United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Robert Merritt filed this civil action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983, based on his arrest and related criminal
proceeding. Merritt seeks leave to proceed in
forma pauperis. For the following reasons, the Court
will grant Merritt leave to proceed in forma
pauperis and dismiss his Complaint with leave to amend.
Complaint appears to be composed of two form Complaints
submitted together. He names as Defendants police officers
Michael Mancini and S Bat, the "Police Department of
Allentown," the County of Lehigh, and the City of
Allentown. The Court understands Merritt to be raising claims
based on events that occurred in connection with his arrest
on December 3, 2018 and related criminal charges filed
against him. See Commonwealth v. Merritt, Docket No.
was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and defiant
trespass. Officer Mancini's affidavit of probable cause,
which is attached as an exhibit to Merritt's Complaint,
indicates that Merritt, who is homeless, was sleeping in a
busy Dunkin Donuts store for an hour and that he refused to
leave the store after being asked at least twice by Officer
Mancini. According to the affidavit, Merritt accused Officer
Mancini of assaulting him, claimed he was going to file a
lawsuit against Mancini, and started yelling that Mancini
violated his rights. (Compl., ECF No. 2 at 15.) He allegedly
continued to yell, and a worker told him he was being
disruptive. After about five minutes, Merritt was taken into
custody. The charges against Merritt were ultimately
to Merritt, Officer Mancini "assault[ed] and
batter[ed]" him "for no reason at all."
(Id. at 5.) He describes the assault has having
occurred four times on his right shoulder and indicates that
Mancini also assaulted him while effecting the
arrest. From there, Merritt was taken to the
Allentown Police Department.
alleges that he was "kidnapped" and "held ...
hostage against [his] will... in a cell with no [toilet]
[and] no running water." (Id. at 5.) Merritt
indicates that Officer Bat "came over to help" and
"infringed in Officer Mancini in assaulting and
battering [him]." (Id.) He alleges that an
unknown officer told him to remove a ring and that when he
did not move fast enough, he was handcuffed by the
unidentified officer and Officer Bat. The Officers "used
[the cuffs] as a deadly weapon" and, when putting them
on Merritt, bent his wrist causing him pain. Merritt asserts
that "this was a lynch mob attack because of the color
of [his] skin also as well as being prejudice [by] [his]
living status by being homeless." (Id.) Merritt
indicates that his wrist was fractured and alleges that his
hand required a cast. (ECF No. 2-3 at 3.) He alleges that he
asked to go to the hospital but was denied medical care and
instead kept in the cell for a period of seven hours.
claims that he will need to apply for disability
"because [his] hand won't be the same any
more." (ECF No. 2 at 5.) He suggests that he lost the
ability to pursue certain claims in litigation due to
difficulty writing, but he does not clarify that allegation
further. He seeks $100 million in damages.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
Court will grant Merritt leave to proceed in forma
pauperis because it appears that he is not capable of
pre-paying the fees to commence this civil action.
Accordingly, Merritt's Complaint is subject to 28 U.S.C.
§ l9l5(e)(2)(B)(ii), which requires the Court to dismiss
the Complaint if it fails to state a claim. 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." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556
U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quotations omitted). Although the Court
must take the Complaint's factual allegations as true, it
must also "disregard legal conclusions and 'recitals
of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere
conclusory statements.'" Santiago v. Warminster
Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 128 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting
Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678). "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. As Merritt is proceeding
pro se, the Court construes his allegations
liberally. Higgs v. Att'y Gen., 655 F.3d 333,
339 (3d Cir. 2011).
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).
For the following reasons, Merritt's claims fail as pled
with the exception of certain claims against Officer Bat.
Claims Against Police Department of Allentown, County of
Lehigh, and City of Allentown
has failed to plead a basis for a claim against Defendants
Police Department of Allentown, County of Lehigh, and City of
Allentown. To plead a basis for municipal liability under
§ 1983, a plaintiff must allege that the
municipality's policy or custom caused the violation of
his constitutional rights. See Monell v. Dep't of
Soc. Servs. of N.Y.,436 U.S. 658, 694 (1978). "To
satisfy the pleading standard, [the plaintiff] must...
specify what exactly that custom or policy was."
McTernan v. City of York, PA,564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d
Cir. 2009). '"Policy is made when a decisionmaker
possess[ing] final authority to establish municipal policy
with respect to the action issues an official proclamation,
policy, or edict.'" Estate of Roman v. City of
Newark,914 F.3d 789, 798 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting
Andrews v. City of Philadelphia,895 F.2d 1469, 1480
(3d Cir. 1990)). "Custom, on the other hand, can ...