SEGERS v. CITY AND COUNTY OF PHILADELPHIA et al
MEMORANDUM AND/OR OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE ANITA B. BRODY ON 1/27/2014. 1/27/2014 ENTERED AND COPIES VIA ECF.(mo, )
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SETH WILLIAMS, et al.,
January 27, 2014
Anita B. Brody, J.
Plaintiff Brandon Segers (“Segers”) brings suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (“§ 1983”)
against Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams (“Williams”) and Assistant District
Attorneys John Does 1 and 2 (“ADAs”), in their individual capacities.1 Segers claims that the
three defendants (collectively “DA Defendants”) violated his constitutional rights and federal
law during the prosecution of Segers for driving under the influence and possession of
marijuana. Segers also brings state tort claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious
prosecution under Pennsylvania law.2 The DA Defendants move to dismiss Segers’ Complaint in
its entirety. For the reasons stated below, I will grant the DA Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss.
Segers also brought suit against the City and County of Philadelphia, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, and
four police officers. These defendants were voluntarily dismissed from this case on August 13, 2013. See ECF No.
10. Only facts and claims relevant to the remaining defendants are discussed in this memorandum.
Federal question jurisdiction lies over plaintiff’s § 1983 claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, and supplemental
jurisdiction lies over plaintiff’s state law tort claims under 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
On May 26, 2011, the Philadelphia Police pulled over Segers’ car for a broken side
window. The officer who stopped Segers claimed that he smelled marijuana and observed empty
narcotics packaging next to the driver’s seat, as well as smoked marijuana cigars in an ash tray.
The police arrested Segers, tested his blood for the presence of controlled substances, and
charged Segers with possession of marijuana and driving under the influence of marijuana. The
Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office subsequently initiated prosecution of Segers for these
charges (“DUI Case”). Segers remained in custody until the resolution of the DUI Case.
The Municipal Court of Philadelphia County scheduled Segers’ trial in the DUI Case for
July 22, 2011. On July 22nd, the Commonwealth explained to the court that it had not yet
received the results from Segers’ blood test and requested a continuance. As a result, the court
rescheduled the trial for September 19, 2011. The court ordered the Commonwealth to give
Segers’ blood test results to defense counsel on September 14, 2011, five days before the new
The DA’s Office received the blood test results on July 29, 2011, seven days after the
continuance. Segers’ test results came back negative for all substances. Despite the fact that
defense counsel requested the results both before and after the DA’s Office received them, the
DA’s Office did not communicate the results to defense counsel until the court’s deadline on
September 14, 2011. At the September 19th court proceeding, the DA’s Office withdrew the
charges. Thus, the DA Defendants failed to turn over the exculpatory blood results for more than
40 days after the results came back negative and allowed Segers to remain in prison for that time.
Unless otherwise stated, the facts are taken from the Complaint or from the Municipal Court of Philadelphia
County Docket for Segers’ DUI Case, which was attached to the DA Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss as Exhibit C.
See ECF No. 5. In deciding a motion to dismiss, “a court may consider an undisputedly authentic document that a
defendant attaches as an exhibit to a motion to dismiss if the plaintiff’s claims are based on the document.” Pension
Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc., 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).
The DA Defendants’ actions caused Segers to lose his job, lose his apartment, and miss the
funerals of close family members.4
In deciding a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), a court must “accept all factual
allegations as true, construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, and
determine whether, under any reasonable reading of the complaint, the plaintiff may be entitled
to relief.” Phillips v. Cnty. of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 233 (3d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation
To survive dismissal, a complaint must allege facts sufficient to “raise a right to relief
above the speculative level.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007).
“Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory
statements, do not suffice.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Rather, “a complaint
must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible
on its face.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). “A claim has facial plausibility when the
plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the
defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Id.
“As a general matter, a district court ruling on a motion to dismiss may not consider
matters extraneous to the pleadings. However, an exception to the general rule is that a
document integral to or explicitly relied upon in the complaint may be considered . . . .” In re
Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1426 (3d Cir. 1997) (emphasis omitted)
(citations omitted) (internal quotation marks omitted). Thus, a court may “consider matters of
Segers alleges that a second incident of false arrest occurred in 2012, but the Complaint only implicates the police
defendants in this incident and does not mention any involvement of the prosecutors in the events underlying that
claim. This memorandum does not address that incident, because all police defendants have already been dismissed.
public record, orders, exhibits attached to the complaint and items appearing in the record of the
case.” Oshiver v. Levin, Fishbein, Sedran & Berman, 38 F.3d 1380, 1384 n.2 (3d Cir. 1994).
