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Walker v. Zenk

February 7, 2008

JEFFREY A. WALKER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL ZENK, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge John E. Jones III

MEMORANDUM

Before the Court is the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt filed on November 15, 2007. (Doc. 184.) The R&R addresses three motions currently pending in this Bivens action instituted by Plaintiff Jeffrey Walker. First, the R&R recommends denial of Walker's motion to join new parties (Doc. 177). The Court will adopt this recommendation and deny Walker's joinder motion. Second, the R&R recommends denial of Walker's second motion for summary judgment (Doc. 165). The Court will also adopt this recommendation and deny Walker's summary judgment motion. Finally, the R&R recommends that the defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment (Doc. 163) be denied to the extent it seeks summary judgment and granted in part and denied in part to the extent it seeks dismissal of Walker's complaint. The Court will adopt this recommendation in part, deny defendants' motion for summary judgment, and grant their motion to dismiss in its entirety.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The long and winding road of this litigation is well known to the parties and amply set forth in their submissions and the R&R. The Court will therefore only summarize here the background necessary to the disposition of the present motions.

Walker began this litigation more than six years ago with the filing of a Bivens complaint on August 24, 2001. (Doc. 1.) On November 13, 2001, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative for summary judgment. (Doc. 17.) After delays caused by numerous other motions, discovery disputes, and attempted appeals, on February 25, 2003, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Walker's complaint be dismissed for failure to exhaust administrative remedies as to some of his claims. (Doc. 90.) On April 1, 2003, the Court issued an order rejecting this recommendation and denying the defendants' motion to dismiss after finding that Walker had exhausted available administrative remedies for his First Amendment claim regarding denial of access to the courts. (Doc. 94.)

On April 15, 2003, the defendants filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that, while Walker exhausted his administrative remedies as to his First Amendment and due process claims, he had not exhausted as to his other claims, and under the rule of total exhaustion, his entire complaint must be dismissed. (Docs. 95, 101.) On June 6, 2003, the Court granted the defendants' motion for reconsideration, vacated its April 1, 2003 order, and granted the defendants' motion to dismiss for Walker's failure to exhaust administrative remedies as to some of his claims.*fn1 (Doc. 109.) Walker moved for reconsideration (Doc. 111), which the Court denied on July 31, 2003 (Doc. 113).

On February 15, 2007, the Third Circuit vacated the Court's July 31, 2003 order and remanded the case in light of the recently decided Supreme Court case Jones v. Bock, --- U.S. ---, 127 S.Ct. 910 (2007), which held that, under the PLRA, when an inmate exhausts his administrative remedies for some of his claims, but not all, the district court should consider the claims that were exhausted and dismiss only the unexhausted claims. Walker v. Zenk, 217 Fed. Appx. 170 (3d Cir. 2007).

On remand, the defendants were ordered to respond to the two claims in Walker's complaint as to which he had exhausted his administrative remedies: his First Amendment denial of access to the courts claim and his due process claim regarding a March 22, 2001 disciplinary hearing. (Docs. 124, 125.) Walker's First Amendment claims arises from allegations that the defendants confiscated his legal materials during a January 26, 2001 "shakedown" of his cell. Walker's due process claim arises out of allegations that a weapon was planted in his cell and that he was found guilty of possessing the weapon by the disciplinary hearing officer ("DHO") based on false statements made against him. These are the only two claims that remain in this action.

Before defendants filed their response to Walker's two remaining claims, Walker filed a slew of motions (see Docs. 127, 132, 144, 154, 155), including both a motion for summary judgment on his original complaint (Doc. 147) and a motion to file an amended complaint (Doc. 143).

By order of June 8, 2007, the Magistrate Judge recommended Walker's motion for summary judgment be denied as premature because the defendants had yet to file any responsive pleading and in light of Walker's attempts to amend his complaint. (Doc. 159.) The Court adopted this recommendation. (Doc. 162.)

By order of June 19, 2007, the Magistrate Judge denied on the merits Walker's motion to file an amended complaint, finding that Walker was futilely attempting to add un-exhausted claims that had been previously dismissed by this Court and the Third Circuit, and that the defendants would be prejudiced by adding new claims, of which Walker was long ago aware, after almost seven years of active litigation. (Doc. 161.) Walker filed objections to this order (Doc. 164), which the Court treated as an appeal of the Magistrate Judge's order. The Court denied this appeal and Walker's motion for reconsideration of this denial. (Docs. 168, 183.)

On July 3, 2007, the defendants filed the currently pending motion to dismiss and for summary judgment (Doc. 163) and subsequently filed a brief (Doc. 169) and statement of material facts (Doc. 170) in support thereof.

On July 13, 2007, Walker filed his pending motion for summary judgment (Doc. 165) and a brief (Doc. 167) and statement of material facts (Doc. 166) in support thereof. On August 30, 2007, Walker also filed a "Motion to File Jointer of Persons Needed for Just Adjudication Pursuant to Rule 19(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure" seeking to add new parties to this action. (Doc. 177.)

On November 15, 2007, the Magistrate Judge issued the R&R (Doc. 184), recommending that Walker's joinder and summary judgment motions be denied and that the defendants' motion to dismiss and for summary judgment be granted in part and denied in part. Both Walker (Docs. 190-193) and the defendants (Docs. 188-189) filed objections to the R&R and responses to each others' objections (Docs. 194, 195). The R&R is therefore ripe for review by this Court.

In reviewing an R&R, the district court makes a de novo determination with respect to those portions to which objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 674-75 (1980); see also Local Rule 72.3. In providing for a de novo determination rather than a de novo hearing, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) permits whatever reliance the district court, in the exercise of sound discretion, chooses to place on a magistrate judge's proposed findings and recommendations without the need to rehear testimony. Raddatz, 447 U.S. at 674-75; see also Mathews v. Weber, 423 U.S. 261, 275 (1976); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984). The Court will consider the pending motions addressed by the R&R in turn.

II. DISCUSSION

A. Walker's Joinder Motion

Walker moves pursuant to Rule 19(a) to add two new defendants to this action: (1) Cindy Bryan, Administrative Remedy Coordinator and (2) Harrell Watts, Administrator Central Office. Walker states that these individuals were unknown at the time he filed his complaint.*fn2 Walker alleges that Bryan and Watts conspired to violate his constitutional rights by entering into the prison's computer system that his BP-9 administrative remedy form regarding the confiscation of his legal documents had been withdrawn.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 19 governs "mandatory" joinder, under which joinder of parties is compulsory or "necessary" if their joinder is "feasible." Gen. Refractories Co. v. First State Ins. Co., 500 F.3d 306, ...


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