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Robert Gallagher v. Allegheny County; Raymond

January 25, 2011

ROBERT GALLAGHER PLAINTIFFS
v.
ALLEGHENY COUNTY; RAYMOND RUSTIN, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS WARDEN OF THE ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL; RAY BILLOTTE, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS ADMINISTRATOR FOR THE PITTSBURGH MUNICIPAL COURT OF ALLEGHENY COUNTY, DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Magistrate Judge Robert C. Mitchell

MEMORANDUM OPINION

Mitchell, M.J.

Robert Gallagher ("Gallagher" or the "Plaintiff"), who alleges that he is hearing impaired, filed this action in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983; the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § §12101, et seq.; and the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 791 et seq. The matter was subsequently removed to this Court. Underlying the three count Complaint (ECF No.1) is Gallagher‟s contention that on two separate occasions in 2006 he was denied the services of an interpreter or other assistance during Municipal Court proceedings, denied access to an assistive electronic device that would have allowed him to telephone his family from the Allegheny County Jail (the "Jail"), denied an interpreter or other means of assistance to facilitate communication with his public defender at the Jail, and denied medication during his incarceration. Pending is the Defendants‟ Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 34). The Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

I.BACKGROUND

In January 2006, Gallagher was arrested by Pittsburgh City Police for driving a stolen rental car, and transported to the Jail to await arraignment. (ECF No. 34 Ex. B. at 9-10, 12). During an initial brief assessment by a nurse in a general holding area, Gallagher stated that he was deaf, and requested an interpreter. This request was ignored. (ECF 37 Ex.1 at 28). Gallagher was fingerprinted and photographed, and escorted to another holding area where he spent one or two hours waiting to be arraigned. (Id. at 29). He repeatedly requested an interpreter, and was assured that one would be provided. (Id. at 30).

He was then escorted from the holding area in the Jail to a second holding area in the Municipal Court. From there, he was taken to the courtroom to be arraigned. (Id. at 31). At that point, he again asked about the interpreter. "[T]he judge was sitting up high and he just motioned to me to shut-up, be quiet, whatever. And there was either a guard or a deputy on both sides of me, and they kept poking me and everything like that telling me to shut up." (Id.). Gallagher did not understand what was being said, including the charges against him. (Id. at 33). After the arraignment, he was handed some papers indicating that he had a ten percent bond at $2500. (Id.).

After Gallagher was returned to the Jail, he was placed in a holding area where inmates were allowed to make phone calls so that they could arrange bond and let their families know where they were. (Id.). Gallagher approached the guard‟s desk and requested an interpreter or access to a TTY or TDD*fn1 device. The guard replied that he had no clue what to do or whom he should contact. (ECF No. 1 at 17). When Gallagher asked the guard to place a phone call for him, the guard replied that he was not allowed to do so. (ECF 37 Ex.1 at 28). Although Gallagher has normal speech, he claimed that he could not use a regular telephone because he had to make certain that there was a dial tone, and had not used a regular telephone in thirty or forty years. (Id. at 36).

Gallagher was next taken to the Jail infirmary where he met with a nurse for at least thirty minutes. (Id. at 15). She took his basic information, and reviewed his medications. He took Effexor for depression, and Pertofrane and Neurontin for anxiety. During this meeting he asked the nurse for a TDD device and an interpreter, and received a response similar to the one given by the guard. Afterward, he was sent to a pod. (Id. at 17). When a public defender arrived to meet with inmates, the Plaintiff, again to no avail, asked the guards for an interpreter or other communication aid. (Id.). At a preliminary hearing where Gallagher was represented by a public defender, the case was dismissed. (Id.).

In April 2006, the Plaintiff was again arrested by Pittsburgh City Police, this time for driving his wife‟s car with expired tags and insurance. Gallagher recalled that he was charged with driving an uninsured vehicle, disorderly conduct, and public intoxication. (Id. at 7). His allegations regarding his lack access to an interpreter, TDD communications, and the failure to provide him with prescription medications are, in every material respect, identical to those made in connection with his January 2006 arrest.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

Summary Judgment is appropriate only where there are no genuine issues of material fact. Matsushita Elec. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). An issue of material fact exists only if "the evidence is such that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). While the moving party must demonstrate the absence of any genuine factual dispute, Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323(1986), the non-moving party "must do more than simply show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts . . . [T]he nonmoving party must come forward with specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Matsushita, 475 U.S. at 586-87 (1986) (emphasis in original removed).

In evaluating the evidence, the Court must view the facts and the inferences to be drawn therefrom in a light most favorable to the non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255. At the summary judgment stage, the Court's function is not to weigh the evidence and determine the truth of the matter, but rather to determine whether there is a genuine issue for trial. See Anderson, 477 U.S. at 249. When examining the record to see if there are genuine issues of material fact, the Court's focus is on issue finding, not on issue resolution.

III. ANALYSIS

A. Claims Brought Pursuant to Section 1983

As a prefatory matter, the Court finds it appropriate to comment on the substandard quality of the materials submitted by the parties in connection with the pending Motion. The analysis of the law is, at best, spare, and the Plaintiff has, without explanation, alleged theories of liability in his brief that are absent from or at variance with the bases of liability set forth in the Complaint. Moreover, although he alleges violations of a number of constitutional rights, he does so in the most conclusory manner, failing altogether to discuss the alleged violations in terms of the facts. "The net effect of this approach [has] put the Court in the position of doing the parties‟ work for them. This Court has a full docket and plenty of work of its own . . . A litigant who fails to press a point by supporting it with pertinent authority or by showing why it is a good point despite a lack of authority forfeits that point." Grossman v. Jimenez, Civ. No. 91-0423 (slip op. at 5) (M.D. Pa. April 17, 1992) (quoting United States v. Giovanneti, 919 F.2d 1223, 1230 (7th Cir. 1990). See also Pennsylvania Dept. of Pub. Welfare v. United States HHS, 101 F.3d 939, 934) (3d Cir. 1996) ...


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