United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ROWE, pro se
OPINION AND ORDER
Marilyn J. Horan, United States District Court Judge
Rashad Rowe brings this this civil rights action alleging
that during a traffic stop on March 31? 2016, the
Defendants violated his rights under the Fourth, Eighth, and
Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution when
they stopped his vehicle without sufficient cause, forcibly
removed him from his vehicle at gunpoint, and searched him
and his vehicle. Presently before the Court is
Defendants' Motion to Dismiss Plaintiffs Complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6). ECF No. 22. Mr. Rowe was given
until February 18, 2019 to respond to the motion to dismiss.
He sought and received an extension of time to respond, first
to March 11, 2019 (ECF No. 26), and then until March 25, 2019
(ECF No. 28). Mr. Rowe has not filed a formal response to the
motion to dismiss, however, in his first motion for extension
of time, even though he had not yet received Defendants'
motion, he included "to the best of [his]
knowledge," a "Brief Response." ECF No. 25-1.
After careful review of the pleadings, and for the reasons
that follow, Defendants' motion will be granted.
the allegations in a light most favorable to Plaintiff,
Rashad Rowe, he alleges the following. On March 31, 2016,
while leaving his sister's apartment complex in
McKeesport, Pennsylvania, he was followed by a McKeesport
Police Department vehicle. At the stop sign leading out of
the apartment complex, Mr. Rowe signaled to make a right
turn, turned right, and proceeded down a hill. At the bottom
of the hill, McKeesport Police Officer Justin Toth stopped
Mr. Rowe's vehicle. Mr. Rowe alleges that he began
recording the encounter on his cell phone. Officer Toth
approached the vehicle and asked Mr. Rowe for his license and
registration, and informed him that he stopped his vehicle
because he failed to activate his turn signal.
McKeesport Police Officer, Timothy Bliss, arrived on the
scene and told Officer Toth that he knew Mr. Rowe. Mr. Rowe,
however, did not recognize Officer Bliss as someone who had
ever arrested him. Officer Bliss asked Mr. Rowe for
permission to search his vehicle, but Mr. Rowe did not
consent, stating that the officer had no probable cause.
Officer Bliss called for "backup. Additional police
officers arrived on the scene, and with guns drawn,
surrounded Mr. Rowe's vehicle. Officer Bliss again asked
for permission to search the vehicle. Mr. Rowe refused to
consent, and asked Officer Bliss why he wanted to search his
car. Officer Bliss explained it was because he was aware that
Mr. Rowe was "known for guns." Mr. Rowe responded
that he was not known for guns. The other officers began to
scream at Mr. Rowe. After five minutes, Mr. Rowe was
"yanked” out of his vehicle, "thrown to the
ground," handcuffed, and searched. His vehicle was then
searched. No. items were seized from the searches. Mr. Rowe
was issued a ticket for having "tint" on his
windows, and released.
Relevant Public Records
addition to the complaint, courts may consider matters of
public record and other matters of which a court may take
judicial notice, court orders, and exhibits attached to the
complaint when adjudicating a motion to dismiss under Rule
12(b)(6). Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran &
Bennan, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994) (citing 5A
Wright and Miller, Federal Practice and Procedure: Civil
2d, § 1357; Chester County Intermediate Unit v.
Pennsylvania Blue Shield, 896 F.2d 808, 812 (3d Cir.
1990)). Defendants have submitted the following relevant
public records. Officer Toth issued two summary traffic
citations to Mr. Rowe for failing to use a turn signal, and
for illegal window tint. Commonwealth v. Rowe,
Docket Number MJ-05213-TR-0000246-2016 (violation of 75 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 3334(a)) and Docket Number
MJ-05213-TR-0000247-2016 (violation of 75 Pa. Cons. Stat.
§ 4107(a)(1)) (attached as Ex. A. to Defs.' Br.