A. Federal Claims
Segers brings a variety of civil rights claims against the DA Defendants under 42 U.S.C.
§ 1983.5 “To establish liability under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, a plaintiff must show that the defendants,
acting under color of law, violated the plaintiff's federal constitutional or statutory rights, and
thereby caused the complained of injury.” Elmore v. Cleary, 399 F.3d 279, 281 (3d Cir. 2005).
Segers’ § 1983 claims against all DA Defendants include malicious prosecution, abuse of
process, and violation of due process. Segers’ § 1983 claims directed against the ADAs alone
include false imprisonment, violation of the Fourth Amendment, and conspiracy to violate civil
rights.6 Segers’ § 1983 claims directed against Williams alone include failure to intervene and
failure to supervise. Segers brings all of these claims against the DA Defendants in their
individual capacities.7 The DA Defendants move to dismiss all of Segers’ federal claims on the
ground that they are entitled to absolute immunity for any actions taken in the course of their
roles as advocates for the state.
The Complaint also lists in passing a variety of other federal statutes that are not included as separate counts in the
Complaint. These statutes have no apparent relation to the case or do not provide independent causes of action. To
the extent Segers intended to bring such claims, they are insufficiently pleaded.
It is ambiguous whether Segers also intended to bring a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1985, which provides a cause of
action for “Conspiracy to interfere with civil rights.” To the extent Segers may have intended to assert a claim under
42 U.S.C. § 1985, the court will not resolve this ambiguity for the purposes of this memorandum because the
relevant absolute immunity analysis is the same for § 1983 and § 1985 claims. See Waits v. McGowan, 516 F.2d
203, 205 (3d Cir. 1975) (treating § 1983 and § 1985 claims the same for the purposes of immunity); Patterson v.
City of Philadelphia, No. 08-2140, 2009 WL 1259968, at *9 (E.D. Pa. May 1, 2009) (“The doctrine of absolute
prosecutorial immunity precludes conspiracy-based claims as well.”) (collecting cases).
Segers also sued the DA Defendants in their official capacities. In his Response to the Motion to Dismiss,
however, Segers did not oppose the DA Defendants’ arguments that his official capacity claims should be dismissed.
On January 23, 2013, I confirmed with Segers’ counsel that Segers, in fact, intended to concede his official capacity
claims against the DA Defendants, and I dismissed these claims as unopposed. See ECF No. 15.
In Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U.S. 409, 430 (1976), the Supreme Court held that the
determination of whether a prosecutor is entitled to absolute immunity for his/her conduct
depends on the function the prosecutor was performing. See also Burns v. Reed, 500 U.S. 478,
486 (1991). Prosecutors are absolutely immune from § 1983 liability for acts performed in the
course of their function as advocates for the state. Yarris v. Cnty. of Delaware, 465 F.3d 129,
135–36 (3d Cir. 2006). Absolute immunity thus attaches to acts “intimately associated with the
judicial phase of the criminal process,” including “initiating a prosecution and . . . presenting the
State's case.” Imbler, 424 U.S. 409, 430–31. In contrast, “[a] prosecutor's administrative duties
and those investigatory functions that do not relate to an advocate's preparation for the initiation
of a prosecution or for judicial proceedings” are generally afforded only qualified immunity.
Buckley v. Fitzsimmons, 509 U.S. 259, 273 (1993).
To determine what level of immunity applies, a “court must ascertain just what conduct
forms the basis for the plaintiff's cause of action, and it must then determine what function
(prosecutorial, administrative, investigative, or something else entirely) that act served.”
Schneyder v. Smith, 653 F.3d 313, 332 (3d Cir. 2011). “Although by no means dispositive, . . .
the period during which prosecutors are most likely functioning [as advocates] . . . is the time
between indictment and dismissal, acquittal, or conviction.” Odd v. Malone, 538 F.3d 202, 211
(3d Cir. 2008).
1. The ADAs
Segers bases his claims on the failure of the ADAs to promptly convey the exculpatory
test results to defense counsel. Thus, the critical inquiry is whether this conduct implicates the
ADAs’ advocacy function or whether this conduct is properly characterized as administrative.
