United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ORDER ON MOTION TO AMEND [ECF No. 7]
RICHARD A. LANZILLO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
pending before the Court is Plaintiff Kareem Armstrong's
Motion for Leave to Amend Amended Complaint to Add Count [ECF
No. 7], Defendants' response thereto [ECF No. 12], and
Plaintiffs reply [ECF No. 13]. In his motion, Plaintiff seeks
to add a third count to his Amended Complaint asserting a
claim of defamation under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Id. Plaintiff alleges that his reputation was
damaged when Defendant Furman wrongfully accused him of
possessing drugs and then falsified documents and issued a
false misconduct report without any physical evidence of drug
possession. ECF No. 7.
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure governs the amendment
of complaints. A complaint may ordinarily be amended once
"as a matter of course" within 21 days after
service of a complaint, a responsive pleading to a complaint,
or a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(1). Plaintiff
exercised his right to amend once as a matter of course when
he filed an amended complaint on September 18, 2019.
See ECF No. 3. Thereafter, Plaintiff may amend his
pleading "only with the opposing party's written
consent or the court's leave." Fed.R.Civ.P.
"court should freely give leave when justice so
requires," see id., the decision to grant leave
is ultimately within the sound discretion of the trial court.
Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research Inc., 401
U.S. 321, 330 (1970). Factors to consider in determining a
motion for leave to amend include: (1) undue delay on the
part of the party seeking to amend; (2) bad faith or dilatory
motive behind the amendment; (3) repeated failure to cure
deficiencies through multiple prior amendments; (4) undue
prejudice on the opposing party; and/or (5) whether the
proposed amendment would be futile. See Great Western
Mining & Mineral Co. v. Fox Rothschild LLP, 615 F.3d
159, 174 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Foman v. Davis, 371
U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).
instant case, Plaintiff pleads the following facts in support
of his proposed defamation claim:
36) Defamation is that which tends to injure reputation to
diminish the esteem, respect, goodwill or adverse, derogatory
or unpleasant feeling or opinious against him
37) Defendant Furman [defamed Plaintiff] by misrepresentation
evidences. There's only (3) ways of being in possession
[of illegal drugs]: 1) Inside of my personal property. 2) On
my person. 3) Through my urine. So for defendant Furman to
issue plaintiff a misconduct for drugs was defendant Furman
falsifying documents/information causes "false entries,
or otherwise tampering with intent to deceive or injure or to
38) Defamation is actionable when it occurs in the course of
or accompanied by a change or extinguished of a right or
status guaranteed by State law or the constitution.
39) As a direct and proximates result of defendant Furman
issuing a false misconduct report without the physical
evidence of said drug was in fact defamation to plaintiff
reputation. Violating plaintiffs Fourteenth Amendment.
ECF No. 7 at 2-3. Defendants respond that Plaintiffs proposed
amendment should be rejected as futile. The Court agrees.
United States Supreme Court has made clear "that federal
courts are not to view defamatory acts as constitutional
violations." Boyanowski v. Capital Area Intermediate
Unit, 215 F.3d 396, 401 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Paul
v. Davis, 424 U.S. 693 (1976)). Consequently, Plaintiff
"cannot plead a slander claim as a § 1983 claim
because it is not cognizable under § 1983."
Page v. Doyle, 2018 WL 2976374, at *3 (E.D. Pa. June
12, 2018) (citing Boyanowski, 215 F.3d at 401).
See also Karolski v. City of Aliquippa, 2016 WL
7404551, at *7 (W.D. Pa. Dec. 22, 2016) (noting that,
"[b]ecause there is no federal constitutional right to
reputation," "violations of state law, including
defamation, are insufficient to state a claim under §
1983") (quoting Kulwicki v. Dawson, 969 F.2d
1454, 1468 (3d Cir. 1992)).
extent that Plaintiff may have intended to assert his
defamation claim pursuant to state tort law, it is
well-established that the doctrine of sovereign immunity
protects "state corrections officers . . . from
intentional tort claims, such as defamation."
Muhammad v. DeBalso, 2019 WL 2501467, at *3 (M.D.
Pa. June 17, 2019). As one court recently explained:
"[D]efamation is an intentional tort in the Commonwealth
of Pennsylvania. See Joseph v. Scranton Times, L.P.,
959 A.2d 322, 334 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2008). "Pursuant to
section 11 of Article 1 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania,
... the Commonwealth, and its officials and employees acting
within the scope of their duties, shall continue to enjoy
sovereign immunity and official immunity and remain immune
from suit except as the General Assembly shall specifically
waive the immunity." 1 Pa. C.S. § 2310. "The
Pennsylvania legislature has not chosen to waive this
immunity for intentional torts." Wicker v.
Shannon, 2010 WL 3812351, at *9 (M.D. Pa. Sep., 21,
2010) (citing 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8522).
Id. Due to the protections afforded by the doctrine
of sovereign immunity, Plaintiff cannot assert his defamation
claim against ...