United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
Darnell Jones, II J.
Sekema Gentles commenced this action against Defendants
Borough of Pottstown, Borough officials, and Borough police
officers, alleging violations of both state and federal law
in connection with his arrest by Pottstown police officers.
Defendants filed the instant Motion to Dismiss pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(5), (6) and 12(e) for
insufficient service of process, failure to state a claim,
and for a more definite statement, respectively. For the
reasons set forth below, Defendants' Motion shall be
granted and Plaintiff shall be afforded leave to amend.
alleges that on March 1, 2017, he was stopped by Borough of
Pottstown Police Officers Portock, Ponto, Martin and Unruh
(collectively “Defendant Officers”). (Compl.
¶ 8.) Defendant Officers asked for Plaintiff's
identification, however Plaintiff refused to provide
identification unless Defendant Officers notified Plaintiff
of the reason for being stopped. (Compl. ¶ 17.)
Defendant Officers informed Plaintiff he was under criminal
investigation, handcuffed him, and placed him under arrest.
(Compl. ¶ 18.) Plaintiff alleges Defendant Officers then
asked Plaintiff's fiancée for her identification
and threatened to arrest her and place their children in
“Child Services” if she did not comply. (Compl.
¶ 19.) Plaintiff's fiancée identified herself
and informed Defendant Officers that she and Plaintiff had
just purchased “the house.”(Compl. ¶
20.) Defendant Officers released Plaintiff and charged him
with Disorderly Conduct. (Compl. ¶ 21.) On June 12,
2017, Plaintiff was adjudged not guilty of the charge.
(Compl. ¶ 22.)
STANDARD OF REVIEW
deciding a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), courts must “accept all
factual allegations as true, construe the complaint in the
light most favorable to the plaintiff, and determine whether,
under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff
may be entitled to relief.” Phillips v. County of
Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). “Threadbare
recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by
mere conclusory statements, do not suffice.”
Phillips, 515 F.3d at 233 (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted). This standard, which applies to all
civil cases, “asks for more than a sheer possibility
that a defendant has acted unlawfully.” Ashcroft v.
Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). “[A]ll civil
complaints must now set out sufficient factual matter to show
that the claim is facially plausible.” Fowler v.
UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 210 (3d Cir. 2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “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 (citing Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556 (2007)).
“Generally, in ruling on a motion to dismiss, a
district court relies on the complaint, attached exhibits,
and matters of public record.” Sands v.
McCormick, 502 F.3d 263, 268 (3d Cir. 2007). A court
does not typically consider matters outside the pleadings.
particular matter, Plaintiff has attached an unsworn
declaration to his brief in opposition to Defendants'
12(b)(6) Motion. However, “[t]he United States Court of
Appeals for the Third Circuit has stated that an affidavit
filed in opposition to a pending motion to dismiss clearly
comprised a matter outside the pleading.” Steinagel
v. Valley Oral Surgery, Civil Action No. 12-cv-05645,
2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 141146, at *15 (E.D. Pa. Sep. 30, 2013)
(citing Rose v. Bartle, 871 F.2d 331, 339 n.3 (3d
Cir. 1989)). “Matters outside the pleading must be
excluded lest the motion to dismiss becomes a motion for
summary judgment.” Steinagel, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 141146, at *15. Furthermore, “it is axiomatic
that the complaint may not be amended by the briefs in
opposition to a motion to dismiss.” Frederico v.
Home Depot, 507 F.3d 188, 202 (3d Cir. 2007) (quoting
Car Carriers, Inc. v. Ford Motor Corp., 745 F.2d
1101, 1107 (7th Cir. 1984)).
as Plaintiff's Declaration serves no purpose other than
to supplement his pleadings, the same shall not be considered
by the court in its assessment of Defendants' Motion.
preliminary matter, Plaintiff voluntarily withdraws all
claims against former employees/agents of the Borough,
including Defendants Drumheller, Valentine-Thomas, and
Flanders, thereby rendering Defendants' request for
12(b)(5) relief moot. (Pl.'s Opp. 1.) Plaintiff also
withdrawals all claims against Officers Martin and Pronto.
(Pl.'s Opp. 2.) With respect to Defendants' motion
for dismissal of Plaintiff's punitive damages claim,
Plaintiff clarifies that he no longer seeks monetary damages
against Defendants sued in their official capacities but does
seek declaratory and injunctive relief for the alleged
racially discriminatory policies of Defendant Borough.
(Pl.'s Opp. 5.) A discussion of Plaintiff's remaining
Section 1983 & Monell 
result of Plaintiff's arrest, he seeks to hold the
Borough of Pottstown liable for alleged violations of his
constitutional rights based on the conduct of the
Borough's police officers, acting through the
Borough's Police Department (BPPD). (Compl. ¶ 1.)
However, Plaintiff's Complaint fails to plead a
sufficient factual basis to sustain these claims.
1983 of Title 42 “provides private citizens with a
means to redress violations of federal law committed by state
individuals.” Woodyard v. County of Essex, 514
Fed.Appx. 177, 180 (3d Cir. 2013) (citing 42 U.S.C.
§1983). In order to state a cause of action under
Section 1983, a plaintiff must first allege that an
individual deprived him of a federal right. Boyden v.
Twp. of Upper Darby, 5 F.Supp.3d 731, 741 (E.D. Pa.
2014). Second, the plaintiff must allege that the individual
who deprived him of that right acted under color of state or
territorial law. Id. at 741. Plaintiff herein
alleges he was deprived of his constitutional right to be
protected against an “unlawful arrest, seizure,
[d]etention and imprisonment.” (Compl. ¶ 2.)
Plaintiff further contends that Defendant Officers, who were
acting under color of state law through the BPPD, deprived
him of such a right. (Compl. ¶ 27.) However, this
Court's assessment does not end here.
well settled that “[a] municipality or county may not
be held vicariously liable under §1983 for the actions
of its agents[.]” Hanks v. Cty. of Del., 518
F.Supp.2d 642, 651 (E.D. Pa. 2007) (citing Monell v.
Dep't of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 98 S.Ct. 2018,
56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978)). An exception exists when a
municipality “has a policy or custom which is the
‘moving force' behind a constitutional
violation.” Id. To prevail on such a claim, a
plaintiff must show a direct causal link between the policy
and a constitutional violation. Id. (citing Bd.
of the County Comm'rs v. Brown, 520 U.S. 397, 400
(1997)) “If the policy or custom does not facially