Mathias v. York County et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry) re 4 MOTION to Dismiss Plaintiff's Complaint filed by Crystal Perry, Amy Alu, Albert Sabol, April Billet-Barclay, York County Adult Probation Department, 7 MOTION TO DISMISS FOR FAILURE TO STATE A CLAIM filed by York County, Crystal Perry, Amy Alu, Albert Sabol, April Billet-Barclay. Signed by Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab on 2/28/2017. (ktt)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
SHAHNAWAZ M. MATHIAS,
YORK COUNTY, et al.,
CASE NO. 1:16-CV-01338
(Chief Magistrate Judge Schwab)
February 28, 2017
The plaintiff, Shahnawaz M. Mathias, claims that the defendants violated his
rights in connection with parole revocation proceedings. Some of Mathias’s claims
are barred by the Eleventh Amendment, and his complaint otherwise fails to state a
claim upon which relief can be granted. Thus, we will grant the defendants’
motions to dismiss the complaint. We will, however, grant Mathias leave to file an
II. Background and Procedural History.
On June 30, 2016, Mathias began this action by filing a complaint naming the
following six defendants: (1) York County; (2) York County Adult Probation
Department; (3) April Billet-Barclay, Chief Probation Officer; (4) Albert Sabol,
former Chief of Adult Probation; (5) Amy Alu, Adult Probation/Parole Supervisor;
and (6) Crystal Perry, Adult Probation/Parole Officer. The complaint names
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in both their individual and official capacities.
Mathias alleges the following facts in his complaint.
Mathias pleaded guilty in the Court of Common Pleas of York County to
indecent assault and unlawful contact with a minor. On November 15, 2006, he
was sentenced to an aggregate sentence of five years of probation. A series of
direct appeals and appeals of Post-Conviction Relief Act (PCRA) orders followed.
A condition of Mathias’s probation was that he attend counseling. On
September 27, 2013, Mathias filed a petition with the trial court to change his
counseling treatment provider. At that time, an appeal of the dismissal of his most
recent PCRA petition was pending. Also, the York County Adult Probation
Department filed a petition seeking a hearing to resolve how much time credit
Mathias should receive toward his probation sentence.
On October 17, 2013, Mathias filed a petition entitled “Petition for Hearing on
Stay and Related Items,” in which he highlighted that he had been under
probationary supervision since 2006 even though he had been sentenced to only five
years of probation in 2006. On December 3, 2013, the trial court held a hearing, at
which defendant Sabol, among others, testified. Sabol had been employed with the
York County Adult Probation Department for 12 years before he retired in 2012.
He testified that in 2002, then President Judge Chronister issued an “unwritten
directive” that “when a case is on appeal in an upper court [ ] the local court lacks
jurisdiction and cannot change or alter a sentence, and he directed that [the
Department] no longer supervises cases that have taken an appeal.” Doc. 1 at ¶22
(quoting Com. v. Mathias, 121 A.3d 558, 560 (Pa. Super. Ct. 2015)) (brackets in
original). According to Sabol, the directive was issued, in part, to avoid having to
reimburse probationers who successfully appealed their sentences for the costs they
incurred because of their probationary sentences. Judge Chronister’s “unwritten
directive” caused the York County Adult Probation Department to adopt a policy of
not supervising probationers when those probationers appeal a trial court order.
Mathias was never informed of the “unwritten directive.” Id. at ¶¶ 24-25.
On December 5, 2013, the trial court held that because of multiple appeals, as
of December 3, 2013, Mathias had served only 666 days of his five-year sentence.
Thus, according to the trial court, Mathias had 1159 days remaining on his sentence.
That trial court also denied Mathias’s request to change counseling centers.
Contending that Judge Chronister’s “unwritten directive” and the Probation
Department’s policy was unconstitutional, Mathias filed a motion for
reconsideration. Id. at ¶ 28. After the trial court denied that motion, Mathias filed
an appeal, which the Superior Court quashed as untimely on May 5, 2014.
In the meantime, on March 14, 2014, the York County Adult Probation
Department petitioned the trial court for a hearing to determine whether Mathias had
violated his probation by failing to enter and complete an approved sex-offender
treatment program. At a hearing on April 21, 2014, Mathias moved to quash the
York County Adult Probation Department’s petition, citing the fact that his appeal
challenging the constitutionality of the “unwritten directive” and the York County
Adult Probation Department’s related policy was pending before the Superior Court.
