Federal court relieves itself of claim jurisdiction in mistaken identity arrest case

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jan 21, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – A federal court has dismissed its claims on a law enforcement civil rights case, thereby leaving them with no jurisdiction over the remainder of the matter.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Gerald J. Pappert  

PHILADELPHIA – A federal court has left itself with no jurisdiction to oversee a law enforcement civil rights case.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge Gerald J. Pappert said on Jan. 15 that the Court had no jurisdiction over state law claims of false arrest and false imprisonment filed by Gary Long Jr. of Langhorne, after dismissing his federal claims for false imprisonment and municipal liability against Philadelphia and Montgomery County.

On Oct. 28, 2014, Long, who is Caucasian, was driving in Langhorne and had “a disagreement with another driver that led to a police response.” A Langhorne police officer arrived at the scene and requested Long’s “identification and insurance information.” The officer ran Long’s identification and “erroneously decided there was an open warrant” for his arrest.

In fact, the warrant was for a different man named Gary Long, an African-American with a different birthdate. The suit says an alleged clerical error from Montgomery County employee Dorothy Camasso caused Long’s information to be “linked to a warrant for another man named Gary Long.”

The Langhorne police officer contacted the Pennsylvania State Police to transport Long to Philadelphia, where the warrant in question had originated. 

Long was then taken to the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility (CFCF) in Philadelphia, where he spent two nights and three days in custody, and was released from CFCF on Oct. 30, 2014. Long claimed he “suffered a painful kidney stone attack” during his imprisonment and missed a work presentation, which he says caused him to miss out on an employment opportunity.

Pappert said Long’s claims against Camasso would not survive, since they would need to show “deliberate indifference” on Camasso’s part in committing the clerical error to deprive him of his constitutional rights. In Pappert’s view, they did not – they only established negligence at most, which is not a due process violation. 

“Long does not allege any facts which show that Camasso acted intentionally or deliberately indifferent in committing a data entry error that six years later led to Long’s arrest,” Pappert said. “Moreover, there is no way Long can cure this deficiency.”

Pappert said Long’s Monell claim against Montgomery County fails for similar reasoning.

“Long fails to allege, much less demonstrate, much of what is needed to sustain a claim against Montgomery County under Monell,” Pappert said. “Long has not alleged, and cannot plausibly allege, that Camasso acted intentionally to deprive Long of his Fourth Amendment rights or with deliberate indifference to deprive him of his Fourteenth Amendment rights. Long thus fails to allege that a constitutional violation occurred and his Monell claim necessarily fails.”

Since those same Monell claims served as the basis for Long’s assertion of the U.S. District Court holding jurisdiction over his case, the remaining state law claims could not be heard in federal court. The Court also chose not to exercise supplemental jurisdiction.

“With the dismissal of those claims, the Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over Long’s state law claims for false arrest and false imprisonment. Long’s state law claims against Montgomery County and Camasso for false arrest and false imprisonment are therefore dismissed without prejudice,” Pappert said.

The plaintiff was represented by Gabriel Z. Levin and Carolyn A. Jones of Levin & Zeiger, in Philadelphia.

The defendants are represented by David J. MacMain and Nicole Freiler of MacMain Law Group in Malvern; Matthew K. Hubbard of the City of Philadelphia Law Department’s Solicitor’s Office’s Civil Rights Unit and Barry N. Kramer of the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, both in Philadelphia; and Philip W. Newcomer of the Montgomery County Solicitor’s Office, in Norristown.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 2:15-cv-00202

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

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