Russoli v. Salisbury Tp.

Decision Date20 October 2000
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 98-2688.
Citation126 F.Supp.2d 821
PartiesCharles RUSSOLI and Marguerite Russoli, Plaintiffs, v. SALISBURY TOWNSHIP, Salisbury Township Police Department, Thomas E. Anderson, and Kevin J. Soberick, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Pennsylvania

Richard F. Stevens, Paul F. Laughlin, Stevens and Johnson, Allentown, PA, for plaintiffs.

Thomas C. Gallagher, Matthew J. Connell, Holsten and Associates, Media, PA, for defendants.


VAN ANTWERPEN, District Judge.


Plaintiffs Charles Russoli and Marguerite Russoli have brought the instant action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the Defendants, Thomas E. Anderson, Kevin J. Soberick, Salisbury Township, and Salisbury Township Police Department, violated their rights under the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.1 They have also brought a number of state law claims. Before the Court for disposition is Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment on all claims, filed by the Defendants on June 26, 2000. We have jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343, and 1367.

We note at the outset that the Plaintiffs failed to assert in their Complaint that this Court has jurisdiction over the state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367. Further, while the Plaintiffs did allege that certain of their constitutional rights had been violated, they were not as specific as we would prefer in asserting either their federal or state claims. The Defendants have argued against our exercise of supplemental jurisdiction because of these alleged defects in the Complaint. Even if the Defendants had not objected to our exercise of supplemental jurisdiction, however, we are still "bound to consider [our] own jurisdiction preliminary to consideration of the merits" because federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, Trent Realty Assocs. v. First Federal Savings & Loan Ass'n of Philadelphia, 657 F.2d 29, 36 (3d Cir.1981); see also Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Crown Cork & Seal Co., 905 F.2d 42, 45 (3d Cir.1990), and we are required to undertake such an examination sua sponte, see id.

Defendants argue in their Reply Memorandum to Plaintiffs' Response against our exercise of supplemental jurisdiction, stating that the Plaintiffs have the burden of establishing jurisdiction and failed to do so in their Complaint. Defendants also argue that it is irrelevant that they failed to object earlier to our exercise of supplemental jurisdiction. We do not agree with Defendants' arguments.

We can infer from the Complaint that Plaintiffs intended to assert both § 1983 and state law claims arising from the same alleged actions of the Defendants. Plaintiffs captioned Counts I and IX of their First Amended Complaint as § 1983 claims. Plaintiffs captioned Counts II-VIII, however, not by the law under which they are making the claim, but by the nature of the underlying conduct giving rise to the claim, for example unlawful arrest, malicious prosecution, excessive force. In Counts II-VIII, the Plaintiffs alleged that they suffered damages including "physical and mental suffering, loss of reputation, and deprivation of Constitutional rights." Plaintiffs then sought punitive damages and "also [sought] all the statutory remedies available under Section 1983" before they made their general demand for judgment and damages. This Court infers from Plaintiffs' captioning of the counts and their method of demanding relief that Plaintiffs intended to make claims under both § 1983 and state law for Counts II-VIII, and Defendants should have been on notice that there were claims under both state law and § 1983 when they read the Complaint.2

