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Holmes v. Pfaff

United States District Court, D. Delaware

July 11, 2017

PATRICIA HOLMES
v.
KIMBERLY PFAFF, et al.

          MEMORANDUM

          KEARNEY, J.

         A person filing a lawsuit must define and describe their claim in a pleading. The pleading must contain a short and plain statement of the claim showing a right to relief. The Court and defendants cannot proceed to trial on unplead claims. We liberally allow parties to amend their pleading to ensure a valid claim or defense is resolved. When a party neither pleads the claim she later wants to try nor asks for amendment after the Court has provided many opportunities to do so because these steps are "unnecessary", and otherwise fails to show good cause for not diligently following the Court's multiple scheduling orders allowing her more time to plead a new claim, we are left with no option but to dismiss her case as all plead claims are dismissed and an alleged remaining claim is not plead and to the proposed amendment is futile. In the accompanying Order, we dismiss this case with prejudice.

         I. Relevant procedural history

         The late Medford Holmes[1] sued the City and various City law enforcement officials for claims arising from his pretrial detention under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.[2] Although Mr. Holmes sued under many different Fourth Amendment theories including false arrest/imprisonment and malicious prosecution, he admits the Complaint does not include facts supporting a Fourth Amendment claim based on false statements/omissions in an affidavit for probable cause for an arrest warrant.

         A. Defendants moved to dismiss but the parties did not brief the issue of a claim predicated on false statements or omissions in an affidavit of probable cause.

         Although Defendants did not initially move to dismiss the false arrest/imprisonment claims, in their Reply they argued these claims (and the malicious prosecution claim) were barred because Mr. Holmes' grand jury indictment conclusively established probable cause.[3]Holmes argued the grand jury indictment could not demonstrate probable cause because Defendants procured the indictment by fraud, perjury or other corrupt means.[4] The parties did not brief the issue of fraud in an affidavit of probable cause.

         In her February 4, 2015 Memorandum, Judge Robinson found Mr. Holmes did not plead sufficient facts to show fraud before the grand jury because Holmes did not identify which witnesses perjured themselves.[5] In the accompanying Order, Judge Robinson granted Holmes leave to file an Amended Complaint to cure pleading defects on or before March 4, 2015.[6]

         Holmes did not file an Amended Complaint. On March 23, 2015, Judge Robinson issued an order to show cause why the action should not be dismissed for failing to file an Amended Complaint.[7] Mr. Holmes responded, "Plaintiff is presenting claims against the defendants for malicious prosecution, procedural due process, false arrest and false imprisonment."[8] Mr. Holmes complained the facts he needed to prove his claims-such as the grand jury transcript and investigative materials-are only available through discovery.[9] Judge Robinson found Holmes' response "sufficient to enable the case to proceed to the discovery process, without amendment at this time."[10]

         B. Judge Robinson set deadlines for amending pleadings and completing discovery.

         On July 20, 2015, Judge Robinson entered a Scheduling Order requiring "Amended Pleadings [are] due by 8/30/2015" and "Discovery [is] due by 1/30/2016."[11] Holmes did not file an amended pleading at any point after the July 20, 2015 Scheduling Order.

         On January 22, 2016, Defendants moved to extend the discovery deadline.[12] Judge Robinson granted the motion, extending the discovery deadline to February 23, 2016.[13]

         C. Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing no evidence an affiant made false statements or omissions in seeking an arrest warrant.

         Defendants timely moved for summary judgment, arguing the unchallenged arrest warrant established probable cause, precluding Holmes' claims for false arrest, false imprisonment, and malicious prosecution.[14] Defendants addressed case law providing a warrant is presumptively valid unless the affiant knowingly, deliberately, or with reckless disregard for the truth, made false statements or omissions creating a falsehood, and the statements/omissions were material to the finding of probable cause.[15]

         Defendants argued Holmes neither alleged nor provided evidence demonstrating the affiant falsified the warrant application: "In this case, Plaintiff has not alleged the warrant affiant . . . falsified any of the information contained in the affidavit of probable cause, nor is there any evidence in the record to support such an allegation."[16] Holmes responded the evidence demonstrated Defendants "knowingly and deliberately, or with reckless disregard for the truth, made false statements and omissions when they applied for the warrant to arrest Mr. Holmes."[17] Holmes did not respond to Defendants' argument Holmes never alleged the warrant affiant falsified information.

         On April 19, 2017, Judge Robinson denied summary judgment in part on Holmes' "§ 1983 Fourth Amendment Claim" because "Defendants' brief did not squarely address whether [the City detectives] are subject to qualified immunity" for this claim.[18] Judge Robinson dismissed Holmes' §1983 malicious prosecution claim because Holmes failed to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the criminal proceedings terminated in Mr. Holmes' favor, explaining Mr. Holmes' nolle prosequi and the prosecutor's accompanying explanation- "credibility of witnesses"-did not demonstrate the prosecutor dismissed the charges due to his innocence.[19] The only remaining claim following Judge Robinson's summary judgment decision is Holmes' "§ 1983 Fourth Amendment claim."

         D. In May 2017, we ordered briefing on any remaining §1983 Fourth Amendment claim.

         Following reassignment[20] and upon recognizing Judge Robinson dismissed Holmes' Fourth Amendment claims based on theories of excessive force, malicious prosecution, false arrest, and false imprisonment, we ordered Holmes "to define any remaining viable Fourth Amendment claim."[21] In response, Holmes identified an "unlawful seizure" claim based on the City detectives' materially false statements and omissions in an arrest warrant application.[22]

         On June 20, 2017, we held a status call in which we discussed Holmes' unlawful seizure claim.[23] We asked Holmes' counsel to identify factual allegations in the Complaint supporting this claim, and counsel admitted there were none. Rather than dismissing Holmes' lawsuit outright for lack of any remaining pleaded claims, we ordered Holmes to file a memorandum explaining why she would have good cause under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4) to file an Amended Complaint asserting a claim under her admittedly unpled Fourth Amendment theory.[24]

         II. Analysis

         We dismiss Holmes' Complaint because she fails to demonstrate good cause to seek leave to amend. Even if Holmes had timely or diligently moved to amend, the "unlawful seizure" claim Holmes presses would have been futile.

         A. Holmes does not demonstrate good cause ...


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