United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
RONALD E. KAMMERDIENER, Plaintiff,
ARMSTRONG COUNTY, PHILLIP SHAFFER, REGINA HIMES, and ERIKA KIRKPATRICK, Defendants.
Bissoon Magistrate, District Judge.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION RE: ECF NO. 11
MAUREEN P. KELLY, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Ronald E. Kammerdiener ("Plaintiff") initiated this
civil rights action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiffs claims arise out of allegations that Defendants
deprived him of his federal and state law rights when the
Court of Common Pleas of Armstrong County adjudged him in
contempt of court and sentenced him to a maximum term of
six-months incarceration without granting him a hearing or
access to counsel.
before the Court is a partial Motion to Dismiss filed by
Defendants Regina Himes and Erika Kirkpatrick and brief in
support (collectively, the "Motion to Dismiss"),
and a brief in opposition filed by Plaintiff. ECF Nos. 11,
12, and 15.
to the Order of this Court dated June 11, 2019, ECF No. 19,
the parties also submitted supplemental briefing addressing
the applicability of the Rooker-Feldman doctrine
(Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413 (1923)
and District of Columbia Court of Appeals v.
Feldman, 460 U.S. 462 (1983)) and Heck v.
Humphrey, 512 U.S. 477 (1994) to preclude the exercise
of this Court's jurisdiction over any and all claims
alleged by Plaintiff in his Complaint. ECF Nos. 21, 22, and
following reasons, it is recommended that Plaintiffs
Complaint be dismissed. The Court should dismiss Plaintiffs
claims arising out of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Counts I to IV)
pursuant to Heck and the Rooker-Feldman
doctrine. Having dismissed all claims over which it has
original jurisdiction, the Court should decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over Plaintiffs remaining state law
claim for false imprisonment (Count V), and should therefore
dismiss Count V without prejudice to refile in state court.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 on
November 6, 2018. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs Complaint asserts
claims against Defendants Armstrong County; Phillip Shafer
("Shafer"), Warden of the Armstrong County Jail;
Regina Himes ("Himes"), Chief Adult Probation
Officer of Armstrong County; and Erika Kirkpatrick
("Kirkpatrick"), Armstrong County Adult Probation
Officer. Plaintiffs claims arise" out of allegations
that Defendants violated Plaintiffs federal and state law
rights when the Court of Common Pleas of Armstrong County
adjudged Plaintiff in contempt of court on March 26, 2015 and
May 19, 2017, sentencing him to a maximum term of six-months
incarceration without granting him a hearing or access to
6, 2013, Plaintiff pleaded guilty to two criminal charges of
writing bad checks.Commonwealth v. Kammerdiener,
CP-03-CR-0000210-2013 (C.P. Armstrong Cty. March 20, 2013);
Commonwealth v. Kammerdiener, CP-03-CR-0000211-2013
(C.P. Armstrong Cty. March 20, 2013) (attached hereto as
Appendices A and B, respectively). The Court of Common Pleas
of Armstrong County (the "State Court") sentenced
Plaintiff to one year of probation, and to pay costs,
restitution, and fines. Appendix A at 4; Appendix B at 4.
Plaintiff was represented by the Armstrong County Public
Defender's Office in connection with both charges.
Appendix A at 2; Appendix B at 3.
did not pay the financial penalty ordered by the State Court
in either of the bad check cases. See Appendix A at 5;
Appendix B at 5. On March 6, 2015, Consent Orders were
entered into by Plaintiff and signed off on by Armstrong
County Senior Judge Kenneth G. Valasek, ECF No. 1 ¶ 13;
see also M, On March 26, 2015, the State Court filed Consent
Orders (the "2015 Orders") on the criminal dockets
for Plaintiffs bad check convictions, adjudging him in
contempt of court for his failure to pay his financial
penalty. Appendix A at 5; Appendix B at 5. The 2015 Orders
set forth a payment plan of $25.00 a month through November
1, 2022 (the "Payment Plan"). Id. In the
event that Plaintiff failed to adhere to this Payment Plan,
the State Court, as set forth in the 2015 Orders, sentenced
Plaintiff to an immediate term of incarceration, lasting a
maximum of six months, or until his financial penalty was
paid in full. Id.; see also ECF No. 1
¶¶ 13-14. Copies were also provided to the District
Attorney's Office and the Probation Department. Appendix
A at 5; Appendix B at 5.
