Campbell et al v. Balon et al
ORDER: IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiffs' 57 Motion for Reconsideration is DENIED. In accordance with this Court's prior Order of July 6, 2017, Plaintiff, Bruce Campbell, is nevertheless granted leave to file an Amended Complaint wi thin twenty-one (21) days re-asserting the dismissed excessive force claim under Section 1983 against Defendant Balon, and the dismissed civil conspiracy claim under Section 1983 against Defendants Balon, Berger, Butters, Gregas, and Capitol Bar and Grill. Signed by Honorable Matthew W. Brann on 10/18/2017. (jn)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
BRUCE M. CAMPBELL, and KIM L.:
CAMPBELL, husband and wife,
CHARLES BALON, individually as :
police officer of the Bloomsburg
Police Department; OFFICER
AUCHTER, individually as police
Officer of Bloomsburg Police
Department; OFFICER SZKODNY, :
Individually as police officer of the :
Bloomsburg Police Department;
ROGER VANLOAN, individually as :
Police chief of the Bloomsburg Police :
Department; TOWN OF
BAR AND GRILLE, LLC, and
CAPITOL BG LLC, d/b/a CAPITOL :
BAR AND GRILL a/k/a CAPITOL :
RESTAURANT AND BAR; JOHN :
BERGER, III, MARLENE
BUTTERS; and JOHN GREGAS,
OCTOBER 18, 2017
1. On July 19, 2017, Plaintiffs Bruce M. Campbell and Kim L. Campbell
(“Plaintiffs”) filed a Motion for Reconsideration of the Court’s Order and
Memorandum Opinion of July 6, 2017.1
2. This Motion requests that the Court reconsider its Memorandum Opinion to
the extent it dismisses Count IX, or civil conspiracy pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
1983. Plaintiffs aver that reconsideration is appropriate because the facts as
alleged would allow the Court to infer that an agreement to violate
Plaintiffs’ civil rights had been reached.2
3. It is well-established that “the purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to
correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered
evidence.”3 A court should grant a motion for reconsideration if the party
seeking reconsideration shows: “(1) an intervening change in the controlling
law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the
court granted the motion for summary judgment; or (3) the need to correct a
clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.”4
ECF No. 57.
In my previous Memorandum Opinion of July 6, 2017, I set forth a comprehensive factual
background which will be adopted for purposes of this Order. See ECF No. 55.
Harsco v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985).
Max’s Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999).
“A motion for reconsideration is not properly grounded on a request
that the Court simply rethink a decision it has already made.”5 In such a
motion, “parties are not free to relitigate issues that the Court has already
decided.”6 “The standard for granting a motion for reconsideration is a
stringent one . . . . [A] mere disagreement with the court does not translate
into a clear error of law.”7 “Because federal courts have a strong interest in
the finality of judgments, motions for reconsideration should be granted
4. As noted in my prior Memorandum Opinion, “to properly plead an
unconstitutional conspiracy, a plaintiff must assert facts from which a
conspiratorial agreement can be inferred.”9 “[A]n allegation of parallel
conduct and a bare assertion of conspiracy will not suffice ... [The
allegations] must be placed in a context that raises a suggestion of a
preceding agreement, not merely parallel conduct that could just as well be
Douris v. Schweiker, 229 F. Supp. 2d 391, 408 (E.D. Pa. 2002).
United States v. Jasin, 292 F. Supp. 2d 670, 676 (E.D. Pa. 2003) (internal citation and
Mpala v. Smith, 2007 WL 136750, *2 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 16, 2007) aff'd, 241 F. App'x 3 (3d Cir.
Cont’l Cas. Co. v. Diversified Indus., Inc., 884 F. Supp. 937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995).
Great W. Mining & Mineral Co. v. FoxRothschild LLP, 615 F.3d 159, 178 (3d Cir. 2010).
independent action.”10 Conspiracy claims may not therefore be based solely
on “suspicion and speculation.”11
5. Here, following a second review of the allegata of Plaintiffs’ Amended
Complaint, I find that there are no grounds upon which to vacate my
decision of July 6, 2017 dismissing count IX without prejudice. In his
Motion, Plaintiff seemingly argues that reconsideration is necessary to
“correct a clear error of law or fact” because, by specifically citing four
averments, the Court somehow overlooked other facts demonstrating the
plausibility of his conspiracy claim. This argument is misguided. While
Plaintiff advances that the averments of his Complaint as a whole evidence
the smoke of a conspiracy, this argument, at its core, requires the Court to
accept that the interview of Capitol Defendants (participants in the incident
at issue) by Bloomsburg Defendants (law enforcement officials conducting
an investigation) and the subsequent production of a “fraudulent” affidavit
of probable cause make it plausible that discovery will reveal evidence of a
conspiracy. Acceptance of this theory runs counter to the Twombly-Iqbal
pleading standards as applied to a Section 1983 conspiracy claim.
Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 556–57 (2007).
Young v. Kann, 926 F.2d 1396, 1405 n. 16 (3d Cir. 1991).
6. Indeed, in Capogrosso v. The Supreme Court of New Jersey, a case cited in
piecemeal by Plaintiff, the Third Circuit expressly rejected such a finding of
plausibility.12 In that case, the plaintiff had alleged a Section 1983
conspiracy claim against New Jersey Superior Court judges because the
presiding judge of an action to which he was a party issued an adverse ruling
following a witnessed interaction with a fellow trial court judge.13 Although
the Capogrosso Court acknowledged that “existence of a conspiracy must
usually be inferred from the circumstances,” it nevertheless concluded that
the factual allegations as detailed “failed to state a cognizable claim under §
1983.”14 Here, I find that, while Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint alleges
parallel conduct owing to Bloomsburg Defendant’s obligation to investigate,
it has otherwise failed to allege facts from which a conspiratorial agreement
can be inferred.15
588 F.3d 180, 184 (3d Cir. 2009)(per curiam).
Id. at 183.
Id. at 384.
Gleason v. E. Norriton Twp., Civil Action No. 11-CV-6273, 2012 WL 3024011, at *5 (E.D.
Pa. July 24, 2012) (“The mere fact that the Defendant officers called Defendant ADA Potere
for legal advice and then relied on the advice given does not suggest a conspiratorial
agreement to deprive Plaintiff of his constitutional rights. Rather this is the sort of ‘allegation
of parallel conduct’ that Twombly held was insufficient to plead a conspiracy.”). See
also Watson v. Sec’y Pa. Dep’t of Corr., 436 F. App’x. 131, 137 (3d Cir. 2011) (“As the
linchpin for conspiracy is agreement, . . . concerted action, without more, cannot suffice to
state a conspiracy claim.”).
AND NOW, upon consideration of Plaintiffs Bruce M. Campbell and Kim
L. Campbell’s Motion for Reconsideration (ECF No. 57) and this Court’s above
finding that it committed no clear error of law in its Memorandum Opinion of July
6, 2017, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED THAT said Motion is DENIED. In
accordance with this Court’s prior Order of July 6, 2017, Plaintiff, Bruce
Campbell, is nevertheless granted leave to file an Amended Complaint within
twenty-one (21) days re-asserting the dismissed excessive force claim under
Section 1983 against Defendant Balon, and the dismissed civil conspiracy claim
under Section 1983 against Defendants Balon, Berger, Butters, Gregas, and Capitol
Bar and Grill.
BY THE COURT:
s/ Matthew W. Brann
Matthew W. Brann
United States District Judge
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