United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Fischer U.S. District Judge.
Bethany Ann Pazicni brings this action under 42 U.S.C. §
1983, alleging various violations of her constitutional
rights as well as a state-law claim for intentional
infliction of emotional distress (“IIED”) against
Defendants Russell P. Miller, the Chief of Police of South
Connellsville Borough; Allen Clarke; and South Connellsville
Borough. (Docket No. 29). Defendants move to dismiss
Plaintiff's complaint for failure to state a claim
pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure
12(b)(6). (Docket Nos. 30, 32). The motions have been
fully briefed and are ripe for disposition. (Docket Nos. 31,
33-39, 42). For the reasons that follow, the motions will be
is a member of the Grubbs family, which is well known in
South Connellsville for its support for the Borough's
volunteer Fire Department. (Docket No. 29 ¶ 10).
According to Plaintiff, Miller “has a demonstrable
vendetta against the South Connellsville Fire Department and
its supporters[, ]” which he has allegedly carried out
by “target[ing] Fire Department supporters” with
“baseless criminal charges.” (Id.).
is Plaintiff's ex-boyfriend and the father of her child.
(Id. ¶ 12). After their relationship soured,
Plaintiff obtained a PFA order against Clarke. (Id.
¶ 14). Clarke has what Plaintiff describes as “an
unusually friendly and inappropriate relationship with the
Police Department of South Connellsville Borough, namely
Miller and Officers Alex Byers and Frank Neal.”
(Id. ¶ 16). “[D]uring early to
mid-September 2016, Clarke and Miller began to meet and
conspire to exploit and violate [Plaintiff's] civil
liberties[.]” (Id.). To that end, on September
9, 2016, Miller, “at Clarke's urging, ”
issued Plaintiff two non-traffic citations - one for
disorderly conduct and one for harassment. (Id.
¶¶ 21-21). The first citation, which charged
Plaintiff with disorderly conduct, alleged that Plaintiff was
driving past Clarke's residence “causing alarm and
inconvenience” and “making threats to alarm
residents.” (Id. ¶ 20). The second
citation, which charged Plaintiff with harassment, alleged
that she was sending harassing text messages to Clark and
“[d]riving around [his] residence and following
him.” (Id. ¶ 21). According to Plaintiff,
these events “never took place.” (Id.
¶ 19). A summary trial was scheduled for January 9,
2017, but Miller failed to appear and the magistrate
dismissed the citations. (Id. ¶ 25).
Clarke continued to harass Plaintiff by driving past her
house at all hours of the day and engaging in other conduct
that Plaintiff believed violated the PFA order. (Id.
¶ 38). Plaintiff and her mother repeatedly reported the
alleged harassment to the South Connellsville Police
Department, but to no avail. (Id. ¶ 26).
Instead, according to Plaintiff, “Miller and his police
department took overt affirmative actions to suppress and
obstruct [Plaintiff's] ability to report violations to
the police.” (Id.). For example, the last time
Plaintiff and her mother reported the alleged PFA violations
to Miller, Miller told “her that he ‘did not care
to hear about any further alleged violations of the
Order' and that if she ‘did report any further
violations she would be charged with disorderly
conduct.'” (Id. ¶ 27). Miller also
told Plaintiff that any additional alleged violations of the
PFA order should be reported “by reaching out to the
officer on duty via their individual Facebook page.”
October 11, 2016, Miller was charged with official oppression
by the Fayette County District Attorney's Office
“for using his position as Chief of Police to
intimidate and stifle the protected free speech [of] resident
Mary Lubich-Riley, who is affiliated with the South
Connellsville Volunteer Fire Department[.]”
(Id. ¶ 31). He has since been placed on
restricted duty. (Id. ¶ 32). Plaintiff alleges
that “Miller's suppression of the constitutional
rights of Borough citizens through actions of malicious
prosecution was ongoing during his term as Chief of
Police.” (Id. ¶ 33). As an example,
Plaintiff alleges that Miller had criminal charges filed
against Amanda Burnsworth in September 2015, which were
dismissed at a preliminary hearing. (Id. ¶ 34).
And in the spring of 2016, Miller arrested Kenneth Harshman
and threated to charge him with serious crimes if he
“did not agree to provide a statement that would
implicate other supporters of the Borough Fire
Department.” (Id. ¶ 35).
filed this suit on January 24, 2017. (Docket No. 1). After
Defendants filed a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed an
amended complaint. (Docket No. 29), which includes claims for
malicious prosecution against Miller and Clarke (count I),
failure to train against the Borough (count II),
state-created danger against Miller (count III), a violation
of equal protection against Miller (count IV), municipal
liability against the Borough (count V), civil conspiracy
against Miller and Clarke (count IV), fabrication of evidence
against Miller and Clarke (count VII), and IIED against
Miller and Clarke (count VIII). Defendants now move to
dismiss the amended complaint in its entirety. (Docket Nos.
30, 32). They filed briefs in support of their respective
motions on April 24, 2017. (Docket Nos. 31, 33). Plaintiff
submitted responses and briefs in opposition on May 8, 2017.
(Docket Nos. 34-37). Defendants filed reply briefs on May 22,
2017. (Docket Nos. 38, 39). And, after receiving leave of
Court, on May 30, 2017, Plaintiff filed a sur-reply. (Docket
Standard of Review
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), a complaint must be dismissed if it
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. To
survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, a complaint must include
“enough factual matter” to “‘nudge
[the plaintiff's] claims across the line from conceivable
to plausible.'” Phillips v. Cnty. of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Co. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556, 570
assessing the merits of a claim subject to a motion to
dismiss, the court must engage in a two-part analysis.
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d
Cir. 2009). First, factual and legal elements of a claim must
be distinguished. Id. Second, it must be determined
whether the facts as alleged support a “plausible claim
for relief.” Id. In making the latter
determination, the court must be mindful that the matter
pleaded need not include “detailed factual allegations,
” Phillips, 515 F.3d at 231 (quoting
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555), and the court
must construe all alleged facts, and draw all inferences
gleaned therefrom, in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. Id. at 228 (citing Worldcom,
Inc. v. Graphnet, Inc., 343 F.3d 651, 653 (3d Cir.
2003)). Moreover, a pleading party need only “put forth
allegations that ‘raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary
element[s].'” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 213
(quoting Graff v. Subbiah Cardiology Assoc., Ltd.,
2008 WL 2312671 (W.D. Pa. June 4, 2008)). A well-pleaded
complaint, even when “it strikes a savvy judge that
actual proof of…facts is improbable, ” will not
be dismissed as long as the pleader demonstrates that his or
her claim is plausible. Phillips, 515 F.3d at 234
(quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 -56).
the facts pled do need to raise the expectation of relief
above a purely speculative level, and must include more than
“labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action.” Phillips,
515 F.3d at 231-32 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at
554-56). Rule 8(a)(2) “requires a
‘showing' rather than a blanket assertion of an
entitlement to relief.” Id. at 232.
“[T]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of
action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not
suffice.” Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)).
count I, Plaintiff asserts a malicious prosecution claim
under § 1983 against Defendants Miller and Clarke.
(Docket No. 29). In moving to dismiss this claim, Miller
argues that Plaintiff failed to plead that she suffered a
deprivation of liberty, which Miller says is required to
establish a § 1983 malicious prosecution claim. ...