Plaintiff did not comply with the Payment Plan, he was
arrested in Clarion County, Pennsylvania on November 8, 2016.
ECF No. 1 ¶ 13. The arrest was made pursuant to a bench
warrant issued according to the 2015 Orders. Id.
Plaintiff was incarcerated in the Clarion County Correctional
Facility until November 16, 2016, and then was transferred to
the Armstrong County Jail by two Armstrong County Probation
Officers, one of whom was Defendant Kirkpatrick. Id.
¶¶ 15-17. Throughout the course of his
incarceration, Plaintiff alleges that he never received
access to counsel despite repeated efforts, and that he was
never given a hearing to determine his financial ability to
pay the penalty. See Id. ¶¶ 14,
15, 18-27, 31-33 and 37.
December 9, 2016, Plaintiff alleges he wrote a letter to
Defendant Kirkpatrick regarding his confinement. Id.
¶¶ 28-30. Kirkpatrick responded by informing
Plaintiff that he would remain confined until he paid his
fines and costs or at the end of a six-month period of
incarceration. Id. Plaintiff did not pay the
financial penalty he owed. He was released after six months
of incarceration on May 7, 2017. Id. ¶ 35.
before Plaintiff was released from jail, on May 5, 2017,
Plaintiff alleges that Kirkpatrick met with him and directed
him to sign additional consent orders. Id. ¶
¶ 34, 36. On May 8, 2017, Plaintiff was again adjudged
to be in contempt. Appendix A at 5; Appendix B at 5. On May
19, 2017, the State Court entered a Consent Order adjudging
Plaintiff to be in contempt of court for failing to pay his
financial penalty from his bad check convictions (the
"2017 Orders"). Id. In the event Plaintiff
failed to make the required payments, the 2017 Orders
sentenced him to a term of incarceration not to exceed six
months. Id.; see also ECF No. 1 ¶
November 6, 2018, Plaintiff filed the instant Complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, raising four federal
claims and a state law claim of false imprisonment. ECF No.
1. Plaintiff sues Shafer, Himes, and Kirkpatrick in their
individual and official capacities. Id.
Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that: (1) after his arrest
pursuant to the 2015 Orders, Defendants failed to bring
Plaintiff before a magistrate or judge for a hearing to
determine his ability to pay fines and costs and thereby
violated his procedural due process rights under the
Fourteenth Amendment (Count I); (2) Defendants violated
Plaintiffs Sixth Amendment and/or Fourteenth Amendment rights
to counsel when they deprived him of access to counsel
throughout his six-month incarceration (Count II); (3)
Defendants violated Plaintiffs Fourth Amendment or Fourteenth
Amendment rights against wrongful detainment when he was
incarcerated for six months without access to counsel or
hearing (Count III); and (4) Defendants violated Plaintiffs
Eighth and Fourteenth Amendment rights to be free from cruel
and unusual punishment when he was incarcerated for six
months without a hearing to determine his financial ability
to pay his financial penalty (Count IV). ECF No. 1 at 7, 12,
15, and 17. Plaintiff also asserts that the Defendants
conduct constituted state law false imprisonment (Count V),
and that the Court has jurisdiction over this claim pursuant
to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Id. at 19.