Actions relating to a prosecutor’s handling and presentation of evidence are squarely
within a prosecutor’s advocacy function—and thus entitled to absolute immunity. See Henderson
v. Fisher, 631 F.2d 1115, 1120 (3d Cir. 1980) (“The handling of evidence is clearly within the
sweep of ‘initiating and presenting the State's case’, and the prosecutor is immune from Section
1983 liability for such decisions.”). This absolute immunity extends even to claims that
prosecutors have deliberately withheld exculpatory evidence. In Yarris v. County of Delaware,
465 F.3d 129, 137 (3d Cir. 2006), the Third Circuit explicitly held that the ADAs were
“absolutely immune from claims based on allegations that they ‘intentionally concealed’
exculpatory evidence prior to trial.” In reaching this conclusion, the Yarris Court noted that:
It is well settled that prosecutors are entitled to absolute immunity from claims
based on their failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, so long as they did so
while functioning in their prosecutorial capacity. As the Supreme Court explained
in Imbler, the deliberate withholding of exculpatory information is included
within the legitimate exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
Yarris, 465 F.3d at 137 (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Imbler, 424 U.S. at 413–17,
431 n.34 (finding that absolute immunity shielded a prosecutor’s suppression of exculpatory
evidence). Like the complete failure to disclose certain exculpatory evidence, the timing of a
prosecutor’s disclosure of exculpatory evidence is intimately connected to his/her role as an
advocate for the state and is thus entitled to absolute immunity. See Warney v. Monroe County,
587 F.3d 113, 125 (2d Cir. 2009) (“[I]f [during trial] the prosecutors had tested all the evidence,
and then sat on the exculpatory results for at least 72 days, they may well have violated Brady v.
Maryland . . . ; but they would be absolutely immune from personal liability.”).
Here, the ADAs actually did convey the exculpatory evidence to defense counsel prior to
trial, but neglected to do so as quickly as Segers would have wished. As with a prosecutor that
fails to turn over exculpatory evidence at all prior to trial, a prosecutor who turns over
exculpatory evidence, but delays in doing so, is entitled to absolute immunity. Accordingly, the
ADAs’ conduct falls decisively within their advocacy function, and they are absolutely immune
from liability under § 1983.
Segers argues, relying almost entirely on Schneyder v. Smith, 653 F.3d 313 (3d Cir.
2011), that the ADAs’ handling of the exculpatory evidence should be classified as
administrative, rather than advocative. In Schneyder, the Third Circuit denied absolute immunity
for a prosecutor’s failure to report to a court about the status of a detained material witness. The
prosecutor had secured the witness’ detention and the judge who issued the warrant had directed
the prosecutor to notify him if the trial was continued so he could immediately release the
witness. When the trial was continued for four months, the prosecutor failed to notify the
judge—thus acting in direct derogation of the judge’s order—and the witness unnecessarily
remained in prison for 48 days.
The Schneyder Court examined the nature of this conduct and found that the prosecutor
was not entitled to absolute immunity because her failure to report to the judge implicated her
administrative function. In reaching this conclusion, the Third Circuit noted that it could
“‘imagine few circumstances under which we would consider the act of disobeying a court order
or directive to be advocative . . . .’” Schneyder, 653 F.3d at 332 (quoting Odd, 538 F.3d at 214).
Additionally, the Schneyder Court examined “the custom and practice of the Philadelphia courts
. . . assign[ing] sole responsibility for monitoring material witnesses . . . to individual
prosecutors, and [found] that the gist of this obligation . . . [wa]s ‘plainly administrative.’” Id.
Accordingly, the Third Circuit held that this administrative failure did not implicate the
prosecutor’s advocacy function.
Unlike Schneyder, this case does not involve a material witness or an administrative duty
to report, but instead implicates the ADAs’ advocative function of handling and sharing
exculpatory evidence. Furthermore, the ADAs did not violate the municipal court’s order to
share the blood test results by September 14, 2011. Rather, they complied with the order and
sought dismissal of the case against Segers five days later at the next court date. In light of the
above, Schneyder does not dictate the result in this case.
2. DA Williams
District Attorney Williams—like the ADAs—is also immune from Segers’ claims. Any
personal involvement Williams may have had with the handling of the exculpatory blood test
results would similarly implicate his advocacy function.8 Williams does not receive less
immunity for his advocative conduct than do the ADAs under his supervision. See Van de Kamp
v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335, 345 (2009) (supervisory prosecutors also receive absolute immunity
for conduct implicating their advocacy function). Thus, for the same reasons that the ADAs
receive absolute immunity for their handling of the exculpatory evidence, DA Williams also
receives absolute immunity for his role in handling that evidence.