Id. at ¶ 33. Mathias also argued that the York County Adult Probation Department
was alleging that he had violated his probation by failing to attend counseling while
his appeal was pending even though pursuant to the policy it had adopted based on
the “unwritten directive,” it was not supervising him at the time. Id. at ¶ 34.
Concluding that Mathias had violated his probation, the trial court revoked
Mathias’s probation and sentenced him to serve 6 to 23 months in prison. Mathias
After the trial court denied his motion for reconsideration, Mathias appealed
to the Superior Court. By an Opinion issued on May 28, 2015, the Superior Court
concluded that Mathias’s sentence was illegal. It reasoned that at the time the trial
court purported to revoke Mathias’s probation, over seven years had passed since
Mathias was sentenced and his term of probation had already expired. It further
reasoned that although the York County Adult Probation Department “may very
well have a policy of not supervising probation when an appeal is pending,” “that
policy did not act to stay [Mathias]’s sentence and does not alter the fact that, during
the pendency of his appeals, [Mathias] was serving his sentence.” Doc. 1 at ¶41
(quoting Mathias, 121 A.3d at 563) (emphasis in original). Because Mathias’s term
of probation had expired, the Superior Court concluded that the trial court lacked
authority to revoke probation, and the sentence it imposed on Mathias was illegal.
The Superior Court vacated Mathias’s sentence.
Mathias contends that defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry,
acting in their capacity as probation and parole officers, falsely arrested him
knowing that they had no probable cause to do so and that they had no basis in fact or
law to do so. He contends that because of his false arrest, he was unlawfully
detained. He also contends that defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry
maliciously prosecuted him. According to Mathias, his probation was revoked on
April 21, 2014, more than 7 years after his 5-year sentence was imposed, “causing
his unlawful arrest and imprisonment.” Doc. 1 at ¶ 50 & ¶ 66. Mathias alleges that
defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry acted in concert to secure his false
arrest, that they intentionally and unlawfully deprived him of his liberty by illegally
detaining and/or confining him, and that they conspired to “institute, procure, and
continue” the criminal proceedings for a probation violation against him without
probable cause. Id. at ¶ 94. Mathias further contends that there is no legal authority
or justification for the proposition that his sentence ceased to run while his appeals
were pending. Mathias also contends that he is a “member of a protected class,”
and he was arrested, detained, and maliciously prosecuted due to his race, national
origin, and/or membership in a protected class. Id. at ¶¶ 107-109.
He contends that defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry violated his
rights under the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States
Constitution, and, according to Mathias, any reasonably well trained officer would
have known or should have known of those rights. And he contends that
defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry acted willfully, maliciously, in bad
faith, and in reckless disregard of his constitutional rights. He alleges that because
of the defendants’ actions, he “suffered extensive and substantial injuries, including,
but not limited to, loss of his freedom and severe emotional distress.” Id. 1 at ¶ 59.
Mathias also contends that defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry
were policymakers for York County and York County Adult Probation Department,
and in that capacity, they established policies, procedures, customs, and/or practices.
He contends that Judge Chronister’s “unwritten directive” caused the York County
Adult Probation Department to adopt a custom and/or policy of not supervising
probationers while those probationers were appealing their cases. Id. at ¶ 81. And,
he contends, his injuries were the result of the official policy and/or custom of York
County, York County Adult Probation Department, Billet-Barclay, and Sabol.
More specifically, he contends that because of the policy or custom he was subjected
to a period of probation in excess of the five years to which he was sentenced, that he
was unlawfully arrested and maliciously prosecuted for a probation violation after
his probation had expired, and he was unlawfully detained and required to serve an
The complaint contains nine counts. Count 1 is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim
against defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry for false arrest. Count 2 is
a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry
for false imprisonment. Count 3 is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against defendants
York County, York County Adult Probation Department, Billet-Barclay, and Sabol
for municipal liability. Count 4 is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim against defendants
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry for malicious prosecution. Count 5 is a 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 claim against defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol,
Alu, and Perry for racial discrimination. Count 6 is a state law claim against
defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry for false arrest. Count 7 is a state
law claim against defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry for false
imprisonment. Count 8 is a state law claim against defendants Billet-Barclay,
Sabol, Alu, and Perry for malicious prosecution. And Count 9 is a state law claim
against defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry for intentional infliction of
emotional distress. Mathias is seeking compensatory and punitive damages as well
as interest and costs.
