United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
J. PAPPERT, J.
Lee sued the City of Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Police
Department, Commissioner Richard Ross, and ten Philadelphia
Police Officers for violating his rights under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, the United States Constitution and Pennsylvania
state law. Defendants move for judgment on the pleadings for
many of the claims against them.
Complaint is an abject mess-an 18 count, 36 page amalgam of
duplicative, conclusory, overbroad, vague and in part legally
frivolous allegations against individuals and entities whose
role in the harm Lee alleges is far from clear. As an initial
matter, Counts X, XI, XV, XVI, and XVII are repetitive of, or
encompassed in, the allegations in Counts I, II, V and VI and
the former five counts are all dismissed with prejudice.
Second, while the Philadelphia Police Department is listed as
a Defendant in the case's caption, the Complaint contains
no discernible allegations against the Department. Even if it
did, such allegations would be dismissed because the
Department cannot be sued separately from the City itself. To
the extent Lee seeks redress from the Police Department, any
such claims are also dismissed with prejudice. Finally, Lee
also sues the individual defendants in their official
capacities (Counts VII, VIII, IX, XI, XII). Since
“official capacity suits” are merely another way
of pleading an action against an entity of which an officer
is an agent, all purported claims against individual
defendants in their official capacities are redundant and are
dismissed with prejudice.
Court grants in part and denies in part the rest of
Defendants' Motion, but will allow Lee an opportunity to
amend his Complaint, consistent with this Memorandum. In an
effort to bring a semblance of coherence to the Memorandum,
rather than take the claims in the disjointed order alleged
in the Complaint, the Court addresses all federal claims
first followed by claims brought pursuant to Pennsylvania
2, 2016, Lee was outside a church's soup kitchen on the
corner of Allegheny Avenue and Weymouth Street in
Philadelphia when Officer Donald Vandermay arrested him as
part of an undercover drug sting. (Compl. ¶¶ 8, 10,
18.) Lee contends that Vandermay violently threw him to the
ground before throwing him into a police vehicle, with force
that was “intentional, unnecessary, unjustified,
excessive, reckless, willful, and malicious.”
(Id. at ¶¶ 18, 20.) Lee alleges that nine
other officers were present and witnessed what Vandermay
“did to [Lee] and failed to stop Vandermay from beating
[him].” (Id. at ¶ 21.) As a result of
this incident, Lee suffered serious and permanent injuries.
(Id. at ¶ 18.)
8, 2017, Lee was convicted of manufacturing, delivery or
possession with intent to manufacture or deliver, conspiracy
and intentional possession of a controlled substance.
See (Mot. Ex. 1, (“Criminal Docket”), at
4, ECF No. 20-1; Resp. Opp'n Mot. Ex. I, (“Trial
Transcript”), at 31:20-24, ECF No. 23-2). Lee filed a PCRA
petition on March 25, 2019, seeking to overturn his
conviction. See (Resp. Opp'n Mot. at 2).
motion for judgment on the pleadings is a procedural hybrid
of a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment.
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:
“After the pleadings are closed-but early enough not to
delay trial-a party may move for judgment on the
pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). A motion for judgment
on the pleadings will be granted only if “the movant
clearly establishes there are no material issues of fact, and
he is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Sikirica v. Nationwide Ins. Co., 416 F.3d 214, 220
(3d Cir. 2005) (citing Society Hill Civic Association v.
Harris, 632 F.2d 1045, 1054 (3d Cir. 1980)). The court
“must view the facts presented in the pleadings and the
inferences to be drawn therefrom in the light most favorable
to the nonmoving party.” Id. In other words, a
district court applies the same standard to a judgment on the
pleadings as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6).
