United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JERRY L. STRICKLAND, SR., Plaintiff,
HAINES CITY, FLORIDA, et al., Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION ECF NOS. 53, 55
PARADISE BAXTER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Jerry Strickland, Sr., is suing Officer Ronald Adams and the
City of Haines City Florida under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violating his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights
This suit is based on the allegedly unlawful arrest of Mr.
Strickland in Erie, Pennsylvania, based on a Florida warrant
and his subsequent detention and extradition to face criminal
charges in Florida.
here are the separate motions to dismiss by Officer Adams and
civil action was filed in this Court by Mr. Strickland acting
on his own behalf. The Clerk of Courts originally assigned
this case to then Chief Judge Joy Flowers Conti.
Defendants to the original complaint, Plaintiff named Haines
City Police Department. Ronald Adams, Christopher Colon,
Joseph Sorrentino, and Anthony Sanfilippo. In opposition to
the original complaint, Defendants moved to dismiss. ECF No.
14; ECF No. 19. Counsel enterec I an appearance on behalf of
Mr. Strickland. Judge Conti held oral argument and granted in
part and denied in part the motions to dismiss. She found
that personal jurisdiction over Adams and Haines City was
likely, but then set forth deadlines for limited
jurisdictional discovery and the filing of an amended
complaint. Later, this case was re-assigned to the
operative complaint is the First Amended
Complaint which names as Defendants: the City of
Haines City, Florida, and John/Jane Does 1-5 and Officer
Ronald Adams, all employees of the Haines City Police
Department. ECF No. 48. Mr. Strickland sets forth these four
Count I - a state tort claim of malicious prosecution under
Restatement (Second) of Torts § 653 against Adams and
the five Doe Defendants;
Count II - a § 1983 claim against Adams and the five Doe
Count III - a § 1983 claim against the five Doe
Defendants based upon their supervisory authority over and
liability for the actions of Adams; and
Count IV-a § 1983 Monell claim against Haines
here are separate motions to dismiss filed by Haines City and
Officer Adams under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
12(b)(2), 12(b)(3), and 12(b)(6). ECF No. 53; ECF No. 55.
These dispositive motions are fully briefed and are ripe for
disposition by this Court.
as true Plaintiffs characterizations of the events on which
this action is based, Jerry Strickland, a resident of Erie,
Pennsylvania, is the father of Jerrea Strickland whose mother
Elrica Roberts resides near Haines City, Florida. Jerrea, who
was 16 or 17 years old, lived with her father Mr. Strickland
in Erie or with her mother Elrica Roberts in Haines City,
Florida. At the beginning of the school year of 2016-2017,
Jerrea resided with her father in Erie, Pennsylvania and was
enrolled in school. In early December 2016, Ms. Roberts
traveled from Florida to Erie and physically removed Jerrea
from school and took her to Florida.
December 16, 2016, Ms. Roberts reported to the Haines City
Police Department that Jerrea was missing from her residence.
Officer Heriberto Hernandez of the Haines City Police
Department initially investigated. Officer Hernandez spoke
with Mr. Strickland in Erie. Strickland had learned that
Jerrea was on her way to Erie but he denied having provided
her with funds to travel or of assisting in her effort to
leave Florida. Strickland also denied having made any recent
trips to Florida. Officer Hernandez threatened Strickland
with criminal prosecution and Mr. Strickland responded by
again denying his involvement and stating the Florida law
enforcement had no jurisdiction over him. Officer Hernandez
turned the matter over to Defendant Officer Adams who
continued to investigate the matter.
Adams contacted the City of Erie Police Department for its
assistance in locating Mr. Strickland and Jerrea. Officer
Adams had multiple contacts with Erie Police Detective I
Michael Hertel. On January 4, 2017, Adams confirmed that
Jerrea was enrolled at East High School in the City of Erie
two weeks later, Officer Adams spoke to Dennis Carter, the
assistant principal at East High School, who confirmed the
Jerrea was enrolled in and attending East High School. On
January 27, 2017, Adams was advised by East High School's
resource officer Frank Bugaj that he had spoken to Jerrea who
explained that she bought her plane ticket and traveled to
Erie, Pennsylvania by herself, and was currently residing
with her father. Officer Bugaj followed up this conversation
with an email to Adams the same date. Based on this
information, Officer Adams removed Jerrea from NCIC/FCIC as
missing on January 27, 2017.
early February, Officer Adams authored a "complaint
affidavit" charging Mr. Strickland with aiding Jerrea in
leaving Florida by providing her shelter and enrolling her in
school in Erie, Pennsylvania. Although Ms. Roberts had
earlier declined to pursue the matter, on February 13, 2017,
Officer Adams pressured Roberts into pursuing charges against
Strickland.Adams then authored a second
"complaint affidavit" concluding that "there
is probable cause to file a complaint affidavit with the
State Attorney's Office." ECF No. 48-3, page 4. Both
"complaint affidavits" make note that Mr.
