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Paul L. Schirmer v. Douglas Penkethman

March 28, 2011

PAUL L. SCHIRMER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DOUGLAS PENKETHMAN, EL AL.,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Bumb, United States District Judge:

NOT FOR PUBLICATION [Docket No. 21, 23]

OPINION

I. Introduction

This matter comes before the Court on motions for partial dismissal brought by Defendants Cape May County ("the County") and Jeffrey Devico, Christopher Leusner, Douglas Osmundsen, and Clinton Stocker (hereafter collectively referred to as the "Middle Township Police Defendants"). [Dkt. No. 21, 23.] Defendants Douglas Penkethman and Michael Kopakowsi (hereafter the "School District Defendants") join in these motions. [Dkt. No. 31.] For the following reasons, Defendants' motions will be granted.

II. Background*fn1

Middle Township Elementary School employed Plaintiff Paul L. Schirmer ("Plaintiff") as a teacher. [Amend. Compl. ¶ 4.] In March 2008, Defendants Douglas Penkethman, the principal of Middle Township Elementary School, and Michael Kopakowski, the superintendent for the Middle Township School District, reported allegations that Plaintiff had inappropriately touched students at the school. (Id. at ¶¶ 5-6, 18.) Defendants Corporal Jeffrey Devico, Detective Douglas Osmundsen, and Detective Clinton Stocker of the Middle Township Police and Detective D. Holt and Lieutenant Lynne Frame of the Cape May County Prosecutor's Office (collectively referred to as the "the Investigating Defendants") investigated the reported misconduct. (Id. at ¶¶ 8-12; 22, 30.) As a result of the reports, Plaintiff was arrested, detained, required to respond to numerous court appearances and suffered loss of professional standing and reputation. (Id. at ¶¶ 1, 42-43.) Plaintiff was also suspended, pending a decision to terminate his employment. (Id. at ¶ 21.) The charges against Plaintiff, however, were later dismissed. (Id. at ¶ 44.)

III. Standard of Review

"To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Sheridan v. NGK Metals Corp., 609 F.3d 239, 263 n. 27 (3d Cir. 2010) (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009)) (internal quotation marks omitted). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged." Id. (quoting Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1949).

The Court conducts a three-part analysis when reviewing a claim:

First, the court must "tak[e] note of the elements a plaintiff must plead to state a claim." Iqbal, 129 S.Ct. at 1947. Second, the court should identify allegations that, "because they are no more than conclusions are not entitled to the assumption of truth." Id. at 1950. Finally, "where there are well-pleaded factual allegations, a court should assume their veracity and then determine whether they plausibly give rise to an entitlement for relief." Id. Santiago v. Warminster Twp., 629 F.3d 121, 130 (3d Cir. 2010); see also Fowler v. UPMC Shadyside, 578 F.3d 203, 211 (3d Cir. 2009)("...[A] complaint must do more than allege the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. A complaint has to "show" such an entitlement with its facts.").

IV. Discussion

Defendants raise several arguments for dismissal. The Court addresses each in turn.

A. Claims Brought Pursuant to § 1983 Plaintiff states several claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which provides:

Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State...subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress.Id.

Therefore, to state a claim under this Section, a plaintiff must allege two elements: (1) "the violation of a right secured by the Constitution and laws of the United States" and (2) "that the alleged deprivation was committed by a person acting under color of state law." West v. Atkins, 487 U.S. 42, 48 (1988). "As in any action under ยง 1983, the first step is to identify the exact contours of the underlying right said to have been violated." County of ...


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