Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Kinder v. Marinez

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 2, 2019



          Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. United States District Judge.

         Pro se Plaintiff Anthony Kinder, who is currently incarcerated at the Berks County Jail, filed this civil action asserting civil rights claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against Reading Police Officer Hector Marinez. (ECF No. 1.) He also filed a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. (ECF No. 4.) For the following reasons, Kinder is granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis. Kinder's claim against the Reading Police Department is dismissed and his claim against Officer Marinez is stayed and placed in civil suspense.

         I. FACTS

         Kinder alleges that Officer Marinez violated his Fourth Amendment rights by engaging in racial profiling. (ECF No. 1 at 3.)[1] Kinder attaches a copy of an Affidavit of Probable Cause signed by Officer Marinez on September 25, 2018, asserting that, on February 11, 2018, Officer Marinez observed a black male wearing a long trench coat walking on Lemon Street in Reading. (Id. at 12.) He parked his vehicle, approached the male, and detected the odor of what he recognized to be synthetic marijuana. (Id.) He asked the male about the odor and the male responded that he had just smoked it. (Id.) The male revealed an unlit hand rolled cigar that he had been cupping in his left hand. (Id.) Officer Marinez confiscated the cigar and asked the male for identification, which he provided. (Id.) The male was determined to be Kinder. (Id.) Lab results indicated the cigar contained two controlled substances. (Id.) Based on that information, Officer Marinez sought a summons be issued to Kinder. (Id.)

         Public dockets reflect that Kinder, as a result of Officer Marinez's affidavit of probable cause, is facing charges of possession of a controlled substance. Commonwealth v. Kinder, Docket No. CP-06-CR-413-2019 (Berks Cty. Common Pleas). The case is currently scheduled for trial on July 31, 2019.


         As the Court has granted Kinder leave to proceed in forma pauperis, 28 U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) applies, which requires the Court to dismiss the Complaint if it fails to state a claim. Whether a complaint fails to state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii) is governed by the same standard applicable to motions to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), see Tourscher v. McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999), which requires the Court to determine whether the complaint contains “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) (quotations omitted). Conclusory allegations do not suffice. Id. The Court may also consider matters of public record. Buck v. Hampton Twp. Sch. Dist., 452 F.3d 256, 260 (3d Cir. 2006). As Kinder is proceeding pro se, the Court construes his allegations liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333, 339 (3d Cir. 2011).


         “To state a claim under § 1983, a plaintiff must allege the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States, and must show that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law.” West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988).

         A. Claim Against Officer Marinez

         Under the abstention doctrine of Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the Court must abstain from adjudicating the claim Kinder raises against Officer Marinez. Generally, federal courts must adjudicate all cases and controversies that are properly before them. New Orleans Pub. Serv., Inc. v. City of New Orleans, 491 U.S. 350, 358 (1989). Abstention, however, “is the judicially created doctrine under which a federal court will decline to exercise its jurisdiction so that a state court or state agency will have the opportunity to decide the matters at issue.” Heritage Farms, Inc. v. Solebury Twp., 671 F.2d 743, 746 (3d Cir. 1982). Absent extraordinary circumstances not present here, Younger abstention applies when: “(1) there are ongoing state proceedings that are judicial in nature; (2) the state proceedings implicate important state interests; and (3) the state proceedings afford an adequate opportunity to raise the federal claims.” Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 671 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Addiction Specialists, Inc. v. Twp. of Hampton, 411 F.3d 399, 408 (3d Cir. 2005)). Younger abstention is “premised on the notion of comity, a principle of deference and ‘proper respect' for state governmental functions in our federal system.” Evans v. C.C.P., Delaware Cty, Pa., 959 F.2d 1227, 1234 (3d Cir. 1992). Moreover, application of the Younger doctrine to § 1983 civil rights actions in which a plaintiff's claim challenges the validity of the pending state court criminal charges filed against him is appropriate. See Jaffery v. Atlantic Cty. Prosecutor's Office, 695 Fed.Appx. 38, 40-41 (3d Cir. 2017).

         The Court concludes that all three Younger criteria are met. First, there is an ongoing state criminal proceeding where Kinder is the named defendant and the charges are based on the affidavit of probable cause at issue in this federal proceeding. Second, it is axiomatic that state criminal proceedings necessarily implicate important state interests. Younger, 401 U.S. at 45-46. Finally, Kinder has the opportunity to raise his constitutional racial profiling claim in the context of his state criminal proceedings in state court at the pre-trial and trial stages and during any appellate proceedings. As Kinder's claim concerning his ongoing criminal proceedings satisfy the requirements of abstention, and there is no suggestion of extraordinary circumstances contemplated by Younger, the Court concludes that it is appropriate to abstain from entertaining the action as abstention is required to preserve the integrity of the state judicial process. Accordingly, the claim against Officer Marinez is stayed.

         B. Claim Against the Reading Police Department

         A police department is a sub-unit of the local government and, as such, is merely a vehicle through which the municipality fulfills its policing functions. See e.g. Johnson v. City of Erie, Pa., 834 F.Supp. 873, 878-79 (W.D. Pa. 1993). Thus, while a municipality may be liable under § 1983, a police department, as a mere sub-unit of the municipality, may not. Id.; Martin v. Red Lion Police Dept., 146 Fed.Appx. 558, 562 n.3 (3d Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (stating that a police department is not a proper defendant in an action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because it is a sub-division of its municipality); Bonenberger v. Plymouth Twp., 132 F.3d 20, 25 (3d Cir. 1997) (“As in past cases, we treat the municipality and its police department as a single entity for purposes of section 1983 liability.” (citing Colburn v. Upper Darby Twp., 838 F.2d 663, 671 n.7 (3d Cir.1988))); Hadesty v. Rush ...

Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.