Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
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.

Moody v. City of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 10, 2019

JAMES W. MOODY, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, et al., Defendants.

          OPINION

          SLOMSKY, J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This action arises out of Plaintiff James W. Moody's (“Plaintiff”) interactions with officers of the Philadelphia Police Department on May 2, 2016 and on June 16, 2017. On both occasions, Plaintiff was stopped by officers and failed to produce his License to Carry Firearms (“LTCF”). (Doc. No. 18 ¶¶ 70, 88; Doc. No. 19 at 4.) As a result, Plaintiff's LTCF was revoked, subsequently reinstated, and ultimately revoked again on June 20, 2017. (Doc. No. 18 ¶¶ 30, 31, 166; Doc. No. 19 at 4.) On May 1, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County against the City of Philadelphia (“City”), Philadelphia Police Commissioner Richard Ross, Jr. (“Commissioner Ross”), the Philadelphia Police Department Gun Permit Unit (“GPU”), the Philadelphia Police Department (“PPD”), the Board of Licenses and Inspections, and Bradford A. Richmond (“Mr. Richman”), an attorney for the City. (Doc. No. 1.) On June 8, 2018, Defendants removed the action to this Court. (Id.) Plaintiff later amended the Complaint to include as additional Defendants various officers of the PPD and panelists on the Board of Licenses and Inspections. (Doc. No. 18.)

         Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“Section 1983”), Plaintiff alleges civil rights violations against Defendants.[1] In Count I of the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff submits that Defendants violated his right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution by “intercept[ing]” him on May 11, 2016. (Id. ¶¶ 70-85.) In Count II, Plaintiff claims Defendants violated his right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment and Article I, § 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution because officers of the PPD stopped him on June 16, 2017. (Id. ¶ 102.)

         In Counts III and I V, Plaintiff alleges Defendants violated his right to due process under the Fourteenth Amendment and Article I, §§ 1, 9, and 11 of the Pennsylvania Constitution with regard to the circumstances leading to the revocation of his two LTCFs. (Id. ¶¶ 104-129.) In Counts V and VI, Plaintiff asserts that the impoundment of his firearm and the revocation of his LTCF on two occasions by Defendants constituted a violation of his right to keep and bear arms under the Second Amendment and Article I, § 21 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Id. ¶ 150.) In Counts VII and VIII, Plaintiff claims Defendants violated his freedom of speech under the First Amendment and Article I, § 7 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Id. ¶ 167.) In Counts IX and X, Plaintiff contends Defendants violated his right to a speedy and public trial under the Sixth Amendment and Article I, § 9 of the Pennsylvania Constitution during his LTCF appeal hearing. (Id. ¶¶ 171-188.) Finally, in Counts XI and XII, Plaintiff claims to have been “rendered . . . not unlike a slave” by Defendants in violation of the Thirteenth Amendment and Article I, § 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution. (Id. ¶¶ 209-210.) As relief, Plaintiff seeks more than $1 billion in damages as well as the return of his firearm and LTCF. (Id.)

         On April 22, 2019, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim.[2] (Doc. No. 19.) On May 13, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. No. 20.) For the reasons set forth below, this Court will grant Defendants' Motion to Dismiss on all counts.

         II.BACKGROUND[3]

         A. Factual History

         On February 29, 2016, the GPU issued Mr. Moody a LTCF. (Doc. No. 18 ¶ 29.) On May 2, 2016, Plaintiff was stopped by Officer Cave of the PPD while walking in Philadelphia. (Id. ¶ 70.) Plaintiff alleges that Officer Cave stopped him solely because he was carrying a firearm. (Id. ¶ 70.) Additional officers arrived to assist Officer Cave and, together, they detained and searched Mr. Moody. (Id. ¶¶ 72-75.) Upon retrieving Plaintiff's wallet and searching his front pocket, Officer Cave was able to verify both Plaintiff's identity and the validity of his LTCF. (Id. ¶¶ 32, 82, 121.) As a result, the officers released Plaintiff and did not arrest or charge him. (Id. ¶ 81.)

         On May 11, 2016, Commissioner Ross and the GPU notified Plaintiff that his LTCF had been revoked for good cause. (Id. ¶ 30.) The revocation notice stated, according to Plaintiff, that he failed to produce his LTCF and placed the “officers and community in danger” during the May 2, 2016, incident.[4] (Id. ¶ 32.) Beyond this statement, however, Plaintiff alleges that the notice failed to provide any “articulable factual basis” to support the revocation of his LTCF. (Id. ¶ 33.) Plaintiff appealed the revocation to the Board of Licenses and Inspections. A hearing was held on November 8, 2016, after which the Board affirmed the revocation of Plaintiff's LTCF. (Id. ¶¶ 52, 117.)

         Plaintiff next appealed the Board's decision to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. (Id. ¶ 144; Doc. No. 19 at 3.) On June 5, 2017, while the case was still pending in the Court of Common Pleas, the PPD notified Plaintiff that it was reinstating his LTCF. (Doc. No. 18 ¶ 87.) Consequently, Plaintiff's case in the Court of Common Pleas was dismissed as moot. (Id. ¶ 145.)

         Shortly thereafter, on June 16, 2017, Plaintiff was jogging in Philadelphia when he was again stopped by two police officers. (Id. ¶¶ 88-89.) While the events of this stop are unclear, Plaintiff asserts he was thrown in a “Sweat Box”[5] while the officers ascertained the validity of his LTCF. (Id. ¶ 97.) After learning that the City had reinstated Plaintiff's LTCF, the officers released Plaintiff but cited him for disorderly conduct and seized his firearm. (Id. ¶¶ 97, 157, 213.) Thereafter, Plaintiff received another notice that due to his interactions with police on June 16, 2017, his LTCF was again being revoked. (Id. ¶ 175.) Based on the allegations in the Second Amended Complaint, it appears these two revocation notices are forms that are issued by the PPD in the name of Commissioner Ross.