On July 21, 2016, defendant York County Adult Probation Department and
defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their official capacities filed a
motion to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6) and a brief in
support of that motion. On August 8, 2016, defendant York County and defendants
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their individual capacities filed a motion to
dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) and a brief in support of that motion.
After those motions were briefed, the parties consented to proceed before a
magistrate judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and the case was referred to the
Having considered the motions to dismiss and the parties’ briefs, including
the letter briefs filed after the case management conference, we will grant the motion
III. Motion to Dismiss Filed by Defendant York County Adult Probation
Department and Defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in
Their Official Capacities.
Defendant York County Adult Probation Department and defendants
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their official capacities bring their motion to
dismiss as both a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) motion and as a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
motion. We conclude that they are entitled to dismissal under Rule 12(b)(1).
Rule 12(b)(1) permits the dismissal of an action for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction. Challenges to subject-matter jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1)
may be “facial” or “factual.” Turicentro, S.A. v. American Airlines, Inc., 303 F.3d
293, 300 n.4 (3d Cir. 2002). A facial attack contests the sufficiency of the
pleadings. Id. When there is a facial attack, “we apply the same standard as on
review of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6).” In re Horizon Healthcare Servs.
Inc. Data Breach Litig., No. 15-2309, 2017 WL 242554, at *5 (3d Cir. Jan. 20,
2017). In contrast to a facial attack, “in a factual attack under Rule 12(b)(1), the
court may consider and weigh evidence outside the pleadings to determine if it has
jurisdiction.” Gould Electronics, Inc. v. U.S., 220 F.3d 169, 178 (3d Cir. 2000).
“The plaintiff has the burden of persuasion to convince the court it has jurisdiction.”
Here, defendant York County Adult Probation Department and defendants
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their official capacities make a facial attack
on the Court’s subject-matter jurisdiction: they contend that the Court lacks
jurisdiction because they are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity.
“Our federalist system of government accords respect for the sovereignty of
the States in a variety of ways, including the Eleventh Amendment to the United
States Constitution, which immunizes States from suits brought in federal court by
both their own citizens and citizens of other States.” Maliandi v. Montclair State
Univ., 845 F.3d 77, 81 (3d Cir. 2016). It has been observed that “the Eleventh
Amendment is a jurisdictional bar which deprives federal courts of subject matter
jurisdiction.” Blanciak v. Allegheny Ludlum Corp., 77 F.3d 690, 693, n.2 (3d Cir.
1996); see also Christ the King Manor, Inc. v. Sec’y U.S. Dep’t of Health & Human
Servs., 730 F.3d 291, 318 (3d Cir. 2013) (“Therefore, unless Congress has
‘specifically abrogated’ the states’ sovereign immunity or a state has unequivocally
consented to suit in federal court, we lack jurisdiction to grant relief in such cases.”);
but see Lombardo v. Pennsylvania, Dep’t of Pub. Welfare, 540 F.3d 190, 197 (3d
Cir. 2008) (noting that “the Supreme Court’s jurisprudence has not been entirely
consistent in the view that the Eleventh Amendment restricts subject matter
The Eleventh Amendment provides:
The Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to
extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted
against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or
by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.
U.S. Const. Amend. XI. Although its text appears to restrict only the Article III
diversity jurisdiction of the federal courts, the Eleventh Amendment has been
interpreted “to stand not so much for what it says, but for the presupposition . . .
which it confirms.” Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 54 (1996)
(quoting Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, 779 (1991)). That
presupposition is that each state is a sovereign entity in our federal system and it is
inherent in the nature of sovereignty that a sovereign is not amenable to suit unless it
consents. Id. Thus, “the Constitution does not provide for federal jurisdiction over
suits against nonconsenting States.” Kimel v. Florida Bd. of Regents, 528 U.S. 62, 73
(2000). “The Eleventh Amendment’s protection . . . is not limited to the States
alone, but rather extends to entities that function as ‘arms of the State.’” Maliandi,
845 F.3d at 81.
A state, however, may waive its Eleventh Amendment immunity by
consenting to suit, and Congress may abrogate states’ Eleventh Amendment
immunity when it unequivocally intends to do so and it acts pursuant to a valid grant
of constitutional authority. College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary
Educ. Expense Bd., 527 U.S. 666, 670 (1999). The Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania has not waived its Eleventh Amendment immunity, see 42 P.C.S.A.
