United States District Court, D. Delaware
MARK J. SHOTWELL, Plaintiff,
MIDDLETOWN POLICE DEPARTMENT, et al., Defendants,
J. Shotwell, Newark, Delaware. Pro Se Plaintiff.
Herbert Weiswasser Mondros, Esquire, and Sarah Michelle
Ennis, Esquire, Margolis Edelstein, Wilmington, Delaware.
Counsel for Defendants.
ANDREWS, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
Mark J. Shotwell, who appears pro se and has been
granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis, filed
this action on June 15, 2016, followed by an amended
complaint on October 31, 2016. (D.I. 2, 11). Defendants move
to dismiss pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). (D.I. 21).
Plaintiff opposes. (D.I. 23). Briefing on the motion is
as Defendants are Middletown Police Department, Officer
Jordan Douglass, Officer Michele Wharton, and Detective
Stafford. Plaintiff alleges violations of his Fourth
Amendment rights by reason of an unlawful search and seizure.
Plaintiff was arrested on October 16, 2015 for violating a
protection from abuse order that had been entered in
mid-August 2015. (D.I. 11 at p.3). Wharton went to the
residence of the complainant on October 13, 2015, who alleged
that Plaintiff had violated the protection from abuse order
when Plaintiff both telephoned the complainant and had his
mother telephone the complainant, (id. at pp.1-2).
Wharton applied for, and obtained a search warrant for the
forensic examination of Plaintiff's cell phone to obtain
the phone call history from October 13, 2015. (D.I. 11-1 at
Plaintiff turned himself in on October 16, 2015, he advised
Douglass that he owned multiple cell phones and they were in
his vehicle. (Id. at pp.5-8). In turn, Douglass
sought, and obtained, a search warrant for Plaintiffs car to
retrieve any cell phones located in the vehicle in order to
execute the forensic examination search warrant on the
phones. (Id.). Plaintiff alleges that Detective
Stafford performed a Cellebrite extraction report on three of
Plaintiff's cell phones in a manner that exceeded the
warrant when information from August 14, 2015 until October
15, 2015 was extracted, instead of only October 13, 2015 as
set forth in the warrant. (D.I. 11 at 3). The matter was set
for trial on March 14, 2016. (D.I. 11-1 at p.28). Plaintiff
alleges that the charges were nolle prossed later that month.
(Id. at p.29). He seeks $825, 000 in compensatory
damages and the return of his property.
raises claims pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for
violations of his constitutional rights. The Court screened
his claims on November 22, 2016, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2), and found that Plaintiff alleged what to appear
to be cognizable and non-frivolous claims against Middletown
Police Department, Officer Jordan Douglass, Officer Michele
Wharton, and Detective Stafford. (D.I. 12, 13). Defendants
move for dismissal pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) on the
grounds that: (1) Plaintiff fails to state a claim under 42
U.S.C. § 1983; (2) the Middletown Police Department is
an improperly named defendant; (3) Wharton, Douglass, and
Stafford are protected from liability by reason of qualified
immunity from suit; and (4) Plaintiff fails to state claims
under Delaware law for defamation and infliction of emotional
proceeds pro se and, therefore, his pleadings are
liberally construed and his complaint, "however
inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards
than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Erickson
v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 94 (2007). Under Rule 12(b)(6),
a motion to dismiss may be granted only if, accepting the
well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and viewing
them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, a court
concludes that those allegations "could not raise a
claim of entitlement to relief." BellAtl. Corp. v.
Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 558 (2007). The legal standard
when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions is identical to the
standard used when screening a complaint pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1915(e)(2)(B)(ii). See Tourscherv.
McCullough, 184 F.3d 236, 240 (3d Cir. 1999) (applying
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) standard to dismissal for failure to
state a claim under § 1915(e)(2)(B)).
'detailed factual allegations' are not required, a
complaint must do more than simply provide 'labels and
conclusions' or 'a formulaic recitation of the
elements of a cause of action."' Davis v.
Abington Mem'l Hosp., 765 F.3d 236, 241 (3d Cir.
2014) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). In
addition, a plaintiff must plead facts sufficient to show
that a claim has substantive plausibility. See Johnson v.
City of Shelby, __U.S.__, 135 S.Ct. 346, 347 (2014). A
complaint may not dismissed, however, for imperfect
statements of the legal theory supporting the claim asserted.
See Id. at 346.
reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, a court should
follow a three-step process: (1) consider the elements
necessary to state a claim; (2) identify allegations that are
merely conclusions and therefore are not well-pleaded factual
allegations; and (3) accept any well-pleaded factual
allegations as true and determine whether they plausibly
state a claim. See Connelly v. Lane Const. Corp.,
809 F.3d 780, 787 (3d Cir. 2016); Williams v. BASF
Catalysts LLC, 765 F.3d 306, 315 (3d Cir. 2014).
Deciding whether a claim is plausible will be a
"context-specific task that requires the reviewing court
to draw on its judicial experience and common sense."
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 679 (2009).
Court previously reviewed Plaintiff's allegations and
found that he stated what appear to be cognizable and
non-frivolous claims. (See D.I. 12). Nothing has
changed since that ruling. The Court has revisited the
allegations, liberally construes them, as it must, and finds
that Plaintiff adequately alleges Fourth Amendment claims.
Therefore, the Court will deny that portion of the motion to
dismiss that ...