Strickland stated that the Florida authorities had no
jurisdiction over him. When he authored both "complaint
affidavits, " Officer Adams knew there was no evidence
that Strickland had committed any criminal act in Florida.
Strickland was charged with Interference with the Custody of
a Minor and Contributing to the Delinquency or Dependency of
a Minor. On April 13, 2017, the Circuit Court Criminal
Division of Polk County, Florida issued a warrant for
Strickland's arrest based on the information in the
months later, Mr. Strickland was stopped by police in Erie,
Pennsylvania for an alleged broken brake light. Based on the
Florida warrant, Strickland was arrested. Mr. Strickland was
extradited to Florida. The extradition transport was a
week-long journey in which Strickland was confined in jails
and detention facilities across several states. Strickland
spent another week detained in Polk County before being
arraigned on July 29, 2017. On August 11, 2017, Ms. Roberts
formally sought a dismissal of all charges and on November 1,
2017, all charges against Strickland were nolle
prossed. Between the date of his booking and the
dismissal of the charges against him, Strickland incurred
loss of time and travel costs on at least nine separate
occasions for court.
of Personal Jurisdiction
Officer Adams and Haines City move for dismissal based on
lack of personal jurisdiction. Because jurisdiction is a
threshold issue, it must be addressed at the outset. Mr.
Strickland asserts the existence of specific personal
jurisdiction over Officer Adams and Haines City. Specific
personal jurisdiction applies when the suit arises out of or
relates to the defendant's contacts with the forum.
Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown, 564
U.S. 915, 923-24(2011).
defendant asserts a motion to dismiss for lack of personal
jurisdiction, it becomes the plaintiffs burden to adduce
facts that establish personal jurisdiction. Fatouros v.
Larnbrakis, I 627 F.App'x 84, 86-87 (3d Cir. 2015);
Metcalfe v. Renaissance Marine, Inc., 566 F.3d 324,
330 I (3d Cir. 2009). If the court does not hold an
evidentiary hearing, the plaintiff need only establish a
prima facie case of personal jurisdiction. Fatouros,
627 F.App'x at 86-87; D'Jarnoos v. Pilatus
Aircraft Ltd., 566 F.3d 94, 102 (3d Cir. 2009). In
determining whether the plaintiff has made out his prima
facie case, the court must accept the plaintiffs allegations
as true and construe any disputed facts in the plaintiffs
favor. Fatouros, 627 F.App'x at 86-87;
Metcalfe, 566 F.3d at 330.
Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k) authorizes a federal district
court to exercise personal jurisdiction in accordance with
the law of the state where it sits. See Fed. R. Civ.
P. 4(k)(1); O'Connor v. Sandy Lane Hotel Co.,
496 F.3d 312, 316 (3d Cir. 2007). Under Pennsylvania law,
specific personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant
is permitted "to the fullest extent allowed under the
Constitution of the United States" and "based on
the most minimum contact with this Commonwealth allowed under
the Constitution." 42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. §
5322(b); see Ackourey v. Sonellas Custom Tailors,
573 F.App'x 208, 211 (3d Cir. 2014).
Process Clause permits the exercise of personal jurisdiction
when there are sufficient "minimum contacts"
between a non-resident defendant and the forum state so that
"maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice." J.
Mclntyre Mack, Ltd v. Nicastro, 564 U.S. 873, 880 (2011)
quotingInt7 Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326
U.S. 310, 316 (1945). In determining whether there are
sufficient minimum contacts, the court must determine whether
the defendant "purposefully directed" his
activities at residents in the forum, Burger King Corp.
v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 472 (1985), or whether there
was "some act by which the defendant purposefully
avail[ed] [himself] of the privilege of conducting activities
within the forum State, thus invoking the benefits and
protections of its I laws." Hanson v. Denckla,
357 U.S. 235, 253 (1958) citing Int'l Shoe, 326
U.S. at 319. To be I constitutionally sufficient, the
defendant's contacts must not be "random, fortuitous
or attenuated." Burger King 471 U.S. at 475
Third Circuit has condensed the jurisdictional analysis into
a single test: first, the defendant must have purposefully
directed its activities at the forum; second, the litigation
must arise out of or relate to at least one of those
activities; and finally, if the prior two requirements are
satisfied, the court may consider whether the
assertion of jurisdiction otherwise comports with traditional
notions of fair play and substantial justice. See
O'Connor, 496 F.3d at 317. The first two parts of
this analysis determine whether there are sufficient minimum
contacts such that the defendant could be said to have
"purposefully availed itself of the privilege of
conducting activities within the forum state."