' 8521(b), and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 does not override a state’s Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979). Accordingly, if the York County
Adult Probation Department is an arm of the state, the Eleventh Amendment bars all
the claims against it.
The Third Circuit employs “a fact-intensive, three-step balancing test to
ascertain whether a state-affiliated entity is an ‘arm of the State’ that falls within the
ambit of the Eleventh Amendment.” Maliandi, 845 F.3d at 83. In conducting that
balancing test, it has identified a number of factors, known as the Fitchik factors,
derived from Fitchik v. New Jersey Transit Rail Operations, Inc., 873 F.2d 655, 659
(3d Cir. 1989). “[T]he Fitchik factors are (1) the funding factor: whether the state
treasury is legally responsible for an adverse judgment entered against the alleged
arm of the State; (2) the status under state law factor: whether the entity is treated as
an arm of the State under state case law and statutes; and (3) the autonomy factor:
whether, based largely on the structure of its internal governance, the entity retains
significant autonomy from state control.” Maliandi, 845 F.3d at 83.
“The Pennsylvania constitution provides for the vesting of the
Commonwealth’s judicial power in a “unified judicial system” which includes all of
the courts in Pennsylvania.” Callahan v. City of Philadelphia, 207 F.3d 668, 672 (3d
Cir. 2000) (quoting Pa. Const. art. V, § 1.). “Moreover, the constitution provides
that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court will exercise ‘general supervisory and
administrative authority’ over the unified judicial system.” Id. (quoting Pa. Const.
art. V, §§ 1, 2, and 10.) “All courts and agencies of the unified judicial system . . .
are part of ‘Commonwealth government’ and thus are state rather than local
agencies.” Id. (citing Pa. Const. art. V, § 6(c); 42 Pa. Cons.Stat. Ann. § 102; 42 Pa.
Cons.Stat. § 301).
In Callahan, the Third Circuit addressed whether First Judicial District was a
person subject to suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Although addressing a question of
statutory construction, rather than Eleventh Amendment immunity, the court applied
the Fitchik factors. Id. at 670. As to the first Fitchik factor, the court recognized
that both the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia fund the
First Judicial District. Id. at 672. It found that factor “of limited utility in
determining where the judicial defendants are persons under section 1983.” Id. It
concluded, however, that “[a]pplication of the second and third Fitchik factors
conclusively demonstrates that the judicial defendants are not persons within section
1983.” Id. Concluding that the judicial defendants are “part of the unified judicial
system subject to the control of the Supreme Court,” and that it is “perfectly clear
that the judicial defendants are not independent of the Commonwealth and hardly
can be regarded as having significant autonomy from the Pennsylvania Supreme
Court,” it held that “while it is true that the judicial defendants largely are funded
locally, we hold that they are not persons within section 1983.” Id. at 673.
Building on Callahan’s analysis of the structure of the unified judicial system
of Pennsylvania and its analysis of the Fitchik factors, the Third Circuit later held
that the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania is a state entity entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity. Benn v. First Judicial Dist. of Pa., 426 F.3d 233, 241 (3d
Cir. 2005) (“The Pennsylvania constitution envisions a unified state judicial system,
of which the Judicial District is an integral component. From a holistic analysis of
the Judicial District’s relationship with the state, it is undeniable that Pennsylvania is
the real party in interest in Benn’s suit and would be subjected to both indignity and
an impermissible risk of legal liability if the suit were allowed to proceed.”).
Several years later, the Third Circuit made it explicit that probation and parole
departments of the courts are covered by the Eleventh Amendment. Haybarger v.
Lawrence Cty. Adult Prob. & Parole, 551 F.3d 193, 198 (3d Cir. 2008) (concluding
that “as an arm of the State, an individual judicial district and its probation and
parole department are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity,” but holding that
in that case, the Eleventh Amendment immunity was waived by acceptance of
federal funds under the Rehabilitation Act).
Based on Haybarger, it is clear that the York County Adult Probation
Department is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Mathias’s reliance on
Harkins-Hosay v. City of Philadelphia, No. CIV. A. 97-4718, 1997 WL 597646, at
*2 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 19, 1997), to argue otherwise is misplaced. In Harkins-Hosay,
the court denied a motion to dismiss the First Judicial District on the basis of the
Eleventh Amendment because the factual record had not been developed such that
the court could consider the relevant Fitchik factors in determining whether the
Eleventh Amendment applied. Harkins-Hosay was decided before Callahan,
Benn, and Haybarger. Thus, it is not persuasive.
