Link v. Cmar, Civil Action No. 13-1126

CourtUnited States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. Western District of Pennsylvania
Writing for the CourtChief Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly
PartiesBRANDON PATRICK LINK, Plaintiff, v. DEPUTY WARDEN CMAR, Westmoreland County Prison; PAUL S. KUNTZ, Court Administrator for Judge John E. Blahovec; BRYAN L. KLINE, Clerk of Courts Westmoreland County Courts, WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Defendants.
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 13-1126
Decision Date27 February 2015

Westmoreland County Prison; PAUL S.
KUNTZ, Court Administrator for Judge
John E. Blahovec; BRYAN L. KLINE,
Clerk of Courts Westmoreland County
Courts, WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Defendants.

Civil Action No. 13-1126


February 27, 2015

Chief Magistrate Judge Maureen P. Kelly

Re: ECF Nos. 29 and 33


KELLY, Chief Magistrate Judge

Plaintiff Brandon Patrick Link ("Plaintiff") has brought this civil rights action against Defendants Deputy Warden Cmar, Westmoreland County Prison ("Cmar"), Paul S. Kuntz, Court Administrator for Judge John E. Blahovec's Courtroom ("Kuntz"), and Westmoreland County (the County") (collectively, "Defendants"), asserting claims relative to Plaintiff's incarceration at the Westmoreland County Prison in 2013.1 Plaintiff alleges that Defendants violated his rights provided by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by failing to promptly notify the State of Florida, where Plaintiff had other charges pending, that he was available "for

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pick up," which resulted in Plaintiff having to serve an additional eighteen days of "unlawful imprisonment" in a Pennsylvania jail.

Presently before the Court is a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint submitted by the County and Cmar, ECF No. 29, and a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint submitted by Court Administrator Paul Kuntz. ECF No. 33. For the reasons that follow, both Motions will be granted.


According to the Second Amended Complaint, Plaintiff was arrested and brought to Pennsylvania from his home in North Carolina and unlawfully detained for 222 days, or until July 3, 2013, when Judge Blahovec of the Westmoreland County Court of Common Pleas dismissed the charges brought against Plaintiff based on a lack of jurisdiction. ECF No. 25, ¶ 7; ECF No. 25-1. Because Plaintiff had criminal charges pending in the State of Florida, and had previously waived extradition on those charges, Judge Blahovec also ordered that Plaintiff was to be "discharged to his extradition detainer" and "made available for prompt pick-up by the demanding state." ECF No. 25, ¶¶ 7-8; ECF No. 25-1. Plaintiff presently complains that, despite the fact that Judge Blahovec dismissed the charges against Plaintiff on July 3, 2013, the State of Florida was not notified until July 21, 2013, that Plaintiff was available to be transferred. Plaintiff contends that the eighteen days that he was held in the Westmoreland County Prison before Florida was notified of his availability for transfer violated Pennsylvania law pertaining to extradition and interstate extradition laws, which Plaintiff contends require the extraditing state to make arrangements for pick up within ten days of the disposition of any local charges. ECF No. 25, ¶ 8.2

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More specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant Kuntz is responsible for his "illegal incarceration of 18 days longer than he should have been in a Pennsylvania jail by intentionally or negligently with reckless disregard, not forwarding the proper paperwork and documents to the Clerk of Courts in a timely manner . . . ," and that Defendant Cmar is responsible for his "illegal incarceration of 18 days longer than he should have been in Westmoreland County Prison by intentionally or negligently with reckless disregard by unlawfully imprisoning Plaintiff for 18 days after all charges were dismissed against him and by not contacting the State of Florida as ordered by the Courts in a timely manner . . . ." ECF No. 25, ¶¶ 9, 11. Plaintiff also alleges that the County "is responsible for the false imprisonment of Plaintiff" because it is the employer of both Kuntz and Cmar and thus is responsible for their actions and/or inaction. ECF No. 25, ¶ 12. In addition, Plaintiff contends that Defendants Kuntz and Cmar conspired "with others" to keep him unlawfully incarcerated. ECF No. 25, ¶¶ 13, 14, 16.

