United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. SCHWAB, CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
action comes before this court for a screening review of the
complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 1915A. For the
reasons that follow, we conclude that the complaint states
false-arrest claims against two of the defendants (Detectives
Munley and Conrad), but that the complaint otherwise fails to
state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Although we
granted the plaintiff Vertis Dillon, III leave to file an
amended complaint, he has informed the court that he will not
be filing an amended complaint. Thus, we recommend that the
court dismiss all Dillon's claims except the false-arrest
claims against Detectives Munley and Conrad.
a pre-trial detainee at the Lackawanna County Prison,
commenced this action pro se on July 17, 2019, by
filing a complaint, along with an application to proceed
in forma pauperis. The defendants named are John
Munley and Corey Conrad, who are identified as detectives
with the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office;
the city of Scranton; and the Lackawanna County District
Attorney's Office. Dillon brings his claims against
Detectives Munley and Conrad in both their individual and
contends that Detectives Munley and Conrad arrested him
without probable cause. He also alleges that Munley lied in
an affidavit of probable cause.According to Dillon, Munley stated
that on the evening of June 14, 2019, he observed Dillon
drive past him without his headlights. In the affidavit of
probable cause, Munley recounted that he pursued Dillon and
activated his lights and siren to conduct a traffic stop, but
Dillon accelerated and began throwing plastic baggies
containing suspected crack cocaine from his vehicle. After
Munley radioed for assistance, another officer retrieved the
baggies that Dillon had purportedly thrown from his vehicle.
According to Munley's affidavit of probable cause, after
a further chase, Dillon abandoned his vehicle and fled on
foot. Munley asserted that he searched Dillon's vehicle
and found four plastic bags containing what was suspected to
be crack cocaine as well as a cell phone, which was open and
on which Munley could see text messages coming in for Dillon.
Munley put out a BOLO for Dillon.
contends that Munley provided false information in his
affidavit of probable cause and that Munley had not
identified Dillon as the driver of the vehicle in question at
the time. According to Dillon, Munley stated in an incident
report that there was no identification of the driver, and
only 30 minutes later was he purportedly identified as the
driver. Dillon also alleges that a newspaper
article regarding the incident stated that there was no
identification of the driver.
alleges that Munley also made knowingly false statements in
connection with the affidavit of probable cause to search the
phone that Munley found in the vehicle. According to Dillon,
although Munley stated that he saw text messages coming in
for Dillon, after the phone was searched, nothing was found,
not even a text message.
Dillon claims that Detectives Munley and Conrad falsely
arrested him, it is not clear from the complaint exactly when
or how Dillon was arrested. He cryptically states that
“Munley, is currently trying to obtain identification
of Plaintiff to have probable cause for his arrest of
Plaintiff, ” and that “Munley should have
obtained this information prior to arresting” him.
Doc. 1 at 4. At some point, a buccal swab of Dillon
was taken at the Lackawanna County Courthouse. During that
process, Dillon alleges, after he told Munley that he would
sue him for arresting him for a crime he did not commit,
Munley and Conrad responded that they did not care because
the money would come from the county, and Conrad said he had
only seven dollars in his account.
alleges that Munley and Conrad radioed that the driver of the
vehicle was a black male even though they had “no proof
of knowing who the driver was, ” which, according to
Dillon, was racial profiling by Munley. Dillon maintains that
he did not commit any crime, that the defendants arrested him
without probable cause, and that they provided false
information in an affidavit of probable cause with “ill
intent.” Id. at 5-6.
to Dillon, the City of Scranton has a custom of allowing its
police officers to violate the Fourth Amendment rights of its
citizens. Dillon alleges that the City of Scranton is aware
that the Lackawanna County District Attorney's Office
knows that law enforcement officers have committed
“unlawful arrest, but have done nothing to correct
it.” Id. at 5. He contends that officers
previously arrested citizens with false information, were
caught doing so, but were not prosecuted or disciplined.
Dillon claims that the City of Scranton's inaction has
caused other law enforcement officials in Scranton to make a
mockery of the Fourth Amendment.
sets forth four counts in his complaint: a count for false
arrest/false imprisonment under 42 U.S.C. § 1983,
count for false arrest/false imprisonment under state law, a
count for malicious prosecution under state law, and a
Monellclaim against the City of Scranton.
granted Dillon's application for leave to proceed in
forma pauperis, and we later screened the complaint.
Although we granted Dillon leave to file an amended
complaint, he has informed the court that he will not be
filing an amended complaint. See doc. 10.
Screening of In Forma Pauperis Complaints-Standard
court has a statutory obligation to conduct a preliminary
review of complaints brought by prisoners given leave to
proceed in forma pauperis in cases that seek redress
against government officials. Specifically, the court must
review the complaint in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
1915A, which provides, in pertinent part:
(a) Screening. The court shall review,
before docketing, if feasible or, in any event, as soon as
practicable after docketing, a complaint in a civil action in
which a prisoner seeks redress from a governmental entity or
officer or employee of a governmental entity.
(b) Grounds for dismissal. On review, the
court shall identify cognizable claims or dismiss the
complaint, or any portion of the ...