Even if the Plaintiffs' method of pleading did not clearly put Defendants on notice that state law claims were made by Plaintiffs, the Third Circuit has rejected the argument that a basis for jurisdiction is waived if not alleged at the inception of the suit. See Berkshire Fashions, Inc. v. M.V. Hakusan II, 954 F.2d 874 (3d Cir. 1992). The Third Circuit stated: "We know of no absolute prohibition against asserting another basis for jurisdiction in an amendment to a pleading, provided that such jurisdiction would have existed at the time the complaint was originally filed. Many circuits have held that no such prohibition exists." See id. at 887 (citing Miller v. Stanmore, 636 F.2d 986 (5th Cir. 1981); John M. Peters Constr. Co. v. Marmar Corp., 329 F.2d 421 (6th Cir.1964); United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO v. Mesker Bros. Industries, Inc., 457 F.2d 91 (8th Cir.1972); Local 179, United Textile Workers of America, AFL-CIO v. Federal Paper Stock Co., 461 F.2d 849 (8th Cir.1972); May Department Store v. Graphic Process Co., 637 F.2d 1211 (9th Cir.1980)). The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow complaints to be amended upon motion, and direct that "leave [to amend] shall be freely given when justice so requires." Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a). 28 U.S.C. § 1653 specifies that "[d]efective allegations of jurisdiction may be amended, upon terms, in the trial or appellate courts." Although the Plaintiffs have not made a motion to amend the Complaint to include § 1367(a) as a basis for this Court's jurisdiction, the fact that the courts have been instructed to liberally allow motions to amend complaints colors our decision in this case. See Berkshire Fashions Inc., 954 F.2d at 886 (directing that "the discretion [to allow amendments] should be exercised within the context of liberal pleading rules").

The Third Circuit has noted that "the district court may deny a leave to amend only where in its discretion the district court finds that the plaintiff's delay in seeking the amendment is undue, made in bad faith, prejudicial to the opposing party, or fails to cure the jurisdictional defect." Berkshire Fashions Inc., 954 F.2d at 886. See also Lorenz v. CSX Corp., 1 F.3d 1406, 1414 (3d Cir.1993) ("In the absence of substantial or undue prejudice, denial instead must be based on bad faith or dilatory motives, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failures to cure the deficiency by amendments previously allowed, or futility of amendment."); Tarkett Inc. v. Congoleum Corp., 144 F.R.D. 289, 290 (E.D.Pa.1992) ("The Third Circuit has interpreted these factors to emphasize that prejudice to the non-moving party is the touchstone for the denial of a request for leave to amend."). Defendants argue that it would be prejudicial to them to add the state law claims at this point in the litigation because they have already prepared a defense to Plaintiffs' allegations and prepared a motion for summary judgment based on the federal law claims only.3 This Court disagrees that the Defendants would be so prejudiced. Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment assumed that each of the counts, except those captioned as § 1983 counts, included both state and federal claims. Instead of addressing the claims on the merits and attempting to show that they were entitled to summary judgment, however, the Defendants merely asserted that because the Plaintiffs failed to allege that this Court has supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367, we cannot hear the state claims. Rule 8(a) requires that the complaint contain "(1) a short and plain statement of the grounds upon which the court's jurisdiction depends, unless the court already has jurisdiction and the claim needs no new grounds of jurisdiction to support it, (2) a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief, and (3) a demand for judgment for the relief the pleader seeks." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a). The Rule requires only a showing of jurisdictional facts, not a list of the statutory bases of the Court's jurisdiction.

Under Congress's codification of supplemental jurisdiction, "The district courts shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). In its seminal decision on supplemental jurisdiction, the Supreme Court held that "in order for the district court to exercise `pendent' jurisdiction over Gibbs' state law claim, the state and federal claims must derive from a common nucleus of operative fact ... such that [the plaintiff] would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding." United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966). As we explained previously, Counts II through VIII allege both federal and state law claims, and each count is based upon the arrests of Mr. and Mrs. Russoli, the events surrounding the arrests, and the aftermath of the arrests. Because each state law claim arises from the same or related facts as a federal law claim, the complaint sufficiently alleges the necessary jurisdictional facts. Therefore Defendants will not be prejudiced by our exercise of supplemental jurisdiction, and we will exercise it.


The court shall render summary judgment only "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c). An issue is "genuine" only if there is a sufficient evidentiary basis on which a reasonable jury could find for the non-moving party. See Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 249, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986) ("Anderson I"). A factual dispute is "material" only if it might affect the outcome of the suit under governing law. See id. at 248, 106 S.Ct. 2505. All inferences must be drawn...

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