Plaintiff initiated this action on August 5, 2013, by filing a Motion for Leave to Proceed In Forma Pauperis. ECF No. 1. The Complaint was filed on January 6, 2014, ECF No. 5, and on March 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. ECF No. 19. On April 23, 2014, Plaintiff filed a Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 25, which is now the operative complaint, bringing claims against Defendants for false imprisonment and conspiracy. On June 12, 2014, the County and Cmar filed a Motion to Dismiss Second Amended Complaint. ECF No. 29. On July 7, 2013, Plaintiff filed a brief in Opposition to the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants the County and Cmar, ECF No. 39, and an Exhibit in Support of his brief in Opposition on July

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8, 2014. ECF No. 40. On June 17, 2014, Defendant Kuntz filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint, ECF No. 33, and on June 27, 2014, Plaintiff filed a brief in Opposition to Defendant Kuntz's Motion to Dismiss. ECF No. 38. As such, both the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendants the County and Kuntz and the Motion to Dismiss filed by Defendant Kuntz are ripe for review.


In assessing the sufficiency of the complaint pursuant to a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), the Court must accept as true all material allegations in the complaint and all reasonable factual inferences must be viewed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Odd v. Malone, 538 F.3d 202, 205 (3d Cir. 2008). The Court, however, need not accept bald assertions or inferences drawn by the plaintiff if they are unsupported by the facts set forth in the complaint. See California Pub. Employees' Ret. Sys. v. The Chubb Corp., 394 F.3d 126, 143 (3d Cir. 2004), citing Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997). Nor must the Court accept legal conclusions set forth as factual allegations. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). Rather, "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Id., citing Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986). Indeed, the United States Supreme Court has held that a complaint is properly dismissed under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6) where it does not allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," id. at 570, or where the factual content does not allow the court "to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). See Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 231 (3d Cir. 2008) (finding that, under Twombly, "labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action" do not suffice but, rather, the complaint "must allege facts

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suggestive of [the proscribed] conduct" and that are sufficient "to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of the necessary element[s] of his claim").


Plaintiff has brought his claims pursuant to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("Section 1983"), which provides that:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory or the District of Columbia, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress . . . .

42 U.S.C. § 1983. "Section 1983 provides remedies for deprivations of rights established in the Constitution or federal laws. It does not, by its own terms, create substantive rights." Kaucher v. Cnty. of Bucks, 455 F.3d 418, 423 (3d Cir. 2006), citing Baker v. McCollan, 443 U.S. 137, 145 n. 3 (1979) (footnote omitted). Thus, in order to state a claim for relief under Section 1983, the plaintiff must allege facts from which it could be inferred that "the defendant, acting under color of state law, deprived him or her of a right secured by the Constitution or the laws of the United States." Id. at 423. Here, Plaintiff brings his claims for false imprisonment and conspiracy under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution. See ECF No. 39, ¶ 7.

A. False Imprisonment

To state a claim for false imprisonment, a plaintiff must establish: (1) that he or she was detained; and (2) that the detention was unlawful. James v. City of Wilkes-Barre, 700 F.3d 675, 682-83 (3d Cir. 2012), quoting Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 389 (2007) ("[t]he sort of unlawful detention remediable by the tort of false imprisonment is detention without legal process"). A claim for false imprisonment based on unlawful detention may be found only

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where the delay in being released from prison is unreasonable. Regan v. Upper Darby Twp., 2009 WL 650384, at *11-12 (E.D. Pa. Mar.11, 2009), aff'd, 363 F. App'x 917 (3d Cir. 2010), citing Burgess v. Roth, 387 F. Supp. 1155, 1161-62 (E.D. Pa. 1975) ("[o]nly an unreasonable delay in a prisoner's release will result in the tort of false imprisonment. Only such a delay will justify a finding of a constitutional violation under § 1983"). Thus, to survive a motion to dismiss a plaintiff must plead sufficient facts to show that the delay in releasing him or her from prison was unreasonably long.

In the instant case, Defendant Cmar argues that Plaintiff's claims for false imprisonment should be dismissed as to him because the delay of eighteen days was not an unreasonable period of time and that Cmar, as the Deputy Warden of the Westmoreland County Prison, was not the proper authority to effectuate Plaintiff's release from jail and/or transfer to Florida. Cmar also argues that he is entitled to quasi-judicial immunity as well as qualified immunity regardless of the delay in notifying the State of Florida that Plaintiff was...

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