Nicholas Malfitano Jun. 19, 2015, 11:56am


PHILADELPHIA – A Philadelphia man alleging false arrest and lack of probable cause against the city police department had his Monell claim against those officers involved dismissed on June 12.

Judge Mark A. Kearney of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania declared Raheem Anderson had not pled “a municipal policy or custom” related to his claims of constitutional rights violations.”

Philadelphia Police Detective Paul Perez arrested Anderson on Feb. 25, 2014, in connection with a strong arm robbery that had taken place on June 14, 2013, in North Philadelphia. Perez was acting on an affidavit of probable cause for alleged robbery and conspiracy filed the week after the incident, on June 21, 2013.

According to court records, Anderson and another individual known as “Mook” approached Arthur Barnes and demanded money for a bicycle which had been sold to Barnes. When Barnes explained he was not carrying any money, Anderson and Mook allegedly assaulted Barnes and robbed him of two cell phones and between $100 and $140 in cash.

After being robbed, Barnes ran into the Happy Golden House Chinese restaurant (identified as a “Chinese store” in the lawsuit) to call the police. Barnes was followed to the restaurant by Anderson and Mook, who then entered and allegedly assaulted Barnes a second time.

Barnes later identified Anderson as Mook's associate in a photo lineup arranged by Detective Perez. After Barnes identified Anderson, Detective Perez went to the restaurant where he could not locate witnesses, and employees told him its video surveillance system did not record the incident.

According to court records, Anderson was charged with the robbery of Barnes and conspiracy to commit that same robbery, and a state court set bail at $50,000. Anderson could not post bail, so he was incarcerated. The state court twice rescheduled his hearing because Barnes failed to appear in court.

On June 18, 2014, after Barnes failed to appear a third time, the Commonwealth withdrew prosecution, but re-filed the complaint eight days later for reasons unknown. The state court convened a preliminary hearing on July 30, 2014, featuring testimony from Barnes, after which charges against Anderson were dropped due to lack of evidence.

Anderson then filed suit in November, levying six counts against Detective Perez and his employer, the City of Philadelphia, including: “Violation of Anderson’s Fourth Amendment rights (Count I) for which the City is liable as Perez’s employer (Count II); Violation of Anderson’s rights under Article I, Section 8 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and the City is liable as Perez’s employer under common law (Counts III, V); liability for state law malicious prosecution and the City is liable as Perez’s employer under common law (Counts IV, V); and liability for Pennsylvania torts of false arrest, false imprisonment, invasion of privacy (false light) and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and once again, the City is liable as his employer (Count V, VI).”

In response, the City of Philadelphia filed to dismiss Count II of Anderson’s complaint, the Monell claim – which brought the matter before Kearney.

Kearney concurred with the City that Anderson failed to identify a municipal policy or custom allowing for constitutional rights violations, or a person responsible for creating and enacting said policy.

“Anderson, in his second attempt at stating a claim, alleges ‘Defendant City of Philadelphia, acting through its Police Department, developed, implemented, enforced, encouraged, and sanctioned de facto policies, and/or customs exhibiting deliberate indifference to the plaintiff’s constitutional rights…’ Anderson does not identify the policy or custom,” Kearney explained.

“Instead, he simply paraphrases the elements of a Monell claim which is insufficient to withstand a motion to dismiss. Anderson fails to specify facts regarding any relevant policy or custom. He fails to meet the ‘rigorous standards of culpability and causation’ required for municipal liability,” Kearney added.

Kearney also stated Anderson “failed to show that any policymaker was responsible for the policy, or through acquiescence, for any such custom” and failed to “allege facts suggesting any municipal decision maker had personal knowledge of or involvement in the constitutional deprivation alleged in the amended complaint.” “Moreover, he fails to allege facts which ‘support, indirectly, such an inference.’ This failure is fatal to his Monell claim,” Kearney said.

Kearney further found Anderson’s claim towards the City failing to properly train its police officers also did not meet the requisite legal standard.

“Anderson fails to allege ‘similar constitutional violations’ to support his ‘failure to’ claim. Instead, Anderson relies on conclusory allegations regarding the City's failure to properly supervise, train and monitor its officers,” Kearney said.

“Without identifying any similar constitutional violations, Anderson cannot show the City acted with deliberate indifference to any training deficiency. Therefore, his Monell claim under the ‘failure to’ subcategory fails and must be dismissed.”

Kearney concluded by officially dismissing Anderson’s Monell claim in its entirety.

“We dismiss Count II of the amended complaint with prejudice, as well as any claim for Monell liability, as Anderson fails, in his second attempt, to allege sufficient facts of any policy or custom supporting Monell liability,” Kearney said. “Anderson fails to identify a policy or custom attributable to the City contributing to his alleged constitutional violation. Further, he cannot show the City acted with deliberate indifference in an alleged failure to train, supervise, and discipline its officers for misconduct.”

Per Kearney’s decision, the remaining counts of Anderson’s complaint were retained.

The plaintiff is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorney’s fees, court costs and any other relief the court deems appropriate. The plaintiff also demands a jury trial in this matter.

The plaintiff is represented by Earl D. Raynor, Jr., in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by Aaron Shotland of the City of Philadelphia Law Department, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:14-cv-06747

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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