Although most of Segers’ claims against Williams would implicate Williams’ advocacy
function, one claim against Williams—that Williams failed to adequately supervise or train the
ADAs in transferring exculpatory evidence to defendants—can arguably be classified as
Segers’ Complaint presents no facts that suggest that Williams had knowledge of or had personal involvement in a
decision to delay the transmission of Segers’ blood test results. It is therefore impossible to know what potential role
Williams had in the alleged misconduct, in any. To be individually liable under § 1983, “[a] defendant in a civil
rights action must have personal involvement in the alleged wrongs; liability cannot be predicated solely on the
operation of respondeat superior.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d 1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988); see also C.H. ex rel.
Z.H. v. Oliva, 226 F.3d 198, 201 (3d Cir. 2000) (“It is, of course, well established that a defendant in a civil rights
case cannot be held responsible for a constitutional violation which he or she neither participated in nor approved.”).
“Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal direction or of actual knowledge and
acquiescence.” Rode, 845 F.2d at 1207. Because the Complaint does not present facts that indicate Williams had any
personal involvement in the alleged misconduct, Segers’ individual capacity claims against Williams are
insufficiently pleaded. Thus, even if Williams were not entitled to absolute immunity, Segers’ claims against him
would still fail.
challenging an administrative action. Williams, however, is also immune from this claim as a
result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Van de Kamp v. Goldstein, 555 U.S. 335 (2009).
In Van de Kamp, the Supreme Court granted a DA absolute immunity against a failure to
train claim, because the allegedly defective training concerned tasks related to a prosecutor’s
basic trial duties and advocacy function. The plaintiff in Van de Kamp argued that the DA failed
to adequately train ADAs on their constitutional obligation to provide the defense with
impeachment-related (Giglio) information, and that this failure should not be afforded absolute
immunity because it was administrative. 555 U.S. at 343–44. The Court agreed that the failure to
train/supervise claim was properly classified as challenging the DA’s administrative function. Id.
at 344. The Court also observed, however, that because this supervisory task “concern[ed] how
and when to make impeachment information available at a trial[,]” it was “directly connected
with [a] prosecutor’s basic trial advocacy duties.” Id. at 346. Because of this connection, the
Court concluded that supervisory prosecutors enjoy absolute immunity from claims asserting an
administrative obligation—such as training—“that itself is directly connected with the conduct
of a trial.” Id. at 344. Otherwise, a plaintiff could easily re-frame a prosecutor’s trial failure as a
supervisory prosecutor’s failure to train. Id. at 347.
The plaintiff’s claim in Van de Kamp—that a supervisory prosecutor should be liable for
a failure to train with respect to how and when to make impeachment information available to
the defense—is logically indistinguishable from Segers’ claim: that a supervisory prosecutor
should be liable for a failure to train with respect to how and when to make exculpatory
information available to the defense. Like the DA’s failure in Van de Kamp, DA Williams’
alleged failure to train the ADAs on how to share exculpatory evidence would involve an
administrative obligation directly connected with the ADAs’ basic trial advocacy duties.
Therefore, Williams is absolutely immune from Segers’ failure to train and supervise claim.
B. State Law Claims
Segers also brings a variety of state tort claims against the DA Defendants, including
false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution. Because I have dismissed all of
Segers’ federal claims, I will decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over his state law tort
claims. Under 28 U.S.C. § 1367(c)(3), a district court has discretion to decline to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims if it has dismissed all claims over which it had
original jurisdiction. “Where the claim over which the district court has original jurisdiction is
dismissed before trial, the district court must decline to decide the pendent state claims unless
considerations of judicial economy, convenience, and fairness to the parties provide an
affirmative justification for doing so.” Borough of West Mifflin v. Lancaster, 45 F.3d 780, 788
(3d Cir.1995). There is no affirmative justification for retaining jurisdiction over Segers’ state
law claims. Because I am granting the DA Defendants’ motion to dismiss each of the federal
claims against them, I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Segers’ state law tort
claims. I will grant the DA Defendants’ motion to dismiss Segers’ state tort claims, but without
prejudice to Segers to re-file these claims in state court.9
Because the DA Defendants are absolutely immune from liability for their actions under
§ 1983, I will dismiss all of Segers’ federal claims against them in their individual capacities. I
will also dismiss all of Segers’ state law claims, without prejudice, because I decline to exercise
Although the DA Defendants seek dismissal of these claims on substantive grounds, I will dismiss these claims
solely on the basis that I decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over them.
s/Anita B. Brody
ANITA B. BRODY, J.
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