Also not persuasive is Mathias’s contention that “the status of the relationship
between the Commonwealth and the Defendant Probation Department is unclear at
best,” and the court cannot dismiss the York County Adult Probation Department on
the basis of the Eleventh Amendment because the record regarding the Fitchik
factors is not developed. Doc. 9 at 11-12. In Haybarger, the Third Circuit clearly
held that probations departments are arms of the state entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity. Development of a record will not change that holding or
this Court’s obligation to adhere to that holding. And following Haybarger, courts
routinely dismiss probation departments on the basis of the Eleventh Amendment
without developing a record. See e.g. Lawson v. Dauphin Cty. Work Release, No.
1:15-CV-02450, 2016 WL 6090758, at *6 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 15, 2016) (report and
recommendation of magistrate judge) (recommending that all claims against
Dauphin County Adult Probation be dismissed with prejudice on Eleventh
Amendment immunity grounds), adopting Report and Recommendation, 2016 WL
6082127, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Oct. 18, 2016); Beaver v. Delaware Cty. Prob. & Parole,
No. CV 15-2784, 2016 WL 4366977, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 16, 2016) (holding that
the Eleventh Amendment bars any claims against Delaware County Adult Probation
and Parole because it is an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). It has
even been determined that the very defendant here is entitled to Eleventh
Amendment immunity. Evans v. York Cty. Adult Prob. & Parole Dep’t, No. CIV. A.
1:09-1013, 2010 WL 5135891, at *12 (M.D. Pa. Sept. 28, 2010) (report and
recommendation of magistrate judge) (recommending that the court sua sponte
grant summary judgment to the York County Adult Probation and Parole
Department on the basis of the Eleventh Amendment), adopting in part and
rejecting in part on other grounds Report and Recommendation, 2010 WL 5135890,
at *7 (M.D. Pa. Dec. 10, 2010) (agreeing with recommendation to grant summary
judgment to the York County Adult Probation and Parole Department based on the
In sum, the York County Adult Probation Department is a part of the state and
is entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity. Defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol,
Alu, and Perry in their official capacities are also entitled to Eleventh Amendment
immunity. Official-capacity suits are “only another way of pleading an action
against an entity of which an officer is an agent.” Monell v. New York City Dept. of
Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690, n. 55 (1978). In an official-capacity suit, the
entity of which the officer is an agent is the real party in interest. Kentucky v.
Graham, 473 U.S. 159, 166 (1985). As defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and
Perry are officers of the York County Adult Probation Department, which is a
Commonwealth entity, the claims against them in their official capacities are really
claims against the Commonwealth and, as such, are barred by the Eleventh
Amendment. Accordingly, we will grant the motion to dismiss filed by defendant
York County Adult Probation Department and defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol,
Alu, and Perry in their official capacities.
Because defendant York County Adult Probation Department and defendants
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their official capacities are entitled to
dismissal based on the Eleventh Amendment, we do not address their other
arguments in support of dismissal.
IV. Motion to Dismiss Filed by Defendant York County and Defendants
Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry in Their Individual Capacities.
Defendant York County and defendants Billet-Barclay, Sabol, Alu, and Perry
in their individual capacities move to dismiss the complaint under Fed.R.Civ.P.
A. Motion to Dismiss and Pleading Standards.
In accordance with Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6), the court may dismiss a complaint
for “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When reviewing a
motion to dismiss, “[w]e must accept all factual allegations in the complaint as true,
construe the complaint in the light favorable to the plaintiff, and ultimately
determine whether plaintiff may be entitled to relief under any reasonable reading of
the complaint.” Mayer v. Belichick, 605 F.3d 223, 229 (3d Cir. 2010). In making
that determination, we “consider only the complaint, exhibits attached to the
complaint, matters of public record, as well as undisputedly authentic documents if
the [plaintiff’s] claims are based upon these documents.” Id. at 230.
“A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the complaint against the
pleading requirements of Rule 8(a).” I.H. ex rel. D.S. v. Cumberland Valley Sch.
Dist., 842 F. Supp. 2d 762, 769-70 (M.D. Pa. 2012). “Under Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 8(a)(2), a pleading must contain a ‘short and plain statement of the claim
showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.’” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662,
677-78 (2009). The statement required by Rule 8(a)(2) must give the defendant fair
notice of what the plaintiff’s claim is and of the grounds upon which it rests.
Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007). Detailed factual allegations are not
required, but more is required than labels, conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of
the elements of a cause of action. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555
(2007). “In other words, a complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff’s
entitlement to relief.” Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009).
“A complaint has to “show” such an entitlement with its facts.” Id.
In considering whether a complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can
be granted, the court must accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations in the
complaint, and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the complaint must
be construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Jordan v. Fox Rothschild,
O'Brien & Frankel, Inc., 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994). But a court “need not
credit a complaint’s bald assertions or legal conclusions when deciding a motion to
dismiss.” Morse v. Lower Merion Sch. Dist., 132 F.3d 902, 906 (3d Cir. 1997).
Additionally, a court need not “assume that a . . . plaintiff can prove facts that the . .
. plaintiff has not alleged.” Associated Gen. Contractors of Cal. v. California State
Council of Carpenters, 459 U.S. 519, 526 (1983).
Following Twombly and Iqbal, a well-pleaded complaint must contain more
than mere legal labels and conclusions. Rather, it must recite factual allegations
sufficient to raise the plaintiff’s claimed right to relief beyond the level of mere
speculation. In practice, consideration of the legal sufficiency of a complaint
entails a three-step analysis:
First, the court must ‘tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must
plead to state a claim.’ Second, the court should identify
allegations that, ‘because they are no more than conclusions, are
not entitled to the assumption of truth.’ Finally, ‘where there
are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their
veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to
an entitlement for relief.’
Santiago v. Warminster Tp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Iqbal, 556
U.S. at 675 & 679).
B. York County.
Mathias presents a municipal liability claim against defendant York County.
A municipality cannot be held liable for the unconstitutional acts of its employees on
a theory of respondeat superior. Monell v. Department of Social Servs., 436 U.S.
658, 691 (1978). To state a claim against a municipality, the plaintiff must allege
that the violation of his rights was caused either by a policy or by custom of the
municipality. Id. at 694; Berg v. County of Allegheny, 219 F.3d 261, 275 (3d Cir.
2000). Municipal policies include the decisions of a government’s lawmakers and
the acts of its policymaking officials as well as municipal customs, which are acts or
practices that, even though not formally approved by an appropriate decision maker,
are so persistent and widespread as to have the force of law. Id.; Natale v. Camden
Cty. Corr. Facility, 318 F.3d 575, 583 (3d Cir. 2003). In other words, a
municipality “‘can be held responsible as an entity when the injury inflicted is
permitted under its adopted policy or custom.’” Mulholland v Gov’t County of
Berks, 706 F.3d 227, 237 (3d Cir. 2013) (quoting Beck v. City of Pittsburgh, 89 F.3d
966, 971 (3d Cir. 1996)).
“To satisfy the pleading standard, [a plaintiff] must identify a custom or
policy, and specify what exactly that custom or policy was.” McTernan v. City of
York, 564 F.3d 636, 658 (3d Cir. 2009). Additionally, there must be a direct causal
link between the policy or custom and the alleged constitutional violation. City of
Canton v. Harris, 489 U.S. 378, 385 (1989).
According to the Mathias, his municipal liability claim is based on “an official
policy and/or custom of failing and/or refusing to supervise probationers while they
appealed their criminal cases.” Doc. 19 at 7. Mathias fails, however, to allege facts
from which it can reasonably be inferred that York County was responsible for that
policy or custom. In that regard, he alleges that defendants York County, Sabol,
and Billet-Barclay were policymakers for York County and the York County Adult
Probation Department. That Sabol and Billet-Barclay, state agents, were
policymakers for the York County Adult Probation Department, a state entity, does
not lead to an inference that York County was responsible for any policy they issued.
Mathias does not plausibly allege facts suggesting that York County exercised
authority or control over the York County Adult Probation Department or its
employees. As set forth above, the probation officials are state, not county,
employees. Collura v. Ford, 637 Fed. App’x 673, 675 (3d Cir. 2016) (stating that
judge and “employees of the First Judicial District’s Parole Department are
employed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Unified Judicial System, which
is an instrumentality of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and not the City”).
“This is the case even if those positions receive local funding.” Id. Thus, they do
not make policy for York County, and York County cannot be liable for their
policies. Id. (“Because the City cannot be held liable for the alleged actions of
Commonwealth employees, the District Court correctly dismissed Collura’s claims
as to the City.”); see also Ward v. Pennsylvania, No. CIV.A. 14-00017, 2014 WL
4682067, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 22, 2014) (dismissing claims against Delaware
County based on the policy of the Delaware County Office of Adult Probation and
Parole because that office “is an entity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, not
Delaware County,” and the officers “are state rather than county officials” and
plaintiff failed to make “factual allegations sufficient to show that Delaware County
exercised any control over the policies, practices or events at issue in this case”);
Thompson v. Williams, No. CIV.A. 09-1432, 2013 WL 2452205, at *6 (W.D. Pa.
