendants' motion is granted in its entirety.

         I. Allegations in the Complaint

         Ms. LeBeau entered into a guilty plea in August 2013 in connection with a DUI charge. A condition of Ms. LeBeau's guilty plea was to complete a drug and alcohol counseling evaluation. While Ms. LeBeau completed the evaluation and submitted the certificate of completion in a timely manner to Ms. Montgomery, her probation officer, Ms. Montgomery purposefully failed to record Ms. LeBeau's completion of the drug and alcohol counseling evaluation. Ms. Montgomery then “wrongly and with malice reported . . . that [Ms. LeBeau] was out of compliance with the conditions of her probation.” Compl. ¶ 24 (Doc. No. 1). This resulted in a bench warrant being issued for Ms. LeBeau's arrest. Ms. LeBeau was not aware of the bench warrant's existence.

         On January 15, 2015, Ms. LeBeau was arrested in Delaware County during a routine traffic stop as a result of the outstanding bench warrant. Following the arrest, Ms. LeBeau was taken into custody on a 72-hour warrant and detained at GWHCF. Ms. LeBeau was not permitted a phone call, [2] allowed any visitors, or given the opportunity to speak with a judge. Prison personnel did not inform Ms. LeBeau that an outstanding bench warrant was the basis for her arrest and detention until after Ms. LeBeau had already been detained for several days. Ms. LeBeau repeatedly complained to prison personnel that her detention was in error, but prison personnel took no immediate action to investigate Ms. LeBeau's complaints. Ms. LeBeau was only able to speak with a case manager after “many days” of complaints. After speaking with a case manager, Ms. LeBeau was permitted to call her probation officer.[3] Ms. LeBeau was released after speaking with her probation officer. Ms. LeBeau's detention lasted for 8 days.

         II. Legal Standard

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) authorizes testing the legal sufficiency of a complaint. Although Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 requires only “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, ” in order to “give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests, ” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted) (alteration in original), the plaintiff must provide “more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do.” Id. (citation omitted).

         To survive a motion to dismiss, the plaintiff must plead “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Specifically, “[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level . . . .” Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citations omitted). The question is not whether the claimant will ultimately prevail, but whether the complaint is “sufficient to cross the federal court's threshold.” Skinner v. Switzer, 562 U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011).

         To decide a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the Court may look only to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel, 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). The Court may also consider documents that are “integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint . . . without converting the motion [to dismiss] into one for summary judgment.” In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). The Court must accept as true all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Angelastro v. Prudential-Bache Sec., Inc., 764 F.2d 939, 944 (3d Cir. 1985). Likewise, the Court must accept as true all reasonable inferences that may be drawn from the allegations, and view those facts and inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party. See Rocks v. City of Phila., 868 F.2d 644, 645 (3d Cir. 1989).

         Additionally, a district court can grant a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) based on the legal insufficiency of the claim. Kalick v. United States, 604 F. App'x. 108, 111 (3d Cir. 2015). In moving to dismiss a claim pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a party may challenge a court's jurisdiction either facially (based on the legal sufficiency of the claim) or factually (based on the sufficiency of jurisdictional fact). Endl v. New Jersey, 5 F.Supp.3d 689, 695-96 (D.N.J. 2014). Dismissal under a facial challenge is proper “only when the claim clearly appears to be immaterial and made solely for the purpose of obtaining jurisdiction . . . or is wholly insubstantial and frivolous.” Medtronic Vascular, Inc. v. Boston Sci. Corp, 348 F.Supp.2d 316, 321 (D. Del. 2004) (internal quotation marks omitted). In this circumstance, a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in the complaint. Id.

         Where subject matter jurisdiction “in fact” is challenged, the trial court's very power to hear the case is at issue, and the court is therefore “free to weigh the evidence and satisfy itself as to the power to hear the case.” Mortensen v. First Fed. Sav. & Loan Ass'n, 549 F.2d 884, 891 (3d Cir. 1977). In such an attack pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), “no presumptive truthfulness attaches to plaintiff's allegations, and the existence of disputed material facts will not preclude the trial court from evaluating for itself the merits of jurisdictional claims.” Carpet Group Int'l v. Oriental Rug Importers Ass'n, Inc., 227 F.3d 62, 69 (3d Cir. 2000). Where a defendant attacks a court's factual basis for exercising subject matter jurisdiction, the plaintiff must meet the burden of proving that jurisdiction is appropriate. Id.

         III. Discussion

         A. Claims Against DCAPP

         Ms. LeBeau's claims against DCAPP fail on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds. The Eleventh Amendment prohibits suits against states and state agencies and departments. Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 100 (1984). Non-consenting states are immune from suit both from their own citizens and citizens of other states. Emps. of Dep't of Public Health & Welfare, Mo. v. Dep't of Public Health & Welfare, Mo., 411 U.S. 279, 280 (1973). Probation and parole departments are state entities for Eleventh Amendment immunity purposes. Haybarger v. Lawrence Cty. Adult Probation & Parole, 551 F.3d 193, 198 (3d Cir. 2008); Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa., 426 F.3d 233, 241 (3d Cir. 2005).

