Postie v. Frederick et al
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable Malachy E Mannion on 4/11/18. (bs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
FREDERICK A. POSTIE,
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:14-00317
SGT. DUANE FREDERICK and
OFFICER ADAM SINTON, JR.,
Pending before the court is the report of Judge Karoline Mehalchick,
(Doc. 71), which recommends that the defendants’ motion for summary
judgment, (Doc. 63), be granted in part and denied in part. Specifically, Judge
Mehalchick recommends that the defendants’ motion for summary judgment
be granted as to the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment malicious prosecution, false
arrest, and false imprisonment claims against defendant Sinton on the basis
of qualified immunity; the defendants’ motion for summary judgment be
denied with respect to the plaintiff’s state law assault and battery claims
against defendant Sinton; the defendants’ motion for summary judgment be
denied with respect to the plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment malicious
prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment claims against defendant
Frederick; and that the remaining claims be set down for trial. Defendant
Frederick has filed limited objections to the report, (Doc. 72, Doc. 73), and the
plaintiff has responded to those objections, (Doc. 74). The court has reviewed
the record in this action and, upon consideration, will adopt the report of
Judge Mehalchick in its entirety.
When objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation of
a magistrate judge, the district court must review de novo those portions of
the report to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v.
Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the standard is de novo,
the extent of review is committed to the sound discretion of the district judge,
and the court may rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the
extent it deems proper. Rieder v. Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D.Pa.
2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).
For those sections of the report and recommendation to which no
objection is made, the court should, as a matter of good practice, “satisfy itself
that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), advisory committee notes; see also
Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply Intern., Inc., 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D.Pa.
2010) (citing Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987)
(explaining judges should give some review to every report and
recommendation)). Nevertheless, whether timely objections are made or not,
the district court may accept, not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the
findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.31.
In her report, Judge Mehalchick recommends that the defendants’
motion for summary judgment be granted as to the plaintiff’s Fourth
Amendment malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment
claims on the basis of qualified immunity. It is further recommended that the
plaintiff be permitted to proceed with his state law claims of assault and
battery against defendant Sinton. The defendants have specifically limited
their objections to the recommendations made with respect to the claims
against defendant Frederick only and do not object to Judge Mehalchick’s
recommendations with respect to defendant Sinton. The court has reviewed
Judge Mehalchick’s report as it relates to the claims against defendant Sinton
and the materials relating thereto. The court finds no clear error of record with
respect to Judge Mehalchick’s recommendations and agrees with the sound
reasoning upon which she bases her recommendation. Therefore, the court
will adopt Judge Mehalchick’s report as to the recommendations concerning
defendant Sinton as the opinion of the court.
With respect to the Fourth Amendment claims of malicious prosecution,
false arrest and false imprisonment against defendant Frederick, all require
the plaintiff to establish a lack of probable cause. Judge Mehalchick
concluded that the record in this case contains credibility and factual issues
which preclude a determination on the probable cause element. In his
objections, defendant Frederick argues that possession of stolen property is
sufficient to establish probable cause thereby defeating the plaintiff’s claims.
Defendant Frederick argues that the record in this case demonstrates that the
plaintiff possessed equipment stolen during a commercial theft and used the
equipment to steal fuel in residential thefts. Defendant Frederick points, in
part, to the affidavit of probable cause he prepared to support his argument.
However, it is clear that there are credibility and factual issues with respect
to the affidavit at hand, such that this cannot support defendant Frederick’s
argument. Defendant Frederick also points to the plaintiff’s written confession
in the residential thefts to support his argument. Upon review, while the
plaintiff admitted to stealing fuel from a residence in his written confession,
nothing therein indicates that he used stolen equipment from the commercial
thefts to do so. As such, the court agrees with the report of Judge Mehalchick
that there are issues of credibility and fact which simply preclude summary
Defendant Frederick also argues that probable cause for one charge is
sufficient, even if other charges are found not to be supported. Again, there
are credibility and factual issues which preclude the court from making a
determination of probable cause on the record before the court.
Defendant Frederick next argues that he is entitled to qualified immunity
based upon state case law which holds that possession or exclusive dominion
and control over stolen property is sufficient to establish probable cause.
Again, there are questions of credibility and fact as to whether the plaintiff, in
fact, possessed the equipment stolen in the commercial thefts, which
precludes any finding on summary judgment as to qualified immunity.
Finally, without any support, defendant Frederick argues that Judge
Mehalchick erred when she relied upon the general proposition that malice
may be inferred when there is a lack of probable cause. Instead, defendant
Frederick argues that Judge Mehalchick should have considered the plaintiff’s
specific theory that defendant Frederick’s conduct was motivated by his desire
to hold the plaintiff in prison until such time that defendant Frederick could
compile sufficient evidence to charge the plaintiff in another, unrelated
investigation. Considering the plaintiff’s pro se status and viewing the record
in a light most favorable to the plaintiff as the non-moving party, as the court
must do, the court finds that Judge Mehalchick did not err in considering that
a jury could find that defendant Frederick lacked probable cause to initiate the
arrest and that such lack of probable cause could support an inference of
In light of all of the above, defendant Frederick’s objections to the report
of Judge Mehalchick will be overruled and Judge Mehalchick’s report will be
adopted in its entirety. An appropriate order shall issue.
s/ Malachy E. Mannion
MALACHY E. MANNION
United States District Judge
Date: April 11, 2018
O:\Mannion\shared\MEMORANDA - DJ\CIVIL MEMORANDA\2014 MEMORANDA\14-0317-03.wpd
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