United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
SHANICQUA S. APONTE, Plaintiff,
BOROUGH OF POTTSTOWN, MARK FLANDERS, MONTGOMERY COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, MONTGOMERY COUNTY PENNSYLVANIA, and RICHARD BURBERRY, Defendants.
se Plaintiff Shanicqua Aponte brings this case asserting
constitutional due process claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1983
against Defendants Borough of Pottstown, Pottstown Borough
Manager Mark Flanders, Montgomery County, the Montgomery
County District Attorney's Office, and Montgomery County
Assistant District Attorney Richard Bradbury,  alleging that all
Defendants unlawfully withheld exculpatory evidence from
Plaintiff during a criminal trial in Montgomery County, in
violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).
All Defendants have filed motions to dismiss Plaintiffs
claims. Those motions shall be granted.
to her Amended Complaint,  Plaintiff was arrested after a dispute
with her landlord regarding an eviction from her apartment,
and subsequently charged with trespassing, disorderly
conduct, and resisting arrest. In advance of a preliminary
hearing in her criminal matter, Plaintiff requested from
prosecutors video footage from thirteen surveillance cameras
in the Pottstown Police Station showing her arrival and
detention after her arrest, which she contends undermines the
charges against her. After her request for the footage was
denied in November 2015, she submitted a Right-to-Know
request to the Borough of Pottstown (the "Borough")
and Borough Manager Mark Flanders, seeking the same footage.
Her Right-to-Know request was denied in January 2016, and her
criminal charges proceeded in the Montgomery County Court of
Common Pleas. She then filed an appeal of the denial of her
Right-to-Know request with the state Office of Open Records
2016, Plaintiff requested a continuance of a pre-trial
hearing in her criminal trial so that she could obtain the
video. In July 2016, Plaintiff won OOR reversal of the
Borough's denial of her records request. The following
week, Assistant District Attorney Richard Bradbury met with
Borough officials. After that meeting, Plaintiff received a
copy of the video from Bradbury that she claims she could not
view. In August 2016, at a second pre-trial conference, the
court ordered the Montgomery County District Attorney's
Office (the "District Attorney's Office") to
permit Plaintiff to view the surveillance video. After
viewing the video, Plaintiff requested another continuance,
claiming that she had not been shown the entire video footage
of herself at the police station on the day of her arrest.
Plaintiff then attempted to speak with Bradbury's
supervisor about the production of the video, and was
allegedly threatened with arrest.
the Borough filed a petition for review of the OOR's
decision in the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas. As
of the filing of Plaintiff s Amended Complaint in this case,
neither the District Attorney's Office nor the Borough
had given Plaintiff the entire span of surveillance footage
that she requested - purportedly more than four hours of
footage, taken from thirteen camera recordings. Instead,
Plaintiff alleges, she was shown only "selected
footage" of four shots.
pled guilty to several of the charges against her on February
survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain
sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a
claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting
Bell Ail. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). "In light of Twombly, it is no longer
sufficient to allege mere elements of a cause of action;
instead a complaint must allege facts suggestive of [the
proscribed] conduct." Great W. Mining & Mineral
Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP', 615 F.3d 159, 177 (3d
Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted).
the Supreme Court's rulings in Twombly and
Iqbal, the Third Circuit requires a two-step
analysis when reviewing a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Edwards
v. A.H. Cornell & Son, Inc., 610 F.3d 217, 219 (3d
Cir. 2010). First, a court should separate the factual and
legal elements of a claim, accepting the facts and
disregarding the legal conclusions. Fowler v. UPMC
Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009). In doing
so, the Court must construe the facts and draw all reasonable
inferences in the light most favorable to the plaintiff.
Santomenno ex rel John Hancock Trust v. John Hancock Life
Ins. Co. (U.S.A.), 768 F.3d 284, 290 (3d Cir. 2014).
second step of the analysis, a court must determine whether
the well-pled facts sufficiently show that the plaintiff
"has a 'plausible claim for relief"
Fowler, 578 F.3d at 211 (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 679). A plaintiff need not show that success on his
or her claims is probable, but must assert '"enough
facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of" each necessary element in a claim.
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234
(3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556).
However, '"[w]here a complaint pleads facts that are
merely consistent with a defendant's liability, it stops
short of the line between possibility and plausibility of
entitlement to relief" Bistrian v. Levi, 696
F.3d 352, 365 (3d Cir. 2012) (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 678). At bottom, the question is not whether the
claimant "will ultimately prevail . . . but whether
[her] complaint [is] sufficient to cross the federal
court's threshold." Skinner v. Switzer, 562
U.S. 521, 529-30 (2011) (internal quotation marks and
claims are based on the premise that both Bradbury and
Flanders failed to turn over to Plaintiff exculpatory
evidence in advance of her trial (i.e., the police
station surveillance video), in violation of the right
articulated in Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83
(1963). In Brady, the Supreme Court held that
withholding evidence material to either guilt or punishment
is a violation of the Due Process Clause. Id. at 87.
Although she has cited the Fifth, Ninth, and Fourteenth
Amendments in her Amended Complaint, only the Fourteenth
Amendment provides an appropriate basis for her claims. The
Fifth Amendment applies to federal government action
- not local government actions, which are at issue in this
case. See Nguyen v. U.S. Catholic Conference, 719
F.2d 52, 54 (3d Cir. 1983). And "the Ninth Amendment
does not independently provide a source of individual
constitutional rights." Perry v. Lackawanna Cty.
Children & Youth Servs., 345 F.App'x 723, 726
(3d Cir. 2009). Thus, Plaintiffs claims fall under only the
Fourteenth Amendment, and, to the extent that Plaintiff has
asserted claims under the Fifth and Ninth Amendments, the
claims under those two amendments shall be dismissed with
respect to the Fourteenth Amendment, each Defendant seeks
dismissal of Plaintiff s claims on a unique basis, so the