Rozell v. Susquehanna County Probation Dept. et al
MEMORANDUM re 43 REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS re 17 MOTION to Dismiss filed by Glenn Whitney, Pennsylvania State Police, 9 MOTION to Dismiss Plaintiff's Claims filed by Susquehanna County Probation Dept. Signed by Honorable A. Richard Caputo on 1/15/13. (jam)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JAMES A. ROZELL,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:11-CV-0914
(MAGISTRATE JUDGE MANNION)
SUSQUEHANNA COUNTY PROBATION
DEPARTMENT, et al.,
Presently before the Court are the Magistrate Judge’s1 Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”) (Doc. 43) and Plaintiff James Rozell’s objections (Doc. 44). The Magistrate Judge
recommends that the motions to dismiss filed by Defendant Susquehanna County Probation
Department (Doc. 9) and Defendants Pennsylvania State Police and State Trooper Glen
Whitney (Doc. 19) be granted because the Susquehanna County Probation Department and
the Pennsylvania State Police are immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment and
Mr. Rozell’s claims against Trooper Whitney are barred by the statute of limitations. For the
reasons cited by the Magistrate Judge, the R&R will be adopted.
On May 13, 2011, Plaintiff James Rozell filed a complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983 against the Susquehanna County Probation Department, the Pennsylvania State
Police, and State Trooper Glen Whitney, among others, alleging misconduct, harassment,
false imprisonment, unlawful arrest, and false charges. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 85–86.) In addition
to claiming emotional distress, loss of reputation, lost wages, and legal fees, Mr. Rozell
requests $1 million “from the parties who are deemed responsible by the Court.” (Id. at ¶¶
88, 90.) On September 23, 2011, Defendant Susquehanna County Probation Department
The caption reflects Judge Mannion’s office as a Magistrate Judge when he
issued the Report and Recommendation here under review. He has since
become a United States District Judge.
filed a motion to dismiss. (Doc. 9.) Defendants Pennsylvania State Police and Trooper
Whitney filed a motion to dismiss on October 18, 2011. (Doc. 17.)
On July 2, 2012, the Magistrate Judge filed the instant R&R (Doc. 43) recommending
that the motions to dismiss be granted. Mr. Rozell filed an objection to the R&R on July 17,
2012. (Doc. 44.) Thus, the R&R is ripe for disposition.
I. Legal Standard for Reviewing a Report and Recommendation
Where objections to the Magistrate Judge’s report are filed, the court must conduct
a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099,
1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c)), provided the objections are both
timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6–7 (3d Cir. 1984). In making its de novo
review, the court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or
legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829
F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the
court to rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper.
See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675–76 (1980); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7; Ball v.
United States Parole Comm’n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994). Uncontested
portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See
Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154 (1985); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the court
should review uncontested portions for clear error or manifest injustice. See, e.g., Cruz v.
Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376–77 (M.D. Pa. 1998). As such, the Court reviews the portions
of the R & R to which the petitioner objects de novo. The remainder of the R&R is reviewed
for clear error.
A. Susquehanna County Probation Department
The Magistrate Judge correctly determined that Mr. Rozell cannot assert a § 1983
claim against the Susquehanna County Probation Department because it is immune from
suit under the Eleventh Amendment. The Supreme Court has interpreted the Eleventh
Amendment as precluding suits by citizens against a state government. See, e.g., Edelman
v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 662–63 (1974); see also U.S. CONST . amend. XI. The Eleventh
Amendment also bars suits against state entities, and the United States Court of Appeals
for the Third Circuit has specified that “Pennsylvania’s judicial districts, including their
probation and parole departments, are entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity.”
Haybarger v. Lawrenct Cnty. Adult Prob. & Parole, 551 F.3d 193, 198 (3d Cir. 2008)
(emphasis added). Therefore, Mr. Rozell cannot bring suit against the Susquehanna
County Probation Department.
B. Pennsylvania State Police
Mr. Rozell also cannot assert a § 1983 claim against the Pennsylvania State Police
because it, too, is immune from suit under the Eleventh Amendment. The Supreme Court
has held that the Eleventh Amendment’s bar “extends to suits against departments or
agencies of the state having no existence apart from the state.” Mt. Healthy City Bd. of
Educ. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977); accord Laskaris v. Thornburgh, 661 F.2d 23, 25
(3d Cir. 1981). The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has held that the
Eleventh Amendment bars claims for damages against the Pennsylvania State Police, a
state agency that has not waived its sovereign immunity. Atkin v. Johnson, 432 F. App’x
47, 48 (3d Cir. 2011). Therefore, Mr. Rozell cannot bring suit against the Pennsylvania
C. Glen Whitney
Finally, Mr. Rozell’s claims against Trooper Whitney are barred by the statute of
limitations. Claims brought pursuant to § 1983 are subject to the state statute of limitations
for personal injury actions. Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 266–67 (1985). The statute of
limitations for a personal injury action in Pennsylvania, including false arrest and false
imprisonment, is two years. See 42 PA. CONS. STAT . § 5524(1). “Under federal law, a
cause of action accrues, and the statute of limitations begins to run, ‘when the plaintiff knew
or should have known of the injury upon which its actions is based.’” Kach v. Hose, 589
F.3d 626, 634 (quoting Sameric Corp. of Del., Inc. v. City of Phila., 142 F.3d 582, 599 (3d
Cir. 1998)). “[T]he statute of limitations upon a § 1983 claim seeking damages for a false
arrest in violation of the Fourth Amendment, where the arrest is followed by criminal
proceedings, begins to run at the time the claimant becomes detained pursuant to legal
process.” Wallace v. Kato, 549 U.S. 384, 397 (2007). “False arrest and false imprisonment
overlap; the former is a species of the latter.” Id. at 388.
Here, Mr. Rozell’s claims against Trooper Whitney stem from his involvement with
the criminal complaints of Defendant Judy Thomas and Defendant James Hanjaras against
Mr. Rozell. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 61–65, 85–86; Doc. 1, Ex. R; Doc. 1, Ex. II S.) Trooper Whitney
gave him citations pursuant to Thomas’ criminal mischief complaint and Hanjaras’
harassment complaint on April 6, 2009 (Doc. 1, Ex. R) and April 21, 2009 (Doc. 1, Ex. II S),
respectively. Mr. Rozell was arrested on these charges on April 21, 2009 and tried on May
11, 2009. (Doc. 1 at ¶¶ 67, 70–71.) He filed his complaint in this matter on May 13, 2011.
(Doc. 1.) The applicable two-year statute of limitations for a § 1983 claim seeking damages
for false arrest and false imprisonment in violation of the Fourth Amendment began to run
on April 21, 2009, when Mr. Rozell was detained. Given that his complaint was filed more
than two years later on May 13, 2011, his claims against Trooper Whitney are time-barred
and must be dismissed.
For the reasons stated above, the Magistrate Judge’s R&R will be adopted. Mr.
Rozell’s claims against the Susquehanna County Probation Department, the Pennsylvania
State Police, and State Trooper Glen Whitney will be dismissed.
An appropriate order follows.
January 15, 2013
/s/ A. Richard Caputo
A. Richard Caputo
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?