Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Crawford v. Commonwealth

January 19, 2006

STEVEN D. CRAWFORD, PLAINTIFF
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, COUNTY OF DAUPHIN, CITY OF HARRISBURG, JANICE ROADCAP, JOHN C. BALSHY, AND WALTON DEWEY SIMPSON, JR., ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF WALTER D. SIMPSON, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: (Judge McClure)

ORDER

On October 6, 2005, the Court granted the City of Harrisburg's motion for summary judgment and denied similar motions of the other defendants. On October 17, 2005, Defendant County of Dauphin filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's order denying its motion for summary judgment. On December 20, 2005, after the motion had been fully briefed, Judge Yvette Kane recused herself from the matter pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 455(b)(2) and it was assigned to the undersigned judge.

For the following reasons the court will grant defendant County of Dauphin's motion to reconsider, will vacate that portion of the October 6, 2005 order denying its summary judgment motion, and will grant Dauphin County's motion for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND:

Defendant Dauphin County takes issue with portions of the following text in the court's October 6, 2005 order:

Similarly, Plaintiff has failed to establish that Dauphin County may be liable based on a "culture of corruption" municipal liability theory. However, Plaintiff has also alleged that Monell liability attaches because County officials ratified the alleged outrageous actions of Simpson during Plaintiff's three trials by repeatedly prosecuting Plaintiff, even in the face of documented irregularities. Such a finding would be sufficient to establish municipal liability under Monell. See McGreevy, 413 F.3d 367. The undisputed facts show that Crawford's first conviction was overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court because Simpson testified beyond his expertise, and contrary to the advice he received from ATF regarding the date of the print. Commonwealth v. Crawford, 468 Pa. 565, 573 (Pa. 1976) ("The problem in this case is that the testimony was also beyond the range of training, knowledge, intelligence, and experience of [Simpson]. Officer Simpson admitted that his expertise was limited to the field of lifting and identifying prints, and also admitted that [his opinion at trial] was beyond the realm of that expertise").

Moreover, the evidence demonstrates that following Crawford's second trial, Judge Dowling expressly found that the prosecution had disregarded evidence that another local resident with a history of violence and racist outbursts had admitted to Mitchell's murder on multiple occasions. Subsequently, evidence was disclosed that investigators either disregarded or failed to adequately investigate or explain evidence of possible Caucasian hairs taken from the crime scene.

These examples,*fn1 together with the entirety of suspicious circumstances surrounding Crawford's investigation and prosecution throughout the 1970s were hardly discrete or private events, but were arguably known to municipal officials. Indeed, certain anomalies were made public after each of Crawford's first two trials, both of which were overturned due to the conduct of law enforcement officials. The Court finds that Plaintiff has made a minimal showing from which a reasonable jury might conclude that Dauphin County ratified the unconstitutional conduct of which Simpson is accused. Accordingly, the Dauphin County's motion for summary judgment on Plaintiff's § 1983 claim will be denied. (Memorandum, Rec. Doc. No. 168, at 25-26.)

In particular, defendant Dauphin County objects to the court's finding that plaintiff had "made a minimal showing from which a reasonable jury might conclude that Dauphin County ratified the unconstitutional conduct of which Simpson is accused." (Id. at 26.) In arriving at that conclusion the court noted that "Plaintiff has also alleged that Monell liability attaches because County officials ratified the alleged outrageous actions of Simpson during Plaintiff's three trials by repeatedly prosecuting Plaintiff, even in the face of documented irregularities." (Id. at 25.)

Defendant contends that the reasoning in the October 6, 2005 order is flawed because county officials in Pennsylvania have neither the power nor the authority to direct or intervene in the district attorney's exercise of his prosecutorial discretion.Plaintiff's brief in opposition to the motion for reconsideration does not address the specific arguments set forth by the county, nor does it point to specific evidence tending to show that the county ratified Simpson's conduct. Rather, plaintiff asserts that the county is simply looking to reargue the issue because the court's October 6, 2005 order was not in the county's favor.

DISCUSSION:

I. Legal Standard for Reconsideration of an Interlocutory Order

The denial of a motion for summary judgment is an interlocutory order.Bines v. Kulaylat, 215 F.3d 381, 384 (3d Cir. 2000). A district court retaining jurisdiction over a case "possesses inherent power over interlocutory orders, and can reconsider them when it is consonant with justice to do so."Mohammad v. Kelchner, No. 03-CV-1134, 2005 WL 1138468, at *2 (M.D. Pa. April 27, 2005) (Munley, J.) (quoting United States v. Jerry, 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973)); see also Johnson v. Bensalem Twp., 609 F. Supp. 1340, 1341 (E.D. Pa. 1985) (Pollak, J.) (same); A & H Sportswear Co., Inc. v. Victoria's Secret Stores, Inc. No. Civ.A. 94-7408, 2001 WL 881718, at *1 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (Van Antwerpen, J.) (same). Furthermore, because the court's prior order did not dispose of every claim before the court, it is "subject to revision at any time before the entry of judgment adjudicating all the claims and the rights and liabilities of the parties." Mohammad, 2005 WL 1138468, at *2 (quoting Fed. R. Civ. P. 54(b)); see also In re Eagle Enters., Inc., 259 B.R. 73, 77 (E.D. Pa. 2001) (noting availability of Rule 54(b) motion to reconsider an interlocutory order).

Although formally Rule 59 does not govern this motion, which is for reconsideration of an interlocutory order, "[c]ourts tend to grant motions for reconsideration sparingly and only upon the grounds traditionally available under Fed. R. Civ. P. 59(e)." A & H Sportswear, 2001 WL 881718, at *1. As defendant's brief indicates, in order to be entitled to relief under Rule ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.