COOPER v. CITY OF COATESVILLE et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION RE: MOTION TO DISMISS PLAINTIFF'S COMPLAINT (DOC. NO.14). SIGNED BY HONORABLE HARVEY BARTLE, III ON 1/3/2013. 1/3/2013 ENTERED AND COPIES E-MAILED.(kk, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CITY OF COATESVILLE, POLICE
CHIEF JULIUS CANALE,
INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS
AND JOHN/JANE DOES #1-1000
January 3, 2013
Plaintiff Larry Cooper ("Cooper") has sued the City of
Coatesville and Julius Canale ("Canale"), the former Chief of
Police of Coatesville, for violations of his civil rights
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983, and 1985.
Before the court
is the motion of these defendants to dismiss plaintiff's first
amended complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules
of Civil Procedure.
Plaintiff, who is African-American, alleges he was
hired as a police officer by the City of Coatesville in 1996 and
subsequently promoted to the position of corporal in 2002.
According to plaintiff, the city's Police Department, including
the former Chief of Police, Canale, intentionally discriminated
against him on the basis of his race by subjecting him to a
hostile work environment, refusing to grant him promotions for
which he was eligible, holding him to harsher disciplinary
standards than those to which white officers were held, and
restricting his rights and duties as a corporal in the police
force by ignoring him and failing to advise him of assignments,
among other actions.
Plaintiff alleges that the discriminatory
treatment he suffered was a custom and/or policy of the Police
Department and that Canale personally participated in and
condoned the discrimination.
Moreover, plaintiff contends that
Canale and a group of six police officers, nicknamed "the Dirty
Half-Dozen," conspired with one another to discriminate against
plaintiff in order to deprive him of his civil rights.
When ruling on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss, the
court must accept as true all factual allegations in the
complaint and draw all inferences in the light most favorable to
Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233
(3d Cir. 2008); Umland v. Planco Fin. Servs., Inc., 542 F.3d 59,
64 (3d Cir. 2008).
We must then determine whether the pleading
at issue "contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true,
to 'state a claim for relief that is plausible on its face.'"
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (citing Bell Atlantic
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007)).
This court may
consider the allegations in the complaint along with matters of
public record and any exhibits attached to the complaint.
Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., 998 F.2d
1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).
Defendant Canale first argues that plaintiff's claims
against him pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1981 are barred by McGovern
v. City of Philadelphia, 554 F.3d 114 (3d Cir. 2009).1
our Court of Appeals decided that the 1991 Amendment broadening
the reach of § 1981 did not alter the Supreme Court's holding in
Jett v. Dallas Independent School District, 491 U.S. 701 (1989),
that § 1981 does not provide a remedy for civil rights violations
committed as a result of an official policy or custom of a
The court in McGovern affirmed that a former
employee had no claim for relief against the City of Philadelphia
under § 1981.
Plaintiff counters that while § 1981 does not provide a
remedy against municipalities, neither Jett nor McGovern speaks
to whether § 1981 provides a remedy against a municipal officer
or employee, such as defendant Canale.
While Jett specifically
concerned municipal liability under § 1981, the Supreme Court
We hold now that the express "action at law"
provided by § 1983 for the "deprivation of
any rights, privileges, or immunities secured
by the Constitution and laws," provides the
1. Title 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) provides: "All persons within the
jurisdiction of the United States shall have the same right in
every State and Territory to make and enforce contracts, to sue,
be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of
all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property
as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like
punishment, pains, penalties, taxes, licenses, and exactions of
every kind, and to no other."
Subsection (b) was added in 1991 as a result of the Supreme
Court's decision in Patterson v. McLean Credit Union, 491 U.S.
164 (1989). That subsection reads: "'Make and enforce
contracts' defined. For purposes of this section, the term 'make
and enforce contracts' includes the making, performance,
modification, and termination of contracts, and the enjoyment of
all benefits, privileges, terms, and conditions of the
exclusive federal damages remedy for the
violation of the rights guaranteed by § 1981
when the claim is pressed against a state
Id. at 735.
Based on the reasoning of the Supreme Court, we see
no cause for differentiating between "state actor" municipal
liability under § 1981 and "state actor" liability under
§ 1981 of a municipal officer or employee.
There is simply no
remedy under § 1981 against a defendant acting under color of
The remedy lies solely under § 1983.
plaintiff's claims against defendant Canale under § 1981 will be
Defendants next contend that plaintiff has failed to
satisfy the requirements under Monell v. Department of Social
Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) for a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.
Under Monell a plaintiff must allege and prove that the
discriminatory actions taken against him or her were a result of
a policy or custom of the municipality, or that the actions were
undertaken or condoned by a municipal official who was a
Id. at 694-95; Bielevicz v. Dubinon, 915 F.2d 845,
850 (3d Cir. 1990).
According to defendants, plaintiff's allegations under
§ 1983 fail because plaintiff did not avail himself of the
grievance procedure available to Police Department employees,
and, as such, cannot demonstrate a discriminatory policy or
custom of the municipal defendant.
We find defendants' argument
Whether or not plaintiff went through the internal
Police Department grievance procedure, he has sufficiently
pleaded the existence of a policy or custom of discrimination
within the Department.
Specifically, he has alleged that the
Chief of Police participated in and condoned the purported
discriminatory acts against plaintiff.
We thus conclude that
plaintiff has stated a claim under Rule 12(b)(6) and may proceed
with his § 1983 claims against defendants.
Defendants also contend that plaintiff has failed
properly to allege a civil rights conspiracy claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1985.
Defendants assert that a § 1985 conspiracy
requires plaintiff to allege that invidious racial animus lay
behind defendants' actions and to plead facts from which a
conspiracy of that nature can be inferred.
Yet, defendants do
not point out how plaintiff's complaint is deficient in this
Plaintiff has plainly alleged an agreement among Canale
and the so-called "Dirty Half-Dozen" to deprive plaintiff of his
civil rights on the basis of his race.
As such, we find
defendants' contention without merit and will allow plaintiff to
proceed with his § 1985 claim.
Finally, defendants argue that all claims brought
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 which are premised on facts that
occurred more than two years prior to the date of the filing of
the complaint must be dismissed based on the applicable statute
Defendants correctly note that claims brought
under § 1983 are subject to the appropriate state statute of
limitations for personal injury actions.
471 U.S. 261, 266-67 (1985).
period is two years.
See Wilson v. Garcia,
In Pennsylvania the limitations
42 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5524.
counters that a defense based on the statute of limitations is
premature at this stage of the litigation.
He maintains that
dismissal under 12(b)(6) is inappropriate since the complaint on
its face does not make it apparent that the claims are barred by
the statute of limitations.
135 (3d Cir. 2002).
Robinson v. Johnson, 313 F.3d 128,
Plaintiff further argues that even if some
of the actions giving rise to the § 1983 claims occurred outside
the two-year statute of limitations, the "continuing violations
doctrine" operates to allow those claims to go forward as long as
they were part of a pattern or practice of discrimination which
continued into the statute of limitations period.
Upon review of the complaint, it is impossible at this
stage to determine whether any or all of the claims fall outside
the statute of limitations or whether the continuing violations
doctrine is applicable.
We will allow those claims to proceed to
the discovery phase without prejudice to defendants' right to
reassert at the appropriate time the issue of statute of
Accordingly, the motion of defendants City of
Coatesville and Julius Canale to dismiss the complaint will be
granted with respect to plaintiff's § 1981 claims against Canale
and denied in all other respects.
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