June 5, 2013) (concluding that given the holding in Haybarger that probation and
parole offices are arms of the state, “Fayette County cannot be held accountable for
the actions of a state entity and its agents over which it has no control”).
Accordingly, the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted
against York County.
C. Defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry in Their Individual
Defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry move to dismiss the claims
against them in their individual capacities. While we agree with Mathias that the
moving defendants’ arguments in support of dismissal are disjointed, we, like
Mathias, construe the moving defendants to be making two arguments in support of
dismissal. We address each in turn.
Defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry assert that “[a]s employees
of the County and the Department,” they are entitled to immunity pursuant to the
Political Subdivision Tort Claim Act (“Act”), 42 Pa.C.S.§§ 8541-8564.” Doc. 8 at 6.
As discussed above, however, and as the case law from the Third Circuit makes
clear, probation officials are state, not county, employees. Thus, the Political
Subdivision Tort Claim Act, which grants municipalities and municipal officers
immunity from liability from state tort claims, is not applicable. Moreover, to the
extent the moving defendants are suggesting that that Act provides them immunity
from Mathias’s § 1983 claims, that suggestion is meritless. See Wade v. City of
Pittsburgh, 765 F.2d 405, 407 (3d Cir. 1985) (“This governmental immunity statute,
although effective against a state tort claim, has no force when applied to suits under
the Civil Rights Acts. The supremacy clause of the Constitution prevents a state
from immunizing entities or individuals alleged to have violated federal law.”).
Defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry also contend that the
complaint fails to contain factual allegations that would allow the Court to draw a
reasonable inference that they violated Mathias’s constitutional rights.
Liability under Section 1983 is personal in nature, and to be liable, a
defendant must have been personally involved in the wrongful conduct. In other
words, “state actors are liable only for their own unconstitutional conduct.” Barkes
v. First Corr. Med., Inc., 766 F.3d 307, 316 (3d Cir. 2014), rev’d on other grounds
sub nom. Taylor v. Barkes, 135 S.Ct. 2042 (2015). And so respondeat superior
cannot form the basis of liability. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 353 (3d Cir.
2005). “Personal involvement can be shown through allegations of personal
direction or of actual knowledge and acquiescence.” Rode v. Dellarciprete, 845 F.2d
1195, 1207 (3d Cir. 1988). Thus, to establish a § 1983 claim, a plaintiff must show
that a defendant participated in a violation of the plaintiff’s rights, directed others to
violate those rights, or otherwise had knowledge of and acquiesced in violations
committed by subordinates. Baker v. Monroe Twp., 50 F.3d 1186, 1190–91 (3d Cir.
Defendants Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry assert that the complaint is devoid
of factual allegations pertaining to them and that the only allegations in the
complaint as to Sabol are that he testified at a court hearing regarding President
Judge Chronister’s directive to the department. Mathias responds that the
complaint alleges that these defendants: “engaged in willful and/or malicious
misconduct (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 100, 114, 128, 143, 154, 161); falsely arrested [him] with
knowledge that they had not basis to do so. (Doc. 1, ¶ 46); intentionally deprived him
of his liberty by unlawfully detaining him (Doc. 1, ¶ 69); worked in concert to secure
false charges against him (Doc. 1, ¶ 91); conspired to institute a criminal proceeding
against him without probable cause (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 94, 147); intentionally deprived him
of the equal protection and benefits of the law based upon his race and/or national
origin (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 108-10); petitioned for the revocation of his probation knowing
they lacked probable cause to do so (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 119, 123, 125, 128); intentionally
caused his false imprisonment, knowing he was arrested without probable cause
(Doc. 1, ¶¶ 132, 139, 144); acted maliciously and for a purpose other than bringing
[him] to justice (Doc. 1, ¶ 153); engaged in extreme and outrageous behavior
undertaken with the intent to cause, or with reckless disregard that their conduct
would cause, severe emotional distress to [him] (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 157-58); and violated
[his] clearly-established constitutional rights (Doc. 1, ¶¶ 54, 71, 91, 113).” Doc. 19
at 11-12. Mathias contends that these allegations satisfy the requirement of
Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2) that the complaint set forth a short and plain statement of the
At the outset, we agree with Mathias that because his claims do not involve
fraud, he is not required to meet the heightened pleading standard of Fed.R.Civ.P.
