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Bowley v. City of Uniontown Police Department

April 26, 2005

JAMES L. BOWLEY
v.
CITY OF UNIONTOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT; HERALD STANDARD; CITY OF UNIONTOWN, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; OFFICER FRED BALSLEY, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS A POLICE OFFICER JAMES L. BOWLEY, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH, JAMES C. BOWLEY, GUARDIAN AD LITEM, HIS NATURAL FATHER, APPELLANT



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. No. 03-cv-01144) District Judge: Honorable Joy F. Conti

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Nygaard, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued March 8, 2005

Before: NYGAARD, McKEE, and RENDELL, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

This case arises from Appellant James L. Bowley's arrest for allegedly raping a minor while a minor himself, and the subsequent truthful publication of the fact of that arrest by Appellee Uniontown Herald Standard. As a result of the publication, Bowley sued the Herald Standard for a violation of the Pennsylvania statute prohibiting the disclosure of juvenile law enforcement records and for the tort of invasion of privacy. We must now decide whether imposition of civil liability upon the Herald Standard for its actions with regard to Bowley would be consistent with the First Amendment. The District Court held that it would not and granted the Herald Standard's motion to dismiss. Because we agree that under these facts, the First Amendment provides the Herald Standard with a shield from liability, we will affirm.

I.

The Herald Standard published an article reporting that Bowley, a minor, had been arrested for allegedly raping a sevenyear-old girl he was baby-sitting. In its entirety, the article stated:

City police arrested James Landon Bowley, 15, of Farmington Sunday on charges he allegedly raped a 7-year-old girl he was baby-sitting at her Uniontown home Friday evening.

According to police, the girl's mother took her daughter to Uniontown Hospital after the girl complained of injury and bleeding Sunday afternoon.

Bowley turned himself in to police Sunday at 5:45 p.m. and was charged with two counts of rape and one count each of indecent assault, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and indecent exposure. Charges against Bowley were filed at the Connellsville Juvenile Detention Facility, where he is being held, police said.*fn1

(App. at 30a). According to Bowley, the Herald Standard received the information concerning his arrest from Uniontown Police Officer Fred Balsley.

After seeing the report of his arrest in the newspaper, Bowley brought suit in the Court of Common Pleas of Fayette County, Pennsylvania against the Herald Standard, the City of Uniontown, the City of Uniontown Police Department, and Balsley.*fn2 He alleged that the release of the fact and details of his arrest to the Herald Standard, and the subsequent publication of that information by the Herald Standard, violated his rights under both state and federal law. Against the Herald Standard, Bowley brought claims for breach of confidentiality in violation of 42 PA. CONS. STAT. § 6308, which generally prohibits the disclosure of juvenile law enforcement records, and for the tort of invasion of privacy. Against all other Defendants, Bowley brought these statelaw claims in addition to a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of his civil rights.

Because there was a federal claim, Defendants removed the case to the Western District of Pennsylvania. The Herald Standard then filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The District Court, relying on the Report and Recommendation from the Magistrate Judge, granted that motion. Because Bowley has since settled with the remaining Defendants and stipulated to a voluntary dismissal of his claims against them, the District Court's grant ...


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