638 F.2d 646 (3rd Cir. 1981), 79-1920, Ross v. Meagan

Docket Nº:79-1920.
Citation:638 F.2d 646
Party Name:ROSS, Daniel, Martin, Jerryl, Appellants, v. Detective MEAGAN, Individually and in his person as Detective of the Philadelphia Fugitive Unit, his superior, his agent, servants, employees and successors in interest, Police Administration Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19107; Milton Shapp, Individually and in his person as Governor of the Commo
Case Date:January 16, 1981
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 646

638 F.2d 646 (3rd Cir. 1981)

ROSS, Daniel, Martin, Jerryl, Appellants,

v.

Detective MEAGAN, Individually and in his person as

Detective of the Philadelphia Fugitive Unit, his superior,

his agent, servants, employees and successors in interest,

Police Administration Building, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

19107; Milton Shapp, Individually and in his person as

Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, his agent,

servants, employees, and successors in interest, Room 238,

Main Capitol Building, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120; Glen

Price and Charles F. Gallagher, Individuals and in their

person as Assistant District Attorneys, their superior, his

agent, servants, employees, and successors in interest,

District Attorney's Office, 2300 Centre Square West,

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102; Owen Larrabee and Thomas

R. Hurd, Individuals and in their person as Assistant Public

Defenders, their superior, his agent, servants, employees,

and successors in interest, Defender Association of

Philadelphia, 1526 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19102.

No. 79-1920.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

January 16, 1981

Submitted under Third Circuit Rule 12(6) Dec. 31, 1980.

Page 647

Daniel Ross, pro se.

Jerryl Martin, pro se.

Charles A. Fisher, Asst. Dist. Atty., Michael F. Henry, Chief, Motions Div., Steven H. Goldblatt, Deputy Dist. Atty. for Law, Edward G. Rendell, Dist. Atty., Philadelphia, Pa., for appellees, Price and Gallagher.

Before ALDISERT, HUNTER and SLOVITER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

PER CURIAM.

The major question for decision is whether the district court abused its discretion in refusing to permit amendment of a pro se complaint against a Philadelphia detective and a former governor of Pennsylvania. We conclude that the refusal to permit amendment was an abuse of discretion with respect to these two defendants, but we affirm the judgment of the district court with respect to the other defendants.

I.

Appellant Jerryl Martin was arrested by Philadelphia police on February 5, 1977, on charges of possessing a controlled substance. Upon processing, an outstanding North Carolina warrant was discovered. After a hearing on April 25, 1977, Martin was extradited to North Carolina.

Appellant Daniel Ross was arrested on May 27, 1977, by federal authorities in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, on a warrant issued by a United States Magistrate in North Carolina charging unlawful flight to avoid confinement, 18 U.S.C. § 1073. At a removal hearing on June 2, 1977, on motion of the United States Attorney, the federal charges against Ross were dismissed, but Ross was turned over to Philadelphia Police Detective Meagan, who had an arrest warrant issued by the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County. This warrant apparently was based on outstanding North Carolina criminal charges. Ross unsuccessfully challenged extradition in the Pennsylvania court system by filing a petition for writ of habeas corpus. He was then extradited to North Carolina.

Martin and Ross initiated this action in October, 1978, by submitting a complaint for a declaratory judgment and monetary damages under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988. Defendant-appellees include Detective Meagan of the Philadelphia Fugitive Unit, former Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp, Assistant District Attorneys Glen Price and Charles F. Gallagher, and Assistant Public Defenders Owen Larrabee and Thomas R. Hurd. On December 12, 1978, the United States Magistrate submitted a Report to the district court recommending that appellants be permitted to proceed in forma pauperis and that the complaint be dismissed as frivolous. The district court approved and adopted the Report and Recommendation on December 19, 1978, and ordered the complaint dismissed. On January 15, 1979, appellants moved for an extension of time in which to object to the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation,

Page 648

to set aside the court's order approving the Recommendation, and for leave to amend their complaint. The district court denied the motion on March 12, 1979, and appellants filed a timely appeal from the order denying that motion.

Appellants' complaint alleges that the defendants conspired to deny their constitutional rights under the fourth and fourteenth amendments, that they denied appellants hearings on probable cause at the time of their arrests, that they deliberately deprived appellants of due process at their extradition hearings, and that they knowingly violated provisions of the Uniform Criminal Extradition Act, 42 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann. §§ 9121-9148. The district court, adopting the magistrate's Report, held that the two prosecutors and the two public defenders are entitled to absolute immunity for their judicial actions and therefore that the claims against them must be dismissed. As to the remaining defendants, the court held that appellants must seek relief by way of habeas corpus and not under the Civil Rights Acts because they were, "in effect, protesting the legality of their confinement." Magistrate's Report and Recommendation at 5. The court also found no allegations in the complaint that Governor Shapp either knew or acquiesced in any violation of appellants' constitutional rights and held that § 1983 liability cannot be based on a theory of respondeat superior.

We construe appellants' motion of January 15 as a motion for relief from a final order under Rule 60(b), Fed.R.Civ.P. See Browder v. Director, Dept. of Corrections of Illinois, 434 U.S. 257, 272, 98 S.Ct. 556, 565, 54 L.Ed.2d 521 (1978) (Blackmun, J., concurring); 7 J. Moore, Federal Practice P 60.27(1) at 350 (2d ed. 1979); id., P 60.42 at 903. A Rule 60(b) motion is "addressed to the sound discretion of the trial court guided by accepted legal principles applied in light of all the relevant circumstances." Id., P 60.27(1) at 351; see also Browder, 434 U.S. at 263 n.7, 98 S.Ct. at 560 n.7; Virgin Islands National Bank v. Tyson, 506 F.2d 802, 804 (3d Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 976, 95 S.Ct. 1976, 44 L.Ed.2d 467 (1975). The district court, treating the motion as a "request for reconsideration," denied the request because it had previously "determined that the complaint is frivolous and cannot be corrected by amendment." Order of March 12, 1979, at 2.

II.

We begin by examining the district court's order of December 19, 1978, dismissing the complaint, which the court refused to reconsider on March 12, 1979. Appellants did not appeal from the order of December 19, so we do not have jurisdiction to review that order for error. However, we must necessarily consider the correctness of that order to determine whether the district court abused its discretion in refusing the request for reconsideration.

It is clear that four of the six defendants enjoy absolute immunity from civil liability in their quasi-judicial capacities. The district court correctly concluded that prosecutors Price and Gallagher 1 enjoy absolute immunity for activities intimately associated with the judicial phase of the criminal process. Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430, 96 S.Ct. 984, 994, 47 L.Ed.2d 128 (1976); see also Mancini v. Lester, 630 F.2d 990 (3d Cir. 1980); Forsyth v. Kleindiest, 599 F.2d 1203 (3d Cir. 1979), petition for cert. filed sub nom. Mitchell v. Forsyth, 48 U.S.L.W. 3481 (U.S. Jan. 18, 1980) (No. 79-1120). Under Mancini and Forsyth, the federal courts must apply a functional analysis to determine whether the prosecutors' acts fall within the bounds of "judicial," as opposed to "investigative or administrative," duties. See Mancini, 630 F.2d at 992-94; Forsyth, 599 F.2d at 1212-16. While the district court did not employ such an analysis, it is clear from the complaint that...

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