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Lewis-Bey v. Delaware County

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

March 27, 2018

TYRONE LEWIS-BEY, Plaintiff,
v.
DELAWARE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          Slomsky, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Tyrone Lewis-Bey, proceeding pro se, brings this action against Defendants Delaware County, Darby Borough, Darby Borough Police Department and Officer Uffleman pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that his civil rights were violated. (Doc. Nos. 4, 9.) Plaintiff's claims are based on his assertion that he was wrongfully stopped and arrested without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment. (Doc. No. 4.) Plaintiff also claims his rights were violated when the arresting officer, Defendant Officer Uffleman, issued the summons, because he refused to use Plaintiff's Moorish surname and mischaracterized Plaintiff's race. (Id.) He also asserts a claim for civil conspiracy, and seeks punitive damages against Defendants. (Doc. Nos. 4, 9.)

         Defendants have filed two Motions to Dismiss for failure to state a claim. (Doc. Nos. 14-15.) The Motions are ripe for disposition.[1]

         II. BACKGROUND

         On December 22, 2016, Plaintiff left his home on his bicycle around 1:30 a.m. to purchase snacks at a local convenience store. (Doc. No. 4 at 8.) Finding that it was closed, Plaintiff returned home, set down his bicycle, and sat on his front steps to return a text message. (Id. at 9.) At that point, a Darby Borough Police Officer approached Plaintiff, asked for identification, and proceeded to pat him down. (Id. at 9-10.) The officer, later identified as Officer Uffleman, told Plaintiff that he had seen him bicycling suspiciously in an area with a high number of car break-ins. (Id.) Officer Uffleman informed Plaintiff that Plaintiff was in violation of a Darby Borough ordinance that prohibits riding a bicycle after dark without a light. (Id.) He asked Plaintiff for identification, and Plaintiff provided Officer Uffleman with his name. (Id.) Officer Uffleman then checked his computer and found an open arrest warrant for Plaintiff. (Id. at 10.) Officer Uffleman arrested Plaintiff and transported him to the Darby Borough Police station. (Id. at 10-11.)

         At the Darby Borough Police Station, Plaintiff informed Officer Uffleman that he was a Moorish-American National and that the Darby Borough Police Department lacked authority to impede Plaintiff's right to travel. (Id. at 11.) Nevertheless, Officer Uffleman issued him a citation for operating a bicycle at night without a light. (Id.) In his log sheet, Officer Uffleman recorded that Plaintiff was “Black” and refused to record Plaintiff's Moorish surname, “Bey.” (Id.)

         On June 26, 2017, Plaintiff filed his initial Complaint with the Court. (Id.) On August 8, 2017, Defendant Delaware County filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Doc. No. 7.) On August 21, 2017, Defendants Darby Borough, Darby Borough Police Department and Officer Uffleman filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(e). (Doc. No. 12.) On August 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint.[2](Doc. No. 9.) On September 14, 2017, upon consideration of Plaintiff's Amended Complaint, this Court denied as moot Defendant Delaware County's and Defendants Darby Borough, Darby Police Department and Officer Uffleman's Motions to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 30.)

         On August 28, 2017, Defendant Delaware County filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 14.) That same day, Defendants Darby Borough, Darby Borough Police Department and Officer Uffleman filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Amended Complaint Pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and 12(e). (Doc. No. 15.) In addition to his Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 9), Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 13) and a Third Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 16).

         By Order dated September 14, 2017, in addition to denying Defendants' first filed Motions to Dismiss (Doc. Nos. 7, 12) without prejudice as moot in view of the filing of the Amended Complaint, this Court ordered Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 13) and Third Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 16) stricken from the record.[3] (Doc. No. 30.) In late August and early September, Plaintiff filed several Responses in Opposition to Defendants' Motions to Dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 21, 22, 25-29).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The motion to dismiss standard under Rule 12(b)(6) is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). After Iqbal it is clear that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 678; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “To survive dismissal, ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Facial plausibility is “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Instead, “[a] claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678).

         Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third Circuit in Santiago v. Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), set forth a three-part analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:

First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”

Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). The inquiry is normally broken into three parts: “(1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief, it must “show” such an entitlement with its facts. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The “plausibility” determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         Where, as here, the complaint is filed pro se, the “complaint, ‘however inartfully pleaded' must be held to ‘less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers.'” Fatone v. Latini, 780 F.3d 184, 193 (3d Cir. 2015) (quoting Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520-21 (1972)). It should be dismissed only if it appears “beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [his] claim that would entitle [him] to relief.” Ol ...


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