9(b), and the defendants’ reliance on cases applying the Rule 9(b) standard is
inappropriate. We also reject the defendants’ contention that civil-rights
complaints are subject to a heightened-pleading standard. See Evancho v. Fisher,
423 F.3d 347, 352 (3d Cir. 2005) (noting that although at one time the Third Circuit
applied a heightened-pleading standard to civil rights cases, after Leatherman v.
Tarrant Cty. Narcotics Intelligence & Coordination Unit, 507 U.S. 163, 164 (1993),
“which was decided in 1993, the Third Circuit has applied the more liberal notice
pleading standard set forth in Rule 8(a) in civil rights cases”). We nevertheless
conclude that the complaint fails to state a claim against the defendants Sabol,
Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry in their individual capacities.
While Mathias points out the many allegations he has asserted against the
moving defendants, after putting aside the legal conclusions, which are not entitled
to the assumption of truth, we are left with allegations that the defendants falsely
arrested him, petitioned to revoke his probation, and detained him. The problem is
that Mathias lumps all the defendants together without specifying how each
defendant was involved in those acts. It is not always inappropriate to plead
allegations against numerous defendants, but when the court cannot reasonably
determine from the allegations what conduct each defendant was personally
involved in, the complaint fails to comply with Twombly and Iqbal. See Dolan v.
PHL Variable Ins. Co., No. CV 3:15-CV-01987, 2016 WL 6879622, at *8 (M.D. Pa.
Nov. 22, 2016) (“As numerous courts have held in the context of Rule 8, concluding
mass and mutual liability without pleading the supporting facts does not show ‘that
the pleader is entitled to relief’ and does not give any of the Defendants ‘a fair notice
of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.’”(quoting Fed.R.Civ.P.
8(a)(2) and citing cases). That is the case here. Because Mathias lumps the
moving defendants together, we cannot reasonably determine who did what. For
example, Mathias alleges that the defendants falsely arrested him, but he does not
allege who actually arrested him. And it is not reasonable to assume that all four of
the individual defendants arrested him, given that they have different job duties.
Moreover, from the allegations of the complaint, it appears that defendant Sabol
retired in 2012; thus, it is not reasonable to infer that he was actually involved in the
arrest of Mathias, which apparently occurred sometime in 2014.1 In sum, because
the complaint is not clear about how each defendant personally participated in the
alleged violations of Mathias’s rights, we conclude that it fails to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted against defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry
in their individual capacities.
V. Leave to Amend.
“[I]f a complaint is subject to a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal, a district court must
permit a curative amendment unless such an amendment would be inequitable or
futile.” Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 245 (3d Cir. 2008). The
Mathias does not allege the date when he was arrested. Whether the arrest was
before or after the court revoked his probation and sentenced him is important to
determining whether there was probable cause for the arrest and whether the Fourth
Amendment, one of the bases for Mathias’s claims, is applicable at all. See Halsey v.
Pfeiffer, 750 F.3d 273, 291 (3d Cir. 2014) (the Fourth Amendment does not apply
court “must provide the plaintiff with this opportunity even if the plaintiff does not
seek leave to amend.” Id.
Here, because the claims against York County Adult Probation Department
and defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry in their official capacities are
barred by the Eleventh Amendment, leave to amend as to those defendants would be
futile. Similarly, leave to amend as the York County would also be futile given that
that actions at issue were taken by probation department employees, which are state,
not county, employees. We cannot say, however, that amendment would be
inequitable or futile as to the claims against defendants Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu,
and Perry in their individual capacities. Thus, we will grant Mathias leave to file an
For the foregoing reasons, we will grant the motion (doc. 4) to dismiss filed by
defendant York County Adult Probation Department and defendants Billet-Barclay,
Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their official capacities. We will also grant the motion
(doc. 7) to dismiss filed by defendant York County and defendants Billet-Barclay,
Sabol, Alu, and Perry in their individual capacities. We will, however, grant
Mathias leave to file an amended complaint as to his claims against defendants
Sabol, Billet-Barclay, Alu, and Perry in their individual capacities. An appropriate
S/Susan E. Schwab
Susan E. Schwab
Chief United States Magistrate Judge
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