See Snyder v. Daugherty, 899 F.Supp.2d 391, 400
(W.D. Pa. 2012).
establish a prima facie case under § 1983, Lee
must first demonstrate that a person acting under color of
law deprived him of a federal right. See Groman v. Twp.
of Manalapan, 47 F.3d 628, 633 (3d Cir. 1995). Lee must
also show that the person acting under color of law
“intentionally” violated his constitutional
rights or acted “deliberately indifferent” in
violation of those rights. See, e.g., County of
Sacramento v. Lewis, 523 U.S. 833, 843-44 (1998);
Brower v. County of Inyo, 489 U.S. 593, 596 (1989)
(citing Hill v. California, 401 U.S. 797, 802-05
(1971)); see also Berg v. County of Allegheny, 219
F.3d 261, 269 (3d Cir. 2000).
asserts Fourth Amendment claims for malicious prosecution,
false arrest, and false imprisonment (Counts II, V, VI, VII,
XI, XIII, XIV, XVI). The claims are not cognizable, however,
under the favorable termination rule articulated by the
Supreme Court of the United States in Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994). In Heck, the
Supreme Court held that:
[I]n order to recover damages for allegedly unconstitutional
conviction or imprisonment, or for other harm caused by
actions whose unlawfulness would render a conviction or
sentence invalid, a § 1983 plaintiff must prove that the
conviction or sentence has been reversed on direct appeal,
expunged by executive order, declared invalid by a state
tribunal authorized to make such determination, or called
into question by a federal court's issuance of a writ of
Id. at 486-487. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals
has interpreted Heck to mean that “a §
1983 action that impugns the validity of the plaintiff's
underlying conviction cannot be maintained unless the
conviction has been reversed on direct appeal or impaired by
collateral proceedings.” Gilles v. Davis, 427
F.3d 197, 208-09 (3d Cir. 2005). District courts must
undertake a fact-intensive inquiry for each claim raised by
the plaintiff and determine whether success on that claim
would necessarily impugn the integrity of the plaintiff's
criminal conviction. See Gibson v. Superintendent, N.J.
Dep't of Law & Pub. Safety, 411 F.3d 427, 447-50
(3d Cir. 2005) (holding that a determination whether
Heck applies to a Fourth Amendment claim requires a
case-by-case fact-based inquiry).
prosecution claims necessarily impugn the integrity of the
underlying criminal convictions. Accordingly, Lee's
claims for malicious prosecution are barred and dismissed
without prejudice. See Olick v. Pennsylvania, 739
Fed.Appx. 722, 726 n.4 (3d Cir. 2018) (dismissing malicious
prosecution claim without prejudice because it was barred by
does not automatically bar Lee's claims for false arrest
and false imprisonment. See Id. at 726.
Specifically, Heck does not bar such claims where
there is “independent evidence upon which a conviction
could be obtained that was not in any way tainted by the
unlawful arrest.” Covington v. City of New
York, 171 F.3d 117, 123 (2d Cir. 1999); Heck,
512 U.S. at 487 n.7 (“Because of doctrines like
independent source and inevitable discovery, and especially
harmless error, such a § 1983 action, even if
successful, would not necessarily imply that the
plaintiff's conviction was unlawful.”). “On
the other hand, in a case where the only evidence for
conviction was obtained pursuant to an arrest, recovery in a
civil case based on false arrest would necessarily impugn any
conviction resulting from the use of that evidence.”
Gibson, 411 F.3d at 452 (citing Covington,
171 F.3d at 123); see also Rosembert v. Borough of E.
Lansdowne, 14 F.Supp.3d 631, 640-41 (E.D. Pa. 2014)
(barring a plaintiff's Fourth Amendment claims under
Heck because the only evidence supporting the
charges was acquired as a result of the alleged unlawful
search and false arrest of the plaintiff).
following a bench trial Lee was found guilty of
manufacturing, delivery or possession with intent to
manufacture or deliver, conspiracy and intentional possession
of a controlled substance. See (Criminal Docket at
4; Trial Transcript 31:20-24). The evidence obtained during
Lee's arrest is the only connection between Lee and the
drug offenses for which he was convicted. During his trial,
the government presented evidence that Lee was the lookout
for the drug conspiracy. (Compl. ¶¶ 24, 28.)
Officer Killman testified that when the Officers arrested
Lee, they recovered $98, which they found in a property
receipt. (Trial Transcript 17:19-25.) Officer Killman also
testified that he observed Lee yell “police”
whenever a marked police car came down the ...