         Eleventh Amendment immunity “deprives federal courts of subject matter jurisdiction.” Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 693 n.2 (3d Cir. 1996). There are three primary exceptions to Eleventh Amendment immunity: (i) congressional abrogation, (ii) waiver by the state, and (iii) suits against individual state officials for prospective injunctive and declaratory relief. Pa. Fed'n of Sportsmen's Clubs, Inc. v. Hess, 297 F.3d 310, 323 (3d Cir. 2002). None of these exceptions are applicable here.

         First, § 1983 does not abrogate states' Eleventh Amendment immunity. Will v. Mich. Dep't of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 76 (1989); Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, 345 (1979). Second, Pennsylvania has not waived its right to rely on Eleventh Amendment immunity. See 1 Pa.C.S. 2310; 42 Pa.C.S. 8522(b). Last, this suit does not seek prospective injunctive and declaratory relief. Accordingly, the Court must dismiss with prejudice all claims against DCAPP pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. See Ward v. Pa., No. 14-17, 2014 WL 4682067, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 22, 2014) (dismissing federal law claims against DCAPP on Eleventh Immunity grounds for lack of subject matter jurisdiction).

         B. Official Capacity Claims Against the Individual Probation Defendants

         Eleventh Amendment immunity extends to official capacity suits for damages against probation and parole department employees. J.C. v. Ford, --- F. App'x ---, 2016 WL 7422700, at *1 (3d Cir. Dec. 23, 2016); see also 1 Pa.C.S. 2310. Accordingly, the Court must dismiss with prejudice all official capacity claims against Defendants Raith, Hibberd, Katch, and Montgomery for the reasons stated above.

         C. Section 1983 Claims Against the Individual Defendants in their Individual Capacities

         Section 1983 affords individuals with a remedy when state actors violate their federally protected rights. See Kopec v. Tate, 361 F.3d 772, 775-76 (3d Cir. 2004). In order to make out a cognizable § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must establish “that a person acting under color of law deprived him of a federal right.” Berg v. Cty. of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261, 268 (3d Cir. 2000). In order to sustain a § 1983 claim against an individual acting under the color of state law, a plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant was personally involved in the alleged violations of his or her federal rights. Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). “Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence.” Id. Ms. LeBeau argues that Ms. Montgomery caused her unconstitutional arrest and detention by improperly reporting that Ms. LeBeau was not in compliance with her guilty plea agreement. The complaint does not contain any allegations that are specific to Defendants Raith, Hibberd, Katch, Cummings, or Mattera.

         1. Claims Against Ms. Montgomery

         a. Fourth Amendment False Arrest/Imprisonment Claim

         Section 1983 claims for false arrest implicate the Fourth Amendment's guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures. Berg, 219 F.3d at 269. A § 1983 false imprisonment claim similarly implicates the Fourth Amendment when it “is based on an arrest made without probable cause.” Groman v. Twp. of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 636 (3d Cir. 1995). Accordingly, the Court will interpret Ms. LeBeau's § 1983 false arrest and imprisonment claims against Ms. Montgomery as arising under the Fourth Amendment.

         To prevail on a Fourth Amendment false arrest claim, a plaintiff must demonstrate that he or she was arrested without probable cause. Berg, 219 F.3d at 269. A warrant issued without proper justification cannot provide probable cause for an arrest. Id. at 269-70. A government official that causes an individual's arrest without probable cause is as liable for a Fourth Amendment violation as the government official who carries out the arrest. Id. at 272. “It is thus clear that § 1983 liability for an unlawful arrest can extend beyond the arresting officer to other officials whose intentional actions set the arresting officer in motion.” Id.

         Ms. Montgomery argues that Ms. LeBeau has failed to state a viable Fourth Amendment claim against her because there is no allegation that Ms. Montgomery (i) actually arrested Ms. LeBeau, (ii) actually requested the bench warrant, or (iii) acted intentionally. Alternatively, Ms. Montgomery asserts that she is entitled to qualified immunity.

         Reading the complaint in the light most favorable to Ms. LeBeau, the Court finds that Ms. LeBeau has stated a plausible Fourth Amendment claim against Ms. Montgomery for causing her unlawful arrest and detention. Ms. LeBeau alleges that (i) she submitted the drug and alcohol evaluation completion certificate to Ms. Montgomery in satisfaction of the requirements of her guilty plea agreement, (ii) Ms. Montgomery willfully refused to record receipt of the certificate, (iii) Ms. Montgomery maliciously reported that Ms. LeBeau was not in compliance with the conditions of her probation, and (iv) Ms. Montgomery's actions caused her unlawful arrest and detention. These allegations are sufficient to survive a motion to dismiss. See Johnson v. City of Phila., No. 13-2963, 2013 WL 4014565, at *4 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 7, 2013) (finding that an allegation that a police officer intentionally sought a bench warrant unsupported by probable cause adequately pleaded a Fourth Amendment violation); Duffy v. Cty. of Bucks, 7 F.Supp.2d 569, 579 (E.D. ...


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