United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
Richard Caputo United States District Judge.
before me is the Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 5) filed by
Defendants the City of Nanticoke (the “City”) and
Police Chief Thomas Wall (“Wall”) (collectively,
where appropriate, “Defendants”). Plaintiff Amos
Vanderhoff (“Vanderhoff” or
“Plaintiff”), a City police officer, alleges
Defendants imposed a prior restraint on his speech and
interfered with his right to intimate association in
violation of the United States Constitution. Defendants have
moved to dismiss both claims. Because the Amended Complaint
fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the
motion to dismiss will be granted, but Vanderhoff will be
granted leave to file a further amended complaint.
facts as alleged in the Amended Complaint are as follows:
Vanderhoff is employed by the City as a police officer.
(See Doc. 3, ¶ 1). Wall is the City's
Police Chief. (See id. at ¶ 3).
about May 21, 2018, Vanderhoff was told by Wall “that
he is not allowed to talk about Defendant Wall to the public
and that his family has to do the same as well, including but
not limited to his cousin, who owes [sic] a beauty shop in
the City of Nanticoke.” (Id. at ¶ 10).
Vanderhoff “has been issued a written warning and
threatened with discipline if he and his family does [sic]
not stop talking about Defendant Wall.” (Id.
at ¶ 14). Additionally, Wall “specifically made
mention of Plaintiff's cousin, who owes [sic] a beauty
shop and if she does not stop talking about Defendant Wall[,
] Plaintiff will be disciplined further.” (Id.
at ¶ 16).
on the foregoing, Vanderhoff commenced this action on May 22,
2018 against the City and Wall. (See Doc. 1,
generally). Vanderhoff filed the Amended Complaint
the next day. (See Doc. 3, generally).
Therein, Plaintiff asserts claims for “prior restraint
of speech” (Count I) and “retaliation for
intimate association” (Count II). (See id.).
filed a motion to dismiss the Amended Complaint on June 11,
2018. (See Doc. 5, generally). That motion
has now been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal
of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 12(b)(6). “Under the ‘notice
pleading' standard embodied in Rule 8 of the Federal
Rules of Civil Procedure, a plaintiff must come forward with
‘a short and plain statement of the claim showing that
the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Thompson
v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142, 147 (3d
Cir. 2014) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2)).
resolving a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, “a court must
consider no more than whether the complaint establishes
‘enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that
discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary elements'
of the cause of action.” Trzaska v. L'Oreal
USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017) (quoting
Connelly v. Lane Constr. Corp., 809 F.3d 780, 789
(3d Cir. 2016)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint,
a court must take three steps: (1) identify the elements of
the claim; (2) identify conclusions that are not entitled to
the assumption of truth; and (3) assume the veracity of the
well-pleaded factual allegations and determine whether they
plausibly give rise to an entitlement to relief. See
Connelly, 809 F.3d at 787 (citations omitted). “To
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, 129 S.Ct.
1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (quoting Bell Atl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d
Count I of the Amended Complaint, Vanderhoff contends that
Defendants violated his First Amendment rights by imposing a
prior restraint on his speech. Count II of the Amended
Complaint alleges Defendants interfered with Vanderhoff's
right to intimately associate with his cousin. Defendants
seek dismissal of both claims.