Williams v. Johnson, 2009 WL 3152135, at *3 (E.D.
Pa. Sept. 30, 2009) citing D 'Jamoos, 566 F.3d
at 102-03. The contacts must be enough that the defendant
"should reasonably anticipate being haled into court
there." Id. at *4. The analysis demands a
"highly realistic" approach, Mellon Bank (East)
PSFS, Nat Ass'n v. Farino, 960 F.2d 1217, 1224 (3d
Cir. 1992), that considers the relationship among the forum,
the defendant, and the litigation. See Frontier Ins. Co.
v. Natl Signal Corp., 1998 WL 778333, at *2 (E.D. Pa.
Nov. 9, 1998) citing Mellon Bank, 960 F.2d at 1221.
Adams contends that he lacks sufficient minimum contacts with
Pennsylvania because his involvement is limited to the
preparation of the probable cause affidavit in Florida.
However, Plaintiffs allegations as to Adams (and Haines City
since Adams acted as an employee or agent of the City) are
not limited to preparation of the affidavits. Mr. Strickland
alleges: 1) Adams contacted the Erie Police Department to
inform Erie police officers of the violation of a custody
order involving Jerrea Strickland; 2) Adams contacted the
assistant principal at East High School in Erie; 3) on a
separate occasion, Adams contacted the resource officer at
East High School; 4) Adams contacted the Erie Police
Department multiple times by phone and emails in his efforts
to locate Jerrea Strickland; and 5) Adams caused the Florida
arrest warrant to be issued. Additionally, as to Haines City,
Mr. Strickland alleges that Haines City Police Officer
Hernandez spoke with him in Erie during the early days of the
investigation as to Jerrea's whereabouts and threatened
him with criminal prosecution in Florida.
on these factual allegations, the Court finds that Officer
Adams and Haines City purposefully availed themselves of the
privilege of conducting activities within this Commonwealth,
and thereby invoked the benefits and protections of its laws.
Burger King, 471 U.S. at 474-75; Hanson,
357 U.S. at 253. Thus, they had sufficient contacts with this
forum so that they should have reasonably expected to be
"haled" into a Pennsylvania court if sued for
events arising out of activities here. World-Wide
Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 297(1980).
Strickland has established a prima facie case for exercising
specific personal jurisdiction over these Defendants, it
becomes Defendants' burden to "present a compelling
case" that the Court's assertion of jurisdiction
would be unreasonable. Mellon Bank, 960 F.2d at
1226. Among the factors to be considered are "the burden
on the defendant, the forum State's interest in
adjudicating the dispute, the plaintiffs interest in
obtaining convenient and effective relief, the interstate
judicial system's interest in obtaining the most
efficient resolution of controversies, and the shared
interest of the several States in furthering fundamental
substantive social policies." Id. at 1222,
quoting Burger King, 471 U.S. at 477. "[T]his
second tier of analysis is discretionary with the
Defendants dispute the existence of sufficient minimum
contacts, Officer Adams has not tried to show that the
exercise of personal jurisdiction would be unreasonable based
on the factors listed. The Court thus finds no basis for
concluding that its assertion of jurisdiction over Officer
Adams violates traditional notions of fair play and
substantial justice. See Mellon Bank, 960 F.2d at
1227 ("Because the defendants bear the burden of showing
the unreasonableness of an otherwise constitutional assertion
of jurisdiction, and because they have failed to raise the
issue in this court, we conclude that this is not an
'appropriate case' in which to consider the other
factors bearing on 'fair play and substantial
justice.'"). For these reasons, Officer Adams'
motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(2) will be denied.
the exercise of personal jurisdiction is unreasonable, Haines
City argues that
It also seems unreasonable for the citizens of an
out-of-state municipality like Erie, Pennsylvania, to have to
pay the costs of litigation in a state where the local
municipality was acting to investigate a law enforcement
issue for a citizen of that municipality. It is unfair to
burden the Pennsylvania community with jury service, to have
a Pennsylvania trier of fact evaluate Florida law, and to
have a Pennsylvania ...