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Rowkosky v. Moran

September 28, 2009

DAVID ROWKOSKY, PLAINTIFF
v.
JILL A. MORAN, ET AL., DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo

MEMORANDUM

I. Introduction

David Rowkosky, an inmate presently confined at the Smithfield State Correctional Institution (SCI-Smithfield), in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging denial of his right of access to the courts. Named as defendants are the following present and past Luzerne County employees: Jill Moran, Prothonotary,*fn1 and Robert F. Reilly, Clerk of Courts. Mr. Rowkosky alleges after forwarding a civil rights complaint and filing fee to Jill Moran for processing in her capacity as Clerk of Court, his check was returned by that office and his complaint was never properly filed or served. (Doc. 1, Compl.)

Presently before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment filed by Ms. Moran and Mr. Rowkosky. Ms. Moran has filed a statement of material facts, and brief in support of her motion. See Doc. 53. Ms. Moran seeks summary judgment on the basis of Mr. Rowkosky's failure to state an access to courts claim, or any other viable legal claim against her based on the allegations in his Complaint and his improper responses to her Request for Admissions.*fn2 Mr. Rowkosky has not filed a statement of material facts*fn3 nor exhibits in support of his motion for summary judgment, but has filed a supporting brief.*fn4 See Doc. 55.

On August 27, 2009, the Court noted that neither party had opposed the other party's motion to dismiss, and directed the parties to do so. See Doc. 56. Ms. Moran filed her materials in opposition to Mr. Rowkosky's Motion for Summary Judgment on August 28, 2009. See Doc. 57. Although Mr. Rowkosky sought, and was granted, additional time to submit materials in opposition to Ms. Moran's potentially dispositive motion, he did not. See Doc. 59.

For the reasons expressed herein, Ms. Moran's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 53) will be granted as unopposed, and Mr. Rowkosky's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. 54) will be denied.

II. Statement of Facts

A. Facts as Alleged in the Complaint

David Rowkosky claims that in September 2002 he attempted to file a civil rights action in Luzerne County only to have it returned to him without action due to his failure to simultaneously file a motion to proceed in forma pauperis or the $82.00 filing fee. (Doc. 1, Compl.) Four months later, in February 2003, David Rowkosky sent Jill Moran, whom he believed to be the Luzerne County Clerk of Courts, a civil rights action, a motion to proceed in forma pauperis and the requisite filing fee. Three months after filing his complaint, he sent a letter of inquiry to Ms. Moran about the status of his complaint. After several months past without receiving a response, Mr. Rowkosky sent another letter to Ms. Moran on July 1, 2003 explaining his concerns that his complaint be promptly filed as the applicable statute of limitations for his suit would expire in September 2003. Sometime in mid-July 2003, Mr. Rowkosky learned that the $82.00 filing fee had been returned to his inmate account. Upon inquiry with prison officials as to whom had returned the fee, he was told that "The Clerk of Court, Luzerne County," had returned the funds. David Rowkosky claims that "Ms. Moran and the Clerk of Court, made the decision they were not going to process [his] complaint." (Doc. 1 at R. 3.)*fn5 On July 23, 2003, Mr. Rowkosky wrote again to Ms. Moran pleading that his complaint be accepted for filing. On August 8, 2003, he wrote again to Ms. Moran recounting his 15 month struggle to file his civil complaint and that if she did not process his complaint he would take legal action against her. On March 20, 2005, David Rowkosky filed the instant Complaint.

In his summary judgment brief, Mr. Rowkosky admits that he thought the Clerk and the Prothonotary "were the same thing." (Doc. 55 at R. 2.) However, he notes that he addressed all correspondence to Ms. Moran in her position as the Luzerne County Prothonotary, and not the Clerk of Courts. (Id. at R. 1.) He explains that he names the Luzerne County Clerk of Courts as a defendant because he mistakenly believed that the Clerk of Courts was Ms. Moran's supervisor. (Doc. 55 at R. 3.)

B. Findings of Fact.*fn6

David Rowkosky filed his Complaint in this matter on March 23, 2005. (Ms. Moran's Statement of Material Facts (SMF) at ¶ 1.) Ms. Moran was the duly elected Prothonotary of Luzerne County when the Complaint was filed. (Id. at ¶ 2.) Ms. Moran has never served as the Luzerne County Clerk of Courts. (Id.) The discovery period in this matter closed on April 3, 2009, without Mr. Rowkosky seeking any discovery from Ms. Moran. (Id. at ¶ 6.) The Office of the Clerk of Courts in Luzerne County handles filings with respect to criminal and related matters. The Office of the Prothonotary handles the filing of civil and related matters.

David Rowkowsky has not produced a copy of the alleged complaint, which he references as Rowkowsky v. Thomas, Superintendent, Burnett, Grievance Coordinator, for the Court's review. ...


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