Plaintiff alleges that he was unlawfully arrested and
incarcerated "without a court hearing or any process
whatsoever." Id. ¶ 1. Plaintiff directly
attacks the language in the State Court's 2015 Orders and
2017 Orders, which provided that he would not be given a
hearing or access to counsel if he was arrested for failing
to adhere to the Payment Plan. Id. ¶ 14; see
also ECF No. 15 at 4. Plaintiff alleges the language
of the Orders was "facially defective," because
"on its face, it permitted incarceration for six months
without a court hearing (or any process) to determine the
individual's ability to pay" in violation of state
and federal law. Id. ¶ 14. Plaintiff seeks
compensatory and special damages from Defendants in their
individual capacities for "actual physical and emotional
injuries" and other damages that he sustained as a
result of the State Court's purportedly unlawful 2015
Orders. Id. at 11-12, 14-19; ECF No. 15 at 5. In
addition, Plaintiff requests that the Court issue a permanent
injunction enjoining Defendants and their agents from
enforcing the 2017 Orders without granting him a hearing and
access to counsel, and a declaratory judgment holding that
Defendants' deprivation of counsel and a hearing pursuant
to the 2015 Orders and 2017 Orders was constitutionally
defective. ECF No. 1 at 12, 15, 17 and 19.
The Motion to Dismiss and Supplemental Briefing Regarding
the Applicability of Heck and the
January 7, 2019, Defendants Himes and Kirkpatrick filed the
instant partial Motion to Dismiss, seeking dismissal of all
claims against them in their official capacities. ECF No. 11.
Defendants argue that: (1) all claims against Himes and
Kirkpatrick in their official capacities are barred by the
Eleventh Amendment; (2) Himes and Kirkpatrick, in their
official capacities, are not persons subject to suit under 42
U.S.C. § 1983; (3) Plaintiff improperly asks the Court
to intervene in ongoing State Court proceedings; and (4)
declaratory relief is not available to adjudicate past
conduct. ECF No. 12.
opposes the Motion to Dismiss, arguing that: (1) his official
capacity claims against Himes and Kirkpatrick are not barred
by the Eleventh Amendment, because the declaratory and
prospective injunctive relief he seeks invokes the Ex
Parte: Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), exception to
immunity; (2) whether Himes and Kirkpatrick are persons
subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is not relevant
because claims for monetary damages are only brought against
them in their individual capacities; (3) Plaintiff is not
asking this Court to direct the State Court to perform any
action, but simply to refrain from performing
unconstitutional action; and (4) declaratory and prospective
injunctive relief is required with respect to the 2017 Orders
because Plaintiff fears that he will be rearrested and
incarcerated with the same deprivation of process and counsel
that he was allegedly subject to pursuant to the 2015 Orders.
ECF No. 15.
review of the parties' submissions, this Court took
notice of two issues that may require dismissal of Plaintiff
s claims: (1) the applicability of Heck v. Humphrey,
512 U.S. 477 (1994); and (2) the applicability of the
Rooker-Feldman doctrine. Because the parties did not
raise these potentially dispositive issues, the Court ordered
supplemental briefing on the applicability the
Rooker-Feldman, doctrine and whether Heck
bars the claims raised in Plaintiffs Complaint. ECF No. 19.
Thereafter, all parties filed supplemental briefs addressing
these two issues. ECF Nos. 21, 22, and 23.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a
complaint must be dismissed if, after viewing the facts as
alleged in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and
accepting any well-pleaded facts as true, it does not allege
"enough facts to state a claim to relief that is
plausible on its face." Bell Atlantic Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007) (rejecting the
traditional 12(b)(6) standard set forth in Conley v.
Gibson, 355 U.S. 41 (1957)); see also Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662 (2009).
making this determination, a court need not accept inferences
drawn by a plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts as
set forth in the complaint. Cal. Pub. Employees' Ret.
Sys. v. Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004)
(citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist. 132 F.3d
902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997)). Nor must the Court accept legal
conclusions set forth as factual allegations.
Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555 (citing Papasan v.
Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)); see also McTernan
v. City of York, Penn., 577 F.3d 521, 531 (3d Cir. 2009)
("The tenet that a court must accept as true all of the
allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal
conclusions."). A plaintiffs factual allegations
"must be enough to raise a right to relief above the
speculative level." Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556
(citing 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Fed. Practice and
Procedure § 1216, at 235-236 (3d ed. ...