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Houseknecht v. Brulo

November 12, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Caputo



Presently before the Court are the Report and Recommendation ("R&R") of U.S. Magistrate Judge Malachy E. Mannion (Doc. 85), and Plaintiff Jamie Houseknecht's Objections to the R&R (Doc. 100). The Magistrate Judge recommends that the Motion to Dismiss by Defendants Sandra Brulo, Walter Symons, and Tom Lavan (Doc. 53) be granted. The R&R will be rejected, but the Motion to Dismiss will be granted.


The Plaintiff's allegations which are relevant to the present R&R and Motion to Dismiss are as follows:

Plaintiff Jamie Houseknecht ("Houseknecht") brings the present action against numerous defendants alleging a number of constitutional violations under § 1983 and a number of state law claims. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 1, Doc. 25.) Defendant Sandra Brulo ("Brulo") was at all relevant times employed as the Chief Probation Officer at the Luzerne County Juvenile Probation Department. (Id. ¶ 4.) Defendants Walter Symons ("Symons") and Tom Lavan ("Lavan") were at all relevant times Probation Officers for the Luzerne County Juvenile Probation Department. (Id. ¶ 5-6.)

On or about January 27, 1997, Brulo asked Houseknecht to sign a number of release forms so that she could have access to Plaintiff's prior psychiatric records. (Amend. Compl. ¶ 22.) "After expressing concerns Plaintiff had with regard to privileged and confidential information contained in this records and asking if they would be kept or destroyed, Defendant Brulo assured Plaintiff that the information gleaned from the Records would be used solely for determining his risk to the community, the need for further participation in counseling and her recommendation for the disposition of the pending charges against the Plaintiff." (Id. ¶ 23.) In February 1999, Brulo divulged these records to Defendants Fabian, Riley, and Thompson. (Id. ¶ 27.) On June 3, 2004, Brulo again divulged these records, along with those from his incarceration at Northwestern Academy Intensive Secure Treatment Unit to Defendant Doe. (Id. ¶ 29.) "There was neither a court order or a signed authorization by Plaintiff for this divulging of Plaintiff's privileged and confidential records." (Id. ¶ 30.) Defendants Symons and Lavan, along with others, made "fabricated statements and reports to the Luzerne County Juvenile Probation Department and the Honorable [former] Judge Mark Ciavarella, Jr." (Id. ¶ 32.)

Houseknecht filed an Amended Complaint on July 18, 2008. (Doc. 25.) Defendants Brulo, Symons, and Lavan filed a motion to dismiss on December 19, 2008. (Doc. 53.) On April 12, 2009, Houseknecht filed a motion for an extension of time to answer the Defendants' motion. (Doc. 66.) Magistrate Judge Mannion granted the extension and provided until May 15, 2009 for Houseknecht to answer. (Doc. 69.) Houseknecht never filed an answer or brief in opposition to the motion to dismiss. Houseknecht asserts, however, that he filed a motion for a more definite statement on April 9, 2009. (Doc. 75.)

Houseknecht then filed an affidavit in support of a motion for a more definite statement, but filed no actual motion. (Doc. 77.) On August 6, 2009, Magistrate Judge Mannion filed the R&R recommending that the motion to dismiss be adopted as unopposed, and on grounds of the statute of limitations. (Doc. 85.) Houseknecht objected to the R&R on October 2, 2009. (Doc. 100.) Both the R&R and Motion to Dismiss are ripe for disposition by this Court.


I. Review of Report and Recommendation

Where objections to a magistrate judge's report are filed, the Court must conduct a de novo review of the contested portions of the report, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C), Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989), provided the objections are both timely and specific, Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir. 1984). In its de novo review, the Court may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or legal conclusions of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D. Pa. 1993) (McClure, J.). Although the review is de novo, the statute permits the Court to rely on the recommendations of the Magistrate Judge to the extent it deems proper. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675-76, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed. 2d 424 (1980) ("Congress intended to permit whatever reliance a district judge, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, chose to place on a magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations"); Goney, 749 F.2d at 6-7; Ball v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D. Pa. 1994) (Kosik, J.). Uncontested portions of the report may be reviewed at a standard determined by the district court. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 154, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed. 2d 435 (1985) (the statute neither prevents nor requires a particular standard if no objections are filed); Goney, 749 F.2d at 7. At the very least, the Court should review uncontested portions for clear error. See, e.g., Cruz v. Chater, 990 F. Supp. 375, 376-77 (M.D. Pa. 1998) (Venaskie, J.) (citing Advisory Committee notes on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(b), implementing 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)).

II. Motion to Dismiss

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) provides for the dismissal of a complaint, in whole or in part, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. FED. R. CIV. PRO. 12(b)(6). Dismissal is appropriate only if, accepting as true all the facts alleged in the complaint, a plaintiff has not pleaded "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face," Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007), meaning enough factual allegations "'to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of'" each necessary element, Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556); see also Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (requiring a complaint to set forth information from which each element of a claim may be inferred). In light of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a)(2), the statement need only "'give the defendant fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.'" Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (per curiam) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555). "[T]he ...

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