United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
JEREMIAH F. KANE and LOUISE W. KANE, Plaintiffs,
CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA, et al., Defendants.
TIMOTHY R. RICE U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Jeremiah and Louise Kane have filed an amended complaint
alleging that Defendant Chester County, Pennsylvania, and
Individual Defendants, Douglas Waegel, Gerald Dowdall, and
Jane Doe, in their individual and official capacities,
violated Jeremiah Kane's civil rights, defamed him, and
invaded his privacy when they refused to renew his employment
contract. The Kanes also allege that Defendants are liable to
Louise Kane for loss of consortium. Defendants move to
dismiss the Kanes' amended complaint, asserting their
claims fail as a matter of law. See Motion to
Dismiss (doc. 19). Defendants' motion is granted.
dismiss a complaint for “failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). I
must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to
Kane. Burtch v. Milberg Factors, Inc., 662 F.3d 212,
220 (3d Cir. 2011). I then must: (1) note the elements Kane
must plead to state a claim; (2) identify any allegations
that are mere conclusions, not entitled to an assumption of
truth; and (3) assume the veracity of well-pled factual
allegations and determine whether they plausibly give rise to
a claim for relief. Id. at 221 (quoting Santiago
v. Warminister Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010)).
A claim is plausible “when the plaintiff pleads 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) (citing Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S.
544, 556 (2007). The plaintiff must show “more than a
sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. When the complaint does not
state a plausible claim for relief, the motion to dismiss
should be granted. See id.
alleges he is a Pennsylvania attorney who has practiced law
for over 35 years, primarily advocating on behalf of abused
and neglected children. Am. Compl. ¶¶ 2, 22. In
approximately 1992, the Chester County Department of
Children, Youth, and Families (“CYF”) hired Kane
as a guardian ad litem, pursuant to a renewable
one-year at-will contract. Id. ¶ 23. CYF
renewed this contract every year for approximately 20 years
and the majority of Kane's work came from this contract.
Id. ¶¶ 25-26. Kane “developed a
friendly camaraderie with many of his peers and the CYF
employees with whom he worked . . . including Gerald
‘Gerry' Dowdall, a CYF supervisor with whom Mr.
Kane worked closely on multiple guardian ad litem
cases.” Id. ¶ 28.
2009, Kane was appointed to serve as a guardian ad
litem for two young brothers. Id. ¶ 32.
Approximately one year later, Kane learned that the boys were
being abused in their foster home and that CYF employees
failed to notify Kane of the abuse. Id. ¶¶
33-35. In November 2012, Kane, as guardian ad litem
for the boys, filed a civil rights action against Chester
County and certain CYF caseworkers and supervisors
(“the 2012 Lawsuit”). Id. ¶ 36.
Kane's contract was up for renewal the following May, CYF
refused to renew the contract without providing a reason.
Id. ¶ 40. Kane discussed the issue with the
then-President Judge of the Chester County trial court, who
reached out to CYF. Id. ¶¶ 41-42. CYF
subsequently agreed to renew Kane's contract.
Id. ¶¶ 43-44.
renewed Kane's contract each of the next three years as
the 2012 Lawsuit continued. Id. ¶ 46. In August
2016, the lawsuit settled. Id. ¶ 47. Waegel,
the then-acting director of CYF, was present at the court
hearings and settlement conferences. Id.
5, 2017, Waegel sent Kane a letter notifying him that his
contract would not be renewed after it ended on June 30,
2017. Id. ¶¶ 50-51, Ex. A,
5/5/2017 Letter (“May 5 Letter”). Waegel stated
that the decision was based on the “following conduct,
which the County views as unethical, unprofessional, and
harassing, and which has potentially subjected the County to
1. Leaving four harassing telephone voice-mails to a CYF
supervisor in which you impersonated a County employee (in
violation of Section 4912 of Title 18) and gave instruction
to that employee which you were not authorized to give;
2. Leaving four harassing telephone voice-mails to a CYF
supervisor which had the effect of impeding that employee
from discharging his duties;
3. Leaving four harassing telephone voice-mails to a CYF
supervisor while engaged in your position as guardian ad
litem and while in court on a County/GAL matter for
which you submitted invoices for payment to the County, and;
4. Engaging in conduct (set forth above) which calls into
serious question your judgment and ability to act in the best
interest of the children you serve.
May 5 Letter at 1. Waegel asked Kane to “cease and
desist from the harassing conduct expressed above as to any
CYF employee.” Id. He also stated that Kane
would not be assigned additional cases, his current cases
would be reassigned, and CYF would shred his confidential
juvenile files. Id. at 2.
included “a packet of [relevant] information”
with the May 5 Letter. Id. at 1. The first document
was a transcript of three “[v]oicemails to Gerry
Dowdall of CYF.” Id., Attachment, Voicemails.
The callers alleged they were employees of the Chester County
Parking Authority or the Traffic Parking Compliance
Department and accused Dowdall of speedy and careless driving
in County parking facilities. Id. The transcriptions
Mr. Dowdall, this is Tom Jenkins. I talked to you a couple of
months ago. I am from the County Parking Authority and we
have another report of your speedy driving, your careless
driving at approximately 12:15 PM today, Thursday. I believe
at this point we're gonna have to ask you not to park in
the county facilities anymore. If you'd like to discuss
this we will be sending you the paperwork to file an appeal
but pending the appeal we ask you to park in the roads of
West Chester, not in our facilities due to your dangerous
driving. If you'd like to give a call, my office at the
courthouse is in the basement and the extension is 6867.
Again, Tom Jenkins.
Mr. Dowdall, this is Robert Snodgrass of the Parking
Authority of Chester County. It's about twenty after four
on my timepiece. We understand again there's been a
violation at the parking garage. You were cited previously. I
do need you to call back and discuss this issue. Why
don't I give you the office at the county building,
610-344-6867. You know it doesn't have to happen this
way. We are really asking you is to slow down a little.
Alright. Let's work this out before we get into fines and
costs. Thank you. Goodbye.
Mr. Dowdall, Tom Jenkins again calling from the Traffic
Parking Compliance Department. We did observe additional
behavior today. I would like a phone call back. You can try
the parking extension program at 6983 and we have some things
to discuss and I'm sorry it's come to this point. Tom
Jenkin here, 6983. Thank you.
also included video images of Kane in the hallway of the
Chester County courthouse on March 2, 2017. Am. Compl. ¶
72, Attachment at 3/2/2017 Video Images. In one image, Kane
is walking through the hall and in other images, Kane appears
to be on a telephone or looking at cell phone. 3/2/2017 Video
last document was a copy of an April 11, 2017 email from
Waegel to a county solicitor with a subject line of:
“FW: Incidents re: prank phone calls to GD.”
Id., Attachment at 4/11/2017 Email (“April 11
Email”). In the top email, Weagel informed the
solicitor that he had “highlighted the dates and times
[of the phone calls] in yellow below.” Id. He
then forwarded an email allegedly sent to him by Doe, in
which she stated that she asked Dowdall for the dates and
times of the phone calls and included information sent to
Dowdall from a CISCO United Connection telephone system about
voicemails on December 1, 2016, March 2, 2017, and April 3,
2017, two of which are marked urgent and of high importance.
one week after receiving the May 5 letter, Kane
“reached out to President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody
for aid.” Id. ¶ 91. He asked for
“reconsideration of the letter terminating [his] duties
as a [guardian ad litem] for the children of Chester
County.” Id., Ex. B, 5/12/2017 Email. He
explained that his “actions of the phone calls did not
meet the actions that were discussed in that letter, ”
and he believed “CYF is again trying to terminate my
employment status for fighting for my clients and for trying
to do what is right.” Id. Judge Cody spoke
with the county solicitor about the termination of Kane's
contract, but CYF would not reconsider its decision.
Id. ¶ 92, Ex. B, 6/8/2017 Email.
the same time, Kane wrote to the Deputy Director of the
Chester County Department of Procurement and General Services
to reapply for the guardian ad litem contract.
Id. ¶ 90, Ex. B, 5/24/2017 Letter. Kane never
received a response to this letter. Id. ¶ 90.
14, 2017, Kane attended a dependency hearing before a master
as the guardian ad litem for a client. Id.
¶¶ 95-96. “In the midst of the hearing, the
opposing solicitor for CYF suddenly stopped the hearing in
order to speak [by telephone] with someone from CYF, ”
whom Kane alleges was Doe. Id. ¶¶ 98, 100.
Following the call, the solicitor stated Kane “needed
to be removed from the court room because he was no longer a
guardian ad litem (despite the contract still being
in effect per Defendant Waegel's letter), and thus could
not be present for the ...