         B. Procedural History

         On May 1, 2018, Plaintiff instituted the present action pro se by filing a Complaint in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. (Doc. No. 1 at 1.) In the original Complaint, Plaintiff named the City of Philadelphia, PPD, GPU, Commissioner Ross, the Board of Licenses and Inspections, and Mr. Richman as Defendants. (Id. at 9-10.) On June 8, 2018, Defendants removed the case from the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County to this Court. (Id.) The case was initially assigned to Chief Judge Juan R. Sanchez. (Id.)

         Soon after, on June 14, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for Failure to State a Claim under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). (Doc. No. 2.) Plaintiff failed to respond to Defendants' Motion. On August 23, 2018, Chief Judge Sanchez ordered Plaintiff to respond by September 13, 2018, and show cause as to why the Complaint should not be dismissed. (Doc. No. 3.) On September 13, 2018, Plaintiff responded to the court's order. (Doc. No. 4.) In his response, Plaintiff included additional factual allegations against Defendants. (Id.) The court construed the response as a proposed amended complaint and allowed it to be filed as such pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). (Doc. No. 5.) As a result, the court denied Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Complaint as moot. (Id.)

         On October 23, 2018, Defendants filed a second Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint for Failure to State a Claim. (Doc. No. 8.) On November 19, 2018, Plaintiff filed both a Motion for Leave to Amend the Complaint and a Response to Defendants' second Motion to Dismiss. (Doc. Nos. 9 & 10.) On December 31, 2018, before the court had occasion to pass on Defendants' second Motion, Plaintiff filed a “Revision Response to Defendants' Motion.” (Doc. No. 12.) This “Revision Response, ” for all intents and purposes, was Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint.[6]

         On April 4, 2019, the case was reassigned to this Court. (Doc. No. 16.) In an Order entered on April 5, 2019, this Court granted Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an Amended Complaint, accepted Plaintiff's “Revision Response” as his Second Amended Complaint, and denied Defendants' second Motion to Dismiss as moot. (Doc. No. 17.) In response to Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, Defendants filed on April 22, 2019 the instant Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for Failure to State a Claim. (Doc. No. 19.) On May 13, 2019, Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendants' Motion. (Doc. No. 20.)

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The motion to dismiss standard under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is set forth in Ashcroft v. Iqbal. 556 U.S. 662 (2009). After Iqbal, it is clear that “[t]hreadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice” to defeat a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Id. at 678; see also Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). “To survive dismissal, ‘a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Tatis v. Allied Interstate, LLC, 882 F.3d 422, 426 (3d Cir. 2018) (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Facial plausibility is “more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Instead, “[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.” Id. (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). Applying the principles of Iqbal and Twombly, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Santiago v. Warminster Township, 629 F.3d 121 (3d Cir. 2010), set forth a three-part analysis that a district court in this Circuit must conduct in evaluating whether allegations in a complaint survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss:

First, the court must “tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim.” Second, the court should identify allegations that, “because they are no more than conclusions, are not entitled to the assumption of truth.” Finally, “where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief.”

Id. at 130 (quoting Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 675, 679). The inquiry is normally broken into three parts: “(1) identifying the elements of the claim, (2) reviewing the complaint to strike conclusory allegations, and then (3) looking at the well-pleaded components of the complaint and evaluating whether all of the elements identified in part one of the inquiry are sufficiently alleged.” Malleus v. George, 641 F.3d 560, 563 (3d Cir. 2011).

         A complaint must do more than allege a plaintiff's entitlement to relief, it must “show” such an entitlement with its facts. Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210-11 (3d Cir. 2009) (citing Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234-35 (3d Cir. 2008)). “[W]here the well-pleaded facts do not permit the court to infer more than the mere possibility of misconduct, the complaint has alleged-but it has not ‘show[n]'-‘that the pleader is entitled to relief.'” Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 679 (alteration in original) (citation omitted). The “plausibility” determination is a “context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         IV. ANALYSIS

         Defendants advance a number of arguments in favor of dismissing the Second Amended Complaint. First, Defendants submit that the Second Amended Complaint should be dismissed because it fails to set out a short and plain statement of claims in accordance with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8. (Doc. No. 19 at 7.) Next, Defendants argue that this Court should dismiss Plaintiff's constitutional claims because his ongoing LTCF revocation proceedings warrant an abstention under the United States Supreme Court's decision in Younger v. Harris. 401 U.S. 37 (1971); (Doc. No. 19 at 8.) Third, Defendants contend that the GPU, PPD, and Board of Licenses and Inspections are not proper parties in this case because they do not have separate corporate existences subjecting them to suit. (Id. at 10.) Fourth, Defendants assert that Plaintiff fails to plead facts sufficient to establish the elements of a Monell claim against the City. (Id.) Fifth, Defendants argue that the claims against Commissioner Ross should be dismissed because Plaintiff failed to demonstrate his supervisory liability. (Id. at 12.) Finally, Defendants aver that the Court should dismiss the claims against both Commissioner Ross and Mr. Richman because Plaintiff is unable to show their personal involvement in the alleged conduct. (Id. at 13.)

         The Court will first address Plaintiff's inability to bring claims against the GPU, PPD, Board of Licenses and Inspections, Commissioner Ross, Mr. Richman, and the additional Defendants named in the Second Amended Complaint. The Court will then explain how Plaintiff's “ongoing” municipal proceedings do not have the criminal indicia that would make it appropriate for this Court to abstain under Younger. Lastly, this Court will examine Plaintiff's failure to plead Monell claims against the City under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

         A. The GPU, PPD, and Board of Licenses and Inspections Are Not ...


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.