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Griffin-El v. Beard

April 29, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: L. Felipe Restrepo United States Magistrate Judge


Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Reconsideration and attached memorandum of law (Doc. No. 78), Defendants' Response in opposition thereto (Doc. No. 82), and Plaintiff's Reply (Doc. No. 83). Plaintiff seeks reconsideration of paragraph 4 of the Court's prior order dated 3/16/09 (Doc. No. 76), in which the Court stated that Wendy Moyer ("Moyer") and Kim Ulisny ("Ulisny") were no longer proper Defendants in this action and need not respond to discovery requests.*fn1 See Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. ¶¶ 8-12. Because the Court must correct an error of law, reconsideration is appropriate and Plaintiff's Motion will be granted.


In this lawsuit, Plaintiff K. Kabasha Griffin-El is suing various employees of the Department of Corrections ("DOC"), claiming violations of his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which allegedly occurred as a result of two searches of his prison cell while he was incarcerated at the State Correctional Facility at Graterford ("SCIGraterford"). See Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 1, 2-105. Plaintiff also seeks a declaratory judgment. Id. ¶¶ 1, 81-83. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331 because this is a "civil action[] arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

Plaintiff initiated this action pro se after being granted leave to proceed in forma pauperis pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1915 by the Honorable Timothy J. Savage. See Order dated 8/1/06 (Doc. No. 4). On January 9, 2007, Judge Savage ordered that Plaintiff either respond to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss or file an Amended Complaint by February 13, 2007. See Order dated 1/9/07 (Doc. No. 16). Subsequently, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 17) on February 16, 2007. Defendants' moved to dismiss the Amended Complaint on February 28, 2007 (Doc. No. 18). Judge Savage dismissed Plaintiff's claims under the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and also dismissed the claims in the Amended Complaint against Moyer and Ulisny. See Order dated 9/27/07 ¶¶ 1-3 (Doc. No. 38). In a footnote, Judge Savage indicated that he was dismissing Moyer and Ulisny because Plaintiff made "no allegations against" them, but did not indicate whether the dismissal was with or without prejudice. See id. ¶ 1 and n. 1. The remainder of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss was denied. Id. ¶¶ 4-5.

During the pendency of Defendants' Motion to Dismiss the Amended Complaint, Plaintiff filed a Motion for appointment of counsel (Doc. No. 25), which Judge Savage granted. See Order dated 7/3/07 (Doc. No. 27). However, counsel for Plaintiff did not enter their appearance until after Judge Savage dismissed Moyer and Ulisny as Defendants. See Entries of Appearance dated 11/2/07 (Doc. Nos. 44, 45). Plaintiff's counsel filed a Motion for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint, with the proposed Second Amended Complaint attached thereto (Doc. No. 49). Judge Savage granted Plaintiff's Motion and deemed the Second Amended Complaint as filed on that date. See Order dated 12/26/07 (Doc. No. 50). Defendants subsequently filed a Motion to Dismiss the Second Amended Complaint, which this Court denied in its entirety without prejudice to Defendants to raise their arguments at summary judgment. See Order dated 9/22/08 (Doc. No. 66).

Moyer and Ulisny were again named as Defendants in Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint. Second Am. Comp. ¶¶ 11, 20. Defendants excluded Moyer and Ulisny from their list of "answering defendants" in their Answer, noting that they were previously dismissed. See Answer at 1, n. 1. However, Plaintiff continued to name Moyer and Ulisny as Defendants in his discovery requests. See Griffin-El v. Beard, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20651, at *31 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 16, 2009). Neither party filed a Motion nor requested a telephone conference on this matter. In an attempt to resolve the impending issue, the Court held sua sponte that Judge Savage's order was an adjudication on the merits pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b), and thus did not reinstate Moyer and Ulisny as Defendants. Id. at *31-32 (citations omitted).

Plaintiff contends that the Court erred because it failed to consider the fact that "dismissal with prejudice of a pro se civil rights complaint, without notice of the opportunity to amend, is contrary to well-established Third Circuit law." Pl.'s Mot. for Recons. ¶ 10. As such, Plaintiff seeks reconsideration to correct "an oversight and resulting error of law or fact, and to prevent manifest injustice." Id. Plaintiff points out that dismissal of Moyer and Ulisny was merely due to his failure to "allege facts sufficient to meet the liberal pleading requirements for claims against them." Id. ¶ 11. He argues that his Second Amended Complaint cured these deficiencies and properly reinstated Moyer and Ulisny as Defendants. Id. ¶ 12.

Defendants respond by arguing that "Plaintiff has not demonstrated a clear error of law or any new evidence that would warrant reconsideration." Def.'s Resp. ¶ 1. Further, Defendants allege that nothing in the Second Amended Complaint or any "new evidence" submitted with the Motion for Reconsideration "suggests that Wendy Moyer and Kim Ulisny were personally involved in any constitutional wrongdoing." Id. ¶ 3. Finally, Defendants assert that, "[t]o the extent [P]laintiff proposes a further amendment based on Wendy Moyer's or Kim Ulisny's handling of or responses to inmate grievances, such amendment would be futile." Id. ¶ 4. Because Moyer and Ulisny's status as Defendants should have been analyzed under the Third Circuit's amendment rule, the Court's earlier ruling that they were dismissed with prejudice and not properly reinstated as Defendants by the Second Amended Complaint was predicated upon an error of law. For this reason, Plaintiff's Motion must be granted.


This Court erred when deciding that Moyer and Ulisny were dismissed by Judge Savage with prejudice and not reinstated as Defendants by the Second Amended Complaint. The Court should have analyzed this issue by applying the Third Circuit's amendment rule to the facts of this case; specifically, the fact that Plaintiff, who has now been represented by counsel for nearly a year and a half, was still prosecuting this civil rights action pro se at the time Moyer and Ulisny were dismissed by Judge Savage. Plaintiff's Motion will therefore be granted to correct this error of law.


"The purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Doe v. Allentown Sch. Dist., 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74513, at *4-5 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 23, 2008) (quoting Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 476 U.S. 1171 (1986)). In order to prevail, the moving party must "show[] at least one of the following grounds: (1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [entered judgment]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Doe, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 74513, at *5 (second alteration in original) (quoting Max's Seafood Café v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)); see Quinteros, 176 F.3d at 677 (citing North River Ins. Co. v. CIGNA Reinsurance Co., 52 F.3d 1194, 1218 (3d Cir. 1995)).

"Federal district courts should grant such motions sparingly because of their strong interest in finality of judgment." Slagan v. John Whitman & Assoc., Inc., 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14910, at *1-2 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 26, 1997) (quoting Continental Casualty Co. v. Diversified Indus., Inc., 884 F. Supp. 937, 943 (E.D. Pa. 1995)). The moving party is not permitted to "submit evidence in support of a reconsideration motion that was available prior to the court's judgment." Peterson v. Brennan, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11860, at *17 (E.D. Pa. June 15, 2004) (citing Smith v. City of Chester, 155 F.R.D. 95, 97 (E.D. Pa. 1994)). Furthermore, it is not appropriate for the movant to "request that the court rethink a decision it has already made." Peterson, 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11860, at *17 (citing Glendon Energy Co. v. Borough of Glendon, 836 F. Supp. 1109, 1122 (E.D. Pa. 1993)). Because ...

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