Supp. (ECF No. 23-1)). Mr. Rowe was adjudged guilty of both
also submitted an Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
Court Summary for Mr. Rowe. Allegheny County Court of Common
Pleas Court Summary, January 10, 2019 (attached as Ex. B. to
Defs.' Br. Supp. (ECF No. 23-2)). The Court Summary
indicates that in 1998, Mr. Rowe plead guilty to a charge of
carrying a firearm without a license in violation of 18 Pa.
Cons. Stat. § 6106. Id. at 1. Additionally, Mr.
Rowe was found guilty in 2004, of possessing a firearm in
violation of 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 6105, and a charge of
carrying a firearm without a license. Id. at 2.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion
to dismiss, the court must "accept all factual
allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most
favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether, under any
reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be
entitled to relief." Eid v. Thompson, 740 F.3d
118, 122 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Phillips v. County of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir.2008)). "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 (2009) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570
(2007)). "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." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
678 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also
Thompson v. Real Estate Mortg. Network, 748 F.3d 142,
147 (3d Cir. 2014). "Threadbare recitals of the elements
of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice." Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.
"Factual allegations of a complaint must be enough to
raise a right to relief above the speculative level."
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555. A pleading party need not
establish the elements of & prima facie case at
this stage; the party must only "put forth allegations
that 'raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will
reveal evidence of the necessary elements].'"
Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 213 (3d
Cir.2009) (quoting Graff v. Subbiah Cardiology
Associates, Ltd., 2008 WL 2312671 (W.D. Pa. June 4,
2008)); see also Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp., 809
F.3d 780, 790 (3d Cir.2016) ("Although a reviewing court
now affirmatively disregards a pleading's legal
conclusions, it must still. . . assume all remaining factual
allegations to be true, construe those truths in the light
most favorable to the plaintiff, and then draw all reasonable
inferences from them.") (citing Foglia v. Renal
Ventures Mgmt, LLC, 754 F.3d 153, 154 n. 1 (3d
the Court must liberally construe the factual allegations of
the Complaint because pleadings filed by pro se plaintiffs
are held to a less stringent standard than formal pleadings
drafted by lawyers. Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89,
94 (2007). Therefore, if the Court "can reasonably read
[the] pleadings to state a valid claim on which [plaintiff]
could prevail, it should do so despite failure to cite proper
legal authority, confusion of legal theories, poor syntax and
sentence construction, or [plaintiffs] unfamiliarity with
pleading requirements." Wilberger v. Ziegler,
No. 08-54, 2009 WL 734728, at *3 (W.D. Pa. March 19, 2009)
(citing Boag v. MacDougall 454 U.S. 364 (1982) (per
allegations must be accepted as true and construed in the
light most favorable to plaintiff when determining if
complaint should be dismissed. Trzaska v. L'Oreal
USA, Inc., 865 F.3d 155, 162 (3d Cir. 2017), as
amended (Aug. 22, 2017). Nonetheless, a court need not
credit bald assertions, unwarranted inferences, or legal
conclusions cast in the form of factual averments. Morse
v. Lower Merion School District, 132 F.3d 902, 906, n. 8
(3d Cir. 1997). The primary question in deciding a motion to
dismiss is not whether the Plaintiff will ultimately prevail,
but rather whether he or she is entitled to offer evidence to
establish the facts alleged in the complaint. Maio v.
Aetna, 221 F.3d 472, 482 (3d Cir.2000). The purpose of a
motion to dismiss is to "streamline [ ] litigation by
dispensing with needless discovery and factfinding."
Neitzke v. Williams, 490 U.S. 319, 326-327, (1989).
if the court decides to grant a Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted, the court must next
decide whether leave to amend the complaint must be granted.
The Court of Appeals has "instructed that if a complaint
is vulnerable to 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must
permit a curative amendment, unless an amendment would be
inequitable or futile." Phillips, 515 F.3d at
236 (citing Grayson v. Mayview State Hosp., 293 F.3d
103, 108 (3d Cir.2002)).
Rowe asserts claims of unlawful search and seizure, and
excessive force under the Fourth, Eighth, and Fourteenth
Amendments against all Defendants. He also asserts claims of
official